This simple, hearty Rigatoni is the perfect weeknight dinner! Recipe comes together in just over 30 minutes and makes enough to feed the whole family. Be sure to check out the how-to video in the recipe card!
Rigatoni With Homemade Sauce: Comfort Food at Its Finest
It’s January, and the days are short and chilly, the sky is gray, and it’s the perfect time of year for simple, hearty comfort foods like my chicken and rice soup, soul-warming chili, and today’s rigatoni recipe.
Besides being comforting, my rigatoni recipe is also easy to make and super filling. It’s also a great weeknight dinner recipe since it’s low-fuss to prepare and can be on the table in under 45 minutes. It’s made with a homemade, meat-infused marinara sauce that’s flavored with sautéed onion and garlic, Italian sausage, and spices. Just before serving, we’ll stir in enough cream and cheese to enrich the sauce without making it too rich.
What You Need
- Rigatoni. Rigatoni’s wide, tubular shape and ridged exterior is perfect for this recipe, because it catches all of the sauce and stands up to its hearty texture. You could substitute another similarly shaped pasta, like penne or ziti, but I think rigatoni works best (plus, I mean, this recipe is called “rigatoni”).
- Olive oil. For best flavor use a quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Onion and garlic. As staples in so many cuisines, these two vegetables set the stage for a flavorful base to our sauce.
- Sausage. Use your favorite type of sausage (sweet or spicy), or you can even substitute ground beef. For a vegetarian pasta, you can skip the meat entirely, but you will need to add in some flavor enhancers (veggies like mushrooms or eggplant would be great!) since much of the flavor in this dish comes from the sausage.
- Crushed tomatoes. These add both texture and a fresh flavor.
- Tomato sauce. You’ll also need a can of tomato sauce, which adds a more subdued tomato flavor and a beautiful, thick texture.
- Sugar. A small amount of sugar offsets the acidity of the tomatoes to allow their true flavor to shine. Don’t worry, this won’t make your sauce sweet!
- Italian seasoning. This is typically a blend of basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme. You should be able to find it in the spice section of any grocery store.
- Spices. Besides the seasoning blend, we’ll be adding some additional basil, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. You can leave out the crushed red pepper flakes if you don’t care for the heat.
- Cream. We’ll use a small amount of heavy cream, double cream, or whipping cream to add a subtle richness and thickness to the sauce. Do not substitute milk or your sauce could curdle!
- Parmesan. A sprinkling of parmesan in our sauce helps to thicken it and adds a lovely savory flavor. You can always add more on top for garnish when serving too!
SAM’S TIP: You can garnish this rigatoni with additional cheese, crushed red pepper flakes, and fresh basil for some extra flavor.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Rigatoni
- Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, then drain, rinse, and drain it again before setting it aside.
- Cook onion and garlic in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until softened.
- Add the sausage and cook, crumbling a you cook, until browned.
- Pour in your crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, seasoning, and spices. Stir will, then let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add your cooked rigatoni and stir to combine.
- Add the cream and parmesan and stir until well combined and cheese is melted. Serve with salad and bread–enjoy!
SAM’S TIP: Rinsing pasta after cooking can be controversial, but since we are cooking our rigatoni before our sauce, we need to make sure it stops cooking and doesn’t get too soft as it sits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Penne is a short, tubular pasta with ridges similar to those on rigatoni; however, penne is more narrow and has ends that are cut on an angle, so they come to a point. Both work well for pretty much any sauce, but they are especially great for thicker sauces.
Ziti is another short, tubular pasta. It is narrow like penne, but typically thicker than both penne and rigatoni and almost always has a smooth exterior. Like rigatoni, ziti works well in baked pasta dishes (check out my baked ziti recipe!).
Remember to salt your water and stay near your pot! Overcooked pasta just doesn’t taste as good as pasta that’s cooked properly. To avoid this, check your pasta as it approaches the box’s recommended time for al dente and drain it as soon as it is ready. For today’s recipe, we’ll also be rinsing our pasta with cold water after draining–this helps halt the cooking process so the pasta doesn’t get too soft or mushy.
Rigatoni comes from the word “rigato” which means ridged. The ridges on rigatoni are perfect for catching thicker sauces like the one we’re making today.
More Recipes You Might Like
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
- 12 oz dry rigatoni noodles see note 1
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced (about 1 cup/140g)
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 lb mild Italian sausage see note 2 (453g)
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (793g)
- 8 oz can tomato sauce (226g)
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- ⅓ cup heavy cream see note 3 (80ml)
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (25g)
- Dutch oven or large pan
- Prepare pasta according to package instructions (cook in salted, boiling water until al dente). Drain, rinse under cold water, drain well again, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, begin preparing sauce by heating olive oil in a Dutch oven (or large pan) over medium heat.
- Once oil is shimmering, add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened (about 3-5 minutes).
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
- Add sausage and cook, crumbling, until browned.
- Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, Italian seasoning, dried basil, onion powder, table salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes and stir well. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add prepared, drained rigatoni noodles to the pot and stir to combine.
- Add heavy cream and parmesan and stir until thoroughly combined and cheese is melted.
- Serve warm with a side salad and/or slice of crusty bread. Enjoy!
1) PastaYou may substitute your favorite pasta shape but the broad tube shape of the rigatoni works really well here for catching the sauce and I recommend using a similarly shaped noodle if you can’t find rigatoni! Penne and Ziti noodles work great here!
2) SausageYou may substitute sweet or hot Italian sausage or even ground beef instead. You may also omit the meat entirely for a vegetarian rigatoni, but keep in mind much of the flavor comes from the sausage.
3) Heavy creamHeavy cream, double cream, or heavy whipping cream will work well here. I do not recommend using milk, which could curdle.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.