This Baked Rigatoni recipe will quickly become a family favorite! It’s loaded with flavor thanks to the fresh basil, creamy Boursin cheese, and crispy buttery breadcrumb topping. Baked to bubbly perfection in a casserole dish, you can serve this cozy dinner meal for a crowd or save for meal prep through the week.
Baked pasta dishes are one of my top comfort foods. And what’s not to love? They’re loaded with flavor, maxed out on satisfaction, and you can never, ever go wrong with a layer of melted cheese.
But let me be very clear: I don’t mess with lasagna. Sure, I can make it. But I don’t like to. When it comes to some type of pasta casserole loaded up with a meat sauce, gooey cheese, and tender noodles, I’d much rather make something like this!
I’ll share my top tips for maxing out flavor while keeping the prep steps simple. So keep reading, I think your taste buds will be craving this one!
Why You’ll Love This Baked Rigatoni Recipe
- The flavorful meat sauce is a breeze to put together because it starts with a premade store-bought pasta sauce. Put your own spin on it but savor the convenience of this semi-homemade approach.
- The Boursin cheese adds tons of ooey, gooey flavor and the basil and buttery breadcrumbs on top make this dish feel like a restaurant-quality meal.
- Baked pasta feels like a top-tier comfort food, and this baked rigatoni recipe is no different. I dare you to try it and not feel cozy and warm from the inside out!
And although this baked pasta dish is an all-in-one type of recipe, it plays well with some of my favorite side dishes. From garlic bread to a classic Caesar salad, you can get as creative as you want with pairings the whole family will love.
If you’re looking for even more baked pasta goodness, check out my list of Winter Casserole Recipes to Warm Up To, which features this one alongside many others with a variety of proteins and dietary options!
Baked Rigatoni Ingredients
Here are the ingredients for this cheesy baked rigatoni recipe. Find them in your local grocery store, or place an order for grocery delivery. I love the convenience of Instacart, and this affiliate link is a ready-to-shop list with everything you need!
- Rigatoni pasta. This medium-sized, tube-shaped pasta is, in my opinion, the ideal choice. The ridges help grab onto the meaty sauce, and the wide shape doesn’t totally collapse as you bake it. Prepare for big, over-sized bites that feel super satisfying without being too messy!
- Italian sausage
- Onion and garlic
- Prepared pasta sauce, such as marinara or arrabbiata sauce. This is a huge timesaver, and there’s nothing wrong with relying on the convenience of a store-bought pasta sauce. Use your favorite brand or flavor, and if you have a homemade marinara sauce recipe you love, feel free to use that, too!
- Fire-roasted tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Baby spinach
- Boursin cheese. This replaces the ricotta cheese found in many other baked pasta recipes. The Garlic & Fine Herb flavor is my top pick.
- Mozzarella cheese
- Italian breadcrumbs
- Dried Italian herbs or Italian seasoning
- Fresh basil
Street Smart Nutrition Tip: If you have the time and energy, shred your cheese fresh. This is the key for superior melting ability, as pre-shredded cheese in a bag often has additives that help prevent clumping. They’re perfectly fine to eat, but go for a block of Italian-style mozzarella cheese made with whole milk for the ultimate melty texture and best flavor.
How to Make Baked Rigatoni
Think of this baked rigatoni recipe as three different (but simple) components: make the sauce, cook the pasta, and assemble the bake.
Here’s how I break it down with a little multitasking before popping it in the oven:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. While it’s heating, dice the onions and mince the garlic. You can also shred the mozzarella cheese at this point, or wait until the sauce is finished.
- Start the sauce by browning the Italian sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Once the sausage is mostly cooked, add the diced onions. Cook 4-5 minutes until the onions are translucent, then add the garlic and cook for one minute more.
- While the sausage is browning, you can also start heating a large pot of salted water. For me, this always takes a while so I like to start it early in the process. Once it’s boiling, add the rigatoni and cook according to package directions for al dente.
- After adding the garlic to the sausage and onion mixture, pour in the pasta sauce and stir in the fire roasted tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring it to a low simmer over reduced heat and wilt in the spinach. It only takes a few minutes for the spinach to do it’s magical disappearing act, so even though it looks like too much as first, it will cook down to almost nothing.
- Drain the al dente rigatoni pasta and stir into the sauce. If it’s too thick, you can add a little bit of reserved pasta water, but it shouldn’t be soupy. Spread it evenly in your casserole dish or other baking dish.
- Divide the Boursin cheese into small, crumbly pieces and randomly spread it on top (see images for an example). Then layer on the shredded mozzarella cheese.
- The final prep step is to melt the butter in the microwave (about 20-25 seconds) and stir in the breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning. Sprinkle that on top of the cheese layer and bake, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Bake time can vary depending on how deep your casserole dish is, but make sure the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is bubbly and hot.
- Last but not least, switch your oven settings to broil. Remove the lid and let the baked rigatoni toast for 4-5 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and crispy. Take it out of the oven, tear or chop the fresh basil for a nice green garnish, and serve!
I personally like my pasta to stay a little more firm during the baking process. So I cook mine slightly less than al dente texture. The pasta will absorb a little more liquid from the sauce as it bakes, so just be careful not to over cook the pasta. Otherwise you can end up with a soggy, gummy texture.
Swaps and Substitutions
This baked rigatoni recipe has plenty of options to mix things up. Try these swaps or substitutions to craft the perfect version for you:
- Instead of a sweet or spicy Italian sausage, use a pound of ground beef, ground pork, or any other type of ground meat.
- Swap the rigatoni noodles for another pasta shape. I recommend something somewhat similar in size, such as penne, farfalle (bowtie), or ziti.
- Load up with extra veggies, such as diced bell peppers or sliced mushrooms.
- Stir in a can of white beans, such as cannellini beans, for added fiber and flavor.
- Add even more cheesy goodness by using a variety of shredded cheese or top with parmesan cheese when you serve this hearty pasta bake.
And of course, you can make any necessary adjustments to fit within your allergy or diet preferences.
I have not tested this recipe with a gluten-free rigatoni pasta, but adjust the cooking time as needed. You can also skip the cheese to make a dairy-free version, or leave our the sausage for a vegetarian-friendly version.
For best results, don’t wait! Dig in while it’s piping hot.
Just be careful with that first steaming hot bite! Season with some kosher salt and black pepper (to taste) or add some crushed red pepper flakes if you like a little heat.
The baking dish helps hold in the heat, so the cheese should stay melty and gooey even if you go back for seconds.
Like many pasta bake recipes, this can be a stand-alone meal. It’s got the carbs, the protein, the fat, and the veggies. But if you want to add a side dish or two, start with these:
- A classic Caesar salad or kale Caesar salad
- My Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with a creamy peppercorn dressing is also a nice side salad pairing
- Make your oven work double-time by roasting some broccoli or cauliflower on a sheet pan
- Garlic bread, with or without cheese, to soak up any leftover sauce
Storage and Meal Prep Tips
Store leftovers in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 4-5 days and just reheat in the microwave the next time you’re ready to eat.
For meal prep, you can do this one of two ways: individual portions, or as a freezer meal to heat and eat in the future. Either option can work well for busy days when you don’t have time to fully assemble from scratch.
Individual Portions: Finish all the prep and cooking instructions. Allow the baked rigatoni to cool before dividing into individual containers. Cover or seal with a lid, and refrigerate as you would with typical leftovers for 4-5 days. Note that with this approach, the buttery breadcrumb topping will lose its crispy texture as it absorbs moisture from the cooled pasta. If you prefer to avoid this, I recommend leaving the breadcrumbs for a time when you plan to serve and eat this baked rigatoni immediately after cooking.
Freezer Meal: Follow the instructions right up until the point of baking. Seal tightly with plastic wrap, then cover with aluminum foil and place in the freezer. Be sure to label it with the date so you remember to use it within 3-4 months. When ready to cook, thaw in the refrigerator the day before. To bake, remove the plastic wrap and heat oven to 300 degrees F. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until heated through, then place under the broiler for 5 minutes to toast the buttery breadcrumb topping. Remove from the oven, garnish with fresh basil (optional), and enjoy.
This rigatoni pasta bake makes a great meal for a cozy weekend at home, but also feels fancy enough for a special occasion. I’ve made it for everything from a dinner party with friends or family to a holiday meal that can be prepped ahead of time.
Here’s the full recipe, enjoy!
Baked Rigatoni with Basil, Boursin, and Buttery Breadcrumbs
- large stockpot or saucepan
- cutting board and sharpened knife
- small prep bowls
- spatula and serving spoon
- large braising pan or oven-safe skillet, or skillet and large casserole pan
- aluminum foil, if needed for baking dishes without a lid
- 1 lb rigatoni pasta
- 1 lb Italian sausage, hot or sweet
- 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced, or about 1 1/2 cups
- 4 cloves garlic, minced, or about 1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp
- 1 24 oz jar prepared tomato sauce, marinara, arrabbiata, or similar
- 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
- 4 oz tomato paste
- 5 oz baby spinach
- 1 package Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs Cheese, 5.2 oz
- 12 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp Italian breadcrumbs
- 2 tsp dried Italian herbs
- fresh basil, for garnish and serving
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Start the sauce by browning the Italian sausage over medium-high heat in a large skillet on the stovetop. Once the sausage is mostly cooked, add the diced onions. Cook 4-5 minutes until the onions are translucent, then add the garlic and cook for one minute more.
- Meanwhile, start heating a large pot of salted water. Once boiling, add the rigatoni and cook according to package directions for al dente.
- After adding the garlic to the sausage and onion mixture, pour in the pasta sauce and stir in the fire roasted tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring it to a low simmer over reduced heat and wilt in the spinach.
- Drain the al dente rigatoni pasta and stir into the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add a little bit of reserved pasta water to thin it out. Spread the pasta mixture evenly in your casserole dish or other baking dish.
- Divide the Boursin cheese into small, crumbly pieces and randomly spread it on top. Then layer on the shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Melt the butter in the microwave (about 20-25 seconds) and stir in the breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning. Sprinkle that on top of the cheese layer and bake, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
- Finally, switch your oven settings to broil. Remove the lid and let the baked rigatoni toast for 4-5 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and crispy. Take it out of the oven, tear or chop the fresh basil for a nice green garnish, and serve!
I hope you enjoy this baked rigatoni pasta recipe! It’s one of my favorite comforting dishes, and I’d love to hear what you think. Comments, reviews, and rating are always welcomed!
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Cheers to more fearlessly nourishing meals!