Rigatoni
Rigatoni to rival any restaurant on your table in 30 minutes! This Rigatoni recipe is destined to become a family favorite! It’s easy, comforting, creamy and most importantly, ridiculously delicious! This Rigatoni recipe is busting with hot Italian sausage, sweet bell peppers and spinach smothered in a hearty, flavor bursting tomato cream sauce. This rigatoni is creamy addictive comfort food you can’t live without and bonus it’s make-ahead friendly, freezer friendly and easy to customize with your favorite veggies!
Servings Prep Time
6-8 servings 12minutes
Cook Time
18minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-8 servings 12minutes
Cook Time
18minutes
Rigatoni In Tomato Cream Sauce
Ingredients
  • 1lb rigatoni
  • 1tablespoon olive oil
  • 1pound Hot Italian sausagecasings removed
  • 1 small onionchopped
  • 2 bell peppers(orange or yellow) chopped
  • 6-8 garlic clovesminced
  • 1/4teaspoon red chili pepper flakes.OPTIONAL for spicy
  • 1 1/2cups canned crushed tomatoes in pureeno salt/seasonings added
  • 114.5 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes,undrained
  • 1tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2teaspoon sugarto taste
  • 2tsp EACH chicken bouillon, dried basil
  • 1tsp EACH dried oregano,dried parsley
  • 1/2tsp EACH dried thyme,salt, pepper
  • 3/4cup heavy cream
  • 2cups chopped spinach
Instructions
  1. Cook rigatoni according to package directions in salted water. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add sausage and onions and cook while breaking up sausage.
  3. Once the sausage is almost cooked through, add bell peppers, garlic and optional red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Discard excess grease (if there is any).
  4. Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and all seasonings. Gently simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir in heavy cream and warm through. Stir in spinach and allow to wilt, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in pasta until well coated. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes to taste.
  6. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and parsley if desired.
Recipe Notes

Tips for making this Rigatoni Pasta:

  • Can I use a different pasta?  Absolutely!  I am partial to rigatoni in this thick sauce, but you may also use penne, cellentani, or any other larger pasta that can stand up against the hearty sauce. 
  • Can I use a different protein?  I recommend hot Italian sausage because it is mega flavorful but you can certainly swap it out.  You can use lean ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey, sliced sausage etc.  Just be aware that you will be losing some flavor if you omit the sausage because Italian sausage is seasoned with Italian seasonings.  I recommend adding some ground fennel (about ¼ teaspoon) if you use a different protein.
  • Can I add other veggies?  Absolutely!  I love how the sweet bell peppers compliment the robust sauce but you can omit them (and the spinach) and add different veggies such as mushrooms, asparagus, carrots broccoli, corn, zucchini, etc.   You may also add additional veggies to the peppers and spinach.
  • Can I make spicy rigatoni? The hot Italian sausage is flavorful but does not make this rigatoni recipe overly spicy. If really want to kick it up then you’ll want to add red pepper flakes. You can even add them to individual servings. I always add an additional 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes and if I really want a kick, I’ll add 1/2 teaspoon – but be aware 1/2 teaspoon is spicy – yum!
  • How do you know when rigatoni is done?    Rigatoni should not be overcooked or it will collapse and block the sauce from getting inside – and no one wants mushy pasta!  Cook rigatoni just until al dente. I always test my pasta 2-3 minutes before the suggested package cooking time.  The only way to know when rigatoni is done is to taste it!  I remove a tube with a slotted spoon, rinse it in cool water and then taste.  Don’t be tempted to bite into pasta straight from the boiling pot-you will burn your tongue!   Rigatoni should be cooked al dente, meaning it is slightly firm.  Keep in mind the rigatoni will continue to cook slightly when stirred into the warm sauce.    
  • Add warm to sauce. The sauce should be warm and ready to receive the pasta immediately instead of prepping the pasta ahead of time and letting it sit while you make the sauce.  By tossing rigatoni with the warm sauce, it infuses the pasta with flavor and prevents it from sticking together.

CAN I MAKE RIGATONI AHEAD?

Yes!  This Rigatoni recipe reheats beautifully so you can make it entirely in advance then refrigerate until ready to reheat.  You have three different options when it comes to making in advance: you can microwave smaller portions, reheat in a skillet, or transfer it to a 9×13 baking dish then bake. I like to add additional cheese on top when baking.

1. ASSEMBLE AND REHEAT IN SKILLET 

  • Take care that your noodles are cooked al dente.
  • Prepare rigatoni according to recipe directions. 
  • Transfer pasta to an airtight container and refrigerate.
  • When ready to eat, transfer to a skillet and heat gently, stirring often until heated through. You may need to add a couple tablespoons milk to thin sauce.

2. ASSEMBLE THEN BAKE

  • Take care that your noodles are cooked al dente.
  • Prepare rigatoni according to recipe directions but only simmer the sauce for 5 minutes so it is saucier.
  • Transfer to a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish, and refrigerate for up to two days.
  • When read to bake, stir in an additional 1/4 cup milk to thin.
  • Top with 1 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese and ½ cup Parmesan cheese. 
  • Tightly cover rigatoni with foil and bake for 35-45 minutes at 350 degrees F or until heated through, then remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.

CAN I FREEZE RIGATONI RECIPE?

This rigatoni recipe freezes well with the exception of the bell peppers. Some people might think they’re okay frozen, but I personally don’t like their texture.  If you know you are going to freeze the rigatoni, then I would substitute the bell peppers with half celery and half carrots.  You can freeze the rigatoni in airtight containers or freezer bags to reheat in a skillet or you can transfer to a freezer safe baking dish, top with cheese, cover and freeze.  You could even portion it out into individual portions then freeze.

HOW TO FREEZE SKILLET RIGATONI

  • Take care to cook pasta al dente.
  • Combine Rigatoni according to recipe directions.
  • Let cool to room temperature.
  • Transfer to a freezer safe, airtight container or freezer bag, squeezing out any excess air.
  • Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to serve, defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Transfer to a skillet a warm gently, adding additional water or milk to reach desired consistency.

HOW TO FREEZE BAKED RIGATONI

  • Take care to cook pasta al dente.
  • Combine Rigatoni according to recipe directions.
  • Transfer to a freezer safe, lightly greased baking dish and let cool completely.
  • Stir in ¼ cup additional water.
  • Top with 1 freshly grated mozzarella cheese and ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan.
  • Wrap casserole dish all the way around with 2 layers of plastic wrap.
  • Cover the plastic wrap with one layer of aluminum foil.
  • Label rigatoni and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to use, remove plastic wrap from casserole and cover tightly with foil.
  • Bake covered at 350 degrees F for one hour.  Uncover and bake an addition 10-30 minutes or until hot in the center.
  • Note: Do NOT bake rigatoni directly from frozen if using a glass baking dish – it will likely crack!  You will need to let the dish sit on the counter for about 2 hours before baking.  In this scenario, the pasta will take less time to cook.