Baked Rigatoni Al Forno

Baked rigatoni is classic comfort food but with a surprise twist! Big rigatoni noodles, tender tomatoes, and tangy Swiss cheese will make this your new favorite baked pasta recipe. It’s a family recipe so I know you will love it like mine does!

cheesy baked rigatoni recipe

Baked Rigatoni Recipe

Baked rigatoni is a dish that easily makes a large batch that feeds the family with plenty of leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day.

I grew up eating my grandmother’s recipe which is unlike all the other baked pasta recipes out there.

Because there is a secret ingredient!

My recipe differs from the other pasta dishes because it doesn’t use the typical marinara sauce and mild Italian sausage like most do. This one has a unique flavor that will blow your socks off. Not to mention all the gooey cheese!

Doesn’t that sound yummy?!?

What do I serve with it?

This is a really filling meal by itself but if you want to stretch it for a larger family and make it more budget friendly, add some side dishes.

My favorites are some garlic bread or garlic knots, a salad like an Italian chopped salad or a Caesar salad, some Italian green beans for color, and maybe a slice of cheesecake for dessert:)

tender noodles give the best results when baking

Ingredients Needed

Rigatoni – This is the best shape of pasta for this recipe but if you have another shape already on hand, feel free to use that one!

Stewed tomatoes – Don’t skimp on this ingredient. It’s not expensive but the flavor is what you need.

Tomato sauce – Plain spaghetti sauce is best. Don’t try and frill it up with a roasted garlic or basil sauce.

Thyme – Make sure you try and use fresh as it’s the best!

Tomato paste – I like the concentrated paste.

Swiss cheese – Again, this is the secret ingredient so make sure you buy SWISS cheese! It’s not the same with mozzarella cheese.

Looking for more leftover worthy dishes? Follow LTB on Pinterest and pin to a board!

pour cooked pasta into the sauce and stir

Before you mix everything together and bake in the oven, you need to prepare the noodles. An easy step, but don’t skip the details.

How to Cook Rigatoni Noodles Al Dente

First: Bring a large pot of water (6 quarts) to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat.

Second: Before adding the noodles, salt the water. Not just a pinch, but more like 1/4 cup salt. The water should be similar to ocean water in salt level.

Third: Add the noodles and stir to make sure they don’t stick together in clumps or on the bottom of the pot.

Fourth: Turn the temperature to medium and continue to cook until done but still firm to the bite. This is about 2-3 minutes less than the package directions. Mine took 12 minutes.

Fifth: Drain but do not rinse.

Make the Sauce

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Since it takes a while to simmer, you can make the sauce ahead of time and then prepare the pasta when you are ready to bake.

First: Sweat the onions and garlic in olive oil in a large skillet.

Second: Add the tomatoes, sauce, tomato paste, and thyme.

Third: Simmer for 1 hour

How do you make Baked Rigatoni?

  1. Combine the pasta, sauce, and cheese in an oven-proof casserole dish.
  2. Cover with foil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Season with salt and black pepper if desired.

Different from the classic rigatoni recipe by using stewed tomatoes and Swiss cheese, this rigatoni casserole is a great alternative to the traditional.

For the full recipe and detailed baking instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post.

one of my favorite pasta bake recipes

How long does it last?

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave in 1 minute intervals or in the oven at 350F until heated through.

You can add a little extra cheese on top if you like.

Can you freeze it?

You can make it ahead of time, bring to room temperature, wrap in plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months.

Thaw overnight in the fridge and then reheat as you like.

add ground meat if you need some extra protein

What is Rigatoni Al Forno?

Rigatoni is a specific shape of pasta noodle and “al forno” simply means baked in the oven. Directly translated Baked Pasta.

You might even call this a Rigatoni Pasta Bake.

What is Rigatoni Pasta used for?

Rigatoni is a large tube-shaped pasta with a bit more chew to it. Mostly used in Central and Southern Italy.

Large ridges on the outside of the noodle create a textured surface that sauce loves to cling to.

You can think of it as a penne only bigger. Either way, rigatoni is the noodle of choice when you want to satisfy some big appetites!

What’s the difference between baked Rigatoni and baked Ziti?

Ziti is a smaller tube, more like fat spaghetti, with a smooth outside. Rigatoni noodles are usually larger and have lines or ridges on the outside.

Penne pasta is very similar to rigatoni but they are smaller and their ends are cut at an angle where the rigatoni are cut square.

baked rigatoni al forno on a fork

Tips for No Leftovers

  • Be sure to cook the noodles in a large pot of salted water. It should taste salty like sea water. Remember the pasta is plain and this is the chance to add some flavor to the pasta.
  • Cook the noodles “al dente” or too the tooth so they aren’t too mushy.
  • Make it more hearty with a meaty sauce by adding sweet Italian sausage, ground turkey, or lean ground beef to it.
  • If you don’t like the large chunks of tomatoes, feel free to puree the tomatoes before adding to the rest of the sauce.
  • Too much food? Make a whole batch and split it into two dishes and bake one and freeze the other. Save it for busy days.
  • Not a lot of time to simmer? Cut the simmer time in half by using a crushed tomatoes and add some Italian Seasoning.
  • Can’t find Swiss cheese? Use Fontina, Jarlsberg, or Gruyere.
  • Switch up the pasta and use rotini or shells.
  • Grate or shred your own cheese. Not only is it cheaper to buy a block of cheese than a bag of shredded, the pre-shredded has anti-caking powder which stops the cheese from melting.
  • Like it spicy? Add a few red pepper flakes when simmering the sauce.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

easy baked rigatoni pasta dish

This easy Baked rigatoni recipe is classic comfort food that is sure to become a family favorite. Make two batches and freeze one for a busy weeknight.

overhead picture of baked pasta in a casserole dish

Baked Rigatoni

This Baked rigatoni is classic comfort food but with a tangy surprise twist!
4.91 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 451kcal
Author: Jennifer Stewart


  • 1 pound rigatoni noodles
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 60 ounces stewed tomatoes
  • 30 ounces tomato sauce
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 small bunch of fresh thyme or 2 tablespoons dried
  • 2 pounds Swiss cheese shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Prepare the sauce
  • In a large pot, sweat the onions in the olive oil over medium heat until clear. Add the garlic and thyme. Cook for another minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, sauce, and paste. Stir to combine.
  • Reduce temperature to simmer and continue to cook uncovered, stirring often, for an hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Prepare the rigatoni noodles.
  • Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil over high heat.
  • Once boiling, salt the water and add the noodles. Stir to separate any clumps.
  • Reduce heat to medium and cook the rigatoni noodles according to package directions, minus 2-3 minutes.
  • When cooked to "al dente," drain the noodles but do not rinse.
  • Assemble the casserole
  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • In a large bowl, combine the noodles, sauce, and 3/4 of the cheese.
  • Spread into a casserole dish.
  • Top with remaining cheese.
  • Bake at 375F for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is melted.
  • Serve warm!



  • Make it more hearty with a meaty sauce by adding Italian sausage, ground turkey, or lean ground beef to it.
  • If you don’t like the large chunks of tomatoes, feel free to puree the tomatoes before adding to the rest of the sauce.
  • Too much food? Make a whole batch and split it into two dishes and bake one and freeze the other. Save it for busy days.
  • Not a lot of time to simmer? Cut the simmer time in half by using a crushed tomatoes and add some Italian Seasoning.
  • Can’t find Swiss cheese? Use Fontina, Jarlsberg, or Gruyere.
  • Switch up the pasta and use rotini or shells. Be sure to cook it in a large pot of salted water.
  • Grate or shred your own cheese. Not only is it cheaper to buy a block of cheese than a bag of shredded, the pre-shredded has anti-caking powder which stops the cheese from melting.
  • If you like the nutty taste of Parmesan cheese, sprinkle some on after plating.
  • Like it spicy? Add a few red pepper flakes when simmering the sauce.
  • Nutrition

    Serving: 1g | Calories: 451kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 851mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 10g

    {Originally pubished 06/26/20 – photos and recipe notes updated 03/12/24} Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encourages and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.

    Pinterest Image for Baked Rigatoni with text "best baked rigatoni, secret ingredient"

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    1. I made this for dinner and it was perfect. Nice balance of flavors, and I loved that it was vegetarian so I didn’t have to alter the recipe!

    2. MICHAELA KENKEL says:

      made this last night and OMG!! There wasn’t a noodle left! So good!

    3. Nikki Lee says:

      I am a pasta lover! This has so much flavor and just the perfect amount of sauce! It’s a hit with my family!

    4. Okay we have made LOTS of pasta dishes over the years. This one has me so confused. All we can taste is thyme and the cheese….it just ended up as chunks of cheese all throughout the pasta. Is this how it’s supposed to be? Thinking so since 2 pounds of cheese is a LOT and there’s no way it can just melt into a creamy sauce. Would love to know if there’s anything I can do to improve this!

      1. I will admit that this rigatoni recipe, which is my grandma’s recipe, is not your traditional baked pasta dish. And yes, the thyme can be very forward. If that’s too much feel free to cut back to your liking. My grandma grew thyme in her garden so liked to use it a lot. Most cheesy baked pasta dishes will have a creamier sauce as the cheese melts, more like an alfredo, but with the Swiss cheese, it is not meant to be that way. This dish is meant to be thick rigatoni noodles with pockets of cheese and chunky tomatoes. I know it’s different, but that’s what we love about it. You can always drop down on the amount of thyme and replace some of the Swiss cheese with a creamier mozzarella that melts more to you liking. I hope this helps. Thanks!

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