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Baked Rigatoni Al Forno (Freezer Comfort Food)

Baked rigatoni is classic comfort food but with a surprise twist! Plump pasta, savory tomatoes, and tangy Swiss cheese will make this your new favorite baked pasta recipe.

baked rigatoni in a white bowl with a fork

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!

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.

Doesn’t that sound yummy?!?

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labeled picture of rigatoni ingredients

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!

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

Looking for more comfort food? Follow LTB on Pinterest!

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

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

TWO: 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.

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

FOUR: 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.

FIVE: 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.

ONE: Sweat the onions and garlic in olive oil.

TWO: Add the tomatoes, sauce, paste, and thyme.

THREE: Simmer for 1 hour.

How do you make Baked Rigatoni?

  • Combine the pasta, sauce, and cheese in an oven-proof baking dish.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

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.

fork with pasta and melted cheese with casserole dish of baked pasta in the background

What is Rigatoni Pasta used for?

Rigatoni is a hearty tube style 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 Rigatoni and 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.

Homemade Baked Rigatoni Tips

Be sure to salt the water correctly. The water should taste salty like sea water. Remember the pasta is plain and this is the chance to flavor the pasta

Don’t overcook the noodles. The proper way to cook rigatoni noodles, or any pasta, is “al dente” which means “to the tooth.” The pasta will continue to cook while baking in the sauce.

Don’t rinse the pasta when you drain it. The starch on the pasta will help to thicken the sauce a little and help it cling to the noodles better.

overhead picture of baked pasta in a casserole dish

Can you freeze it?

Another advantage of those big rigatoni noodles, they stand up to freezing and reheating. So if you do have leftovers, you are in luck.

This is the type of pasta casserole that just gets better and better with a bit of time to bring all the flavors together.

How to store leftovers

For leftovers, make sure to seal them tightly. If you have a freezer safe glass dish with lid, that is ideal. If not, just cover tightly with plastic wrap, then with a layer of aluminum foil.

I recommend separating it into a few portions that can be frozen individually. Not only will reheating go much faster, but you can pull it out for a quick lunch or dinner.

It will keep easily for up to two months in the freezer.

For reheating, use a microwave and warm it for a few minutes first to partially thaw, then finish on high to serving temperature.

In an oven, you can either heat it from frozen, or thaw it first. Reheat at 300F for 30-40 minutes or until heated through.

closeup of pasta noodles on the end of a fork

Tips for No Leftovers

  • Make it more hearty with a meat sauce by adding Italian sausage or 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.
  • 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.

Serve it with these Italian Favorites

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

More Easy Recipes

rigatoni picture for recipe card

Baked Rigatoni

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

This Baked rigatoni is classic comfort food but with a tangy surprise twist!


  • 1 pound rigatoni noodles
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions (chopped fine)
  • 2 cloves garlic (sliced)
  • four 15 oz cans stewed tomatoes
  • two 15 oz cans tomato sauce
  • one 6 oz can 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

  1. 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.
  2. Add the tomatoes, sauce, and paste. Stir to combine.
  3. 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.

  1. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil over high heat.
  2. Once boiling, salt the water and add the noodles. Stir to separate any clumps.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and cook the rigatoni noodles according to package directions, minus 2-3 minutes.
  4. When cooked to "al dente," drain the noodles but do not rinse.

Assemble the casserole

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the noodles, sauce, and 3/4 of the cheese.
  3. Spread into a casserole dish.
  4. Top with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake at 375F for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is melted.
  6. Serve warm!


*If you like this recipe, please leave me a comment and rate it 5 stars. Thank you!

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This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure policy here.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 421Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 480mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 2gSugar: 6gProtein: 24g

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Wednesday 6th of October 2021

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!


Thursday 7th of October 2021

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!

Nikki Lee

Thursday 20th of August 2020

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


Wednesday 19th of August 2020

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


Saturday 15th of August 2020

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!

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