Rigatoni Pasta & Tomato Sauce

4.84 from 6 votes

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There are so many reasons to have canned tomatoes in your pantry at all times. One of them includes this easy pasta sauce recipe that’s perfect for rigatoni pasta for a convenient pantry-style dinner. With just 8 ingredients, the sauce is seasoned with fresh garlic, dried oregano and red pepper flakes, and it’s freezer friendly.

If you like pasta that’s spicy, try this arrabbiata sauce with chickpeas.

Rigatoni noodles with tomato sauce

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Homemade tomato sauce shouldn’t be complicated. I like to keep things simple with sauce. Canned tomatoes are a pantry staple, so recipes with them should be approachable. They are one of the most reliable weeknight/whenever go-to ingredients.

This marinara sauce finishes summering in about 10-15 minutes. I know there are people who spend hours crafting their rendition of a treasured family recipe, but in far less time this recipe delivers with wonderful flavors for a pasta dish. You really don’t need much more than that.

Bookmark this recipe for your weeknight dinner rotation. Keeping with a strategy of no-fuss meal prep, I have this rigatoni recipe on my list of meals for busy days of the week. I will even make the sauce on a Sunday, so then I am ready for the hectic days ahead. A bowl of spaghetti or rigatoni noodles and sauce is my kind of comfort food.

Why Rigatoni Pasta Is The Perfect Shape For Tomato Sauce

With its ridges and big tubular shape, rigatoni is the ultimate noodle for thicker sauces. It really picks up the chunkier bits. Holding on to sauce is the job of those ridges. Rigatoni is similar to ziti and penne, but it is larger in diameter. Also, the ends of rigatoni are cut straight unlike the angled ends of penne.

And ziti noodles and penne lisce are smooth without those signature pasta ridges. Save them for a casserole. Rigatoni is a pasta that can do a lot of things with from being boiled to baked in pasta dishes. No matter how you cook it, you will end up with a filling meal.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Ingredients including pasta, canned tomatoes, onion, garlic and spices

This is what you need:

  • Canned Tomatoes: To save a step, I use crushed tomatoes. Unlike completely smooth pureed tomatoes, they still have some texture. Also, you aren’t obligated to blend the sauce like you would if you used diced or whole tomatoes.
  • Onions: This recipe uses chopped white onions. A yellow onion will work too. I sauté them letting them get soft and translucent before adding anything else to the pan.
  • Garlic: I mince the garlic, so it ends up disappearing into the sauce as it simmers, while leaving behind wonderful garlicky flavor. The recipe calls for 2-3 garlic cloves depending on your tastes.
  • Olive oil: You need oil for sautéing the onions, minced garlic and dried spices.
  • Oregano: For that signature Italian seasoning and flavor, I include dried oregano with the spices.
  • Red pepper flakes: A little goes a long way with red pepper flakes. They are such an easy and effective way to add heat to sauces and pastas.
  • Salt & black pepper: They are the essential base seasonings to any sauce. Make sure to taste the sauce as it simmers to see if you need adjust the salt and pepper.
  • Parmesan rind: Even though it’s optional, adding a Parmesan rind to the sauce while it simmers adds a subtle salty, savory umami flavor. I keep a container of rinds in the fridge just for sauce and soup. Then portion of a block of Parmesan goes to waste.
  • Rigatoni: If you happen to be out of rigatoni, penne or fusilli are great alternates because they grab the sauce.
  • Grated Parmesan: It just makes sense to finish the pasta with a sprinkle (or more) of Parmesan cheese. If you want to keep it vegan, use nutritional yeast instead. Another option is to top the pasta with torn fresh mozzarella cheese.
  • Chopped parsley: For color and fresh herby taste, I top each serving with chopped parsley. If you have fresh basil leaves, you can use them for garnish too.

How To Make Rigatoni Pasta

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

2. Sauté the onions. After 5 minutes or so, they will start to turn soft and translucent.

Olive oil warming in a skillet on the stove. Onions sauteing in the skillet.

3. Add the garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Continue cooking for a minute until fragrant.

4. Pour in the crushed tomatoes.  Let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes until thickened. Add a Parmesan rind, if using.

Garlic and spices stirred into sauteed onions. Tomato sauce simmering in skillet.

5. Cook the rigatoni in a large pot of salted boiling water while the sauce simmers for 10-15 minutes. Make sure not to overcook the pasta. You want it to be al dente, so it has some bite to match the thick sauce. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Then drain the pasta.

6. Stir the pasta into the sauce with 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water. Let it simmer for 1 minute. You can add more pasta water if needed to thin it out. Remove the Parmesan rind before you add the pasta. Divide the pasta into serving dishes. Top with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Pasta in a colander. Rigatoni stirred into tomato sauce in the skillet.


You can serve this rigatoni pasta recipe with a simple arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette, a classic house salad or an Italian chopped salad. For a vegetable side dish, try roasted asparagus with parmesan or crispy roasted brussels sprouts. You can also enjoy it with a piece of bread with a good crust that you can dip into the sauce. 

Storage, Freezing & Make-Ahead Tips

You can make the sauce up to 3 days in advance and keep it in a jar in the refrigerator. Wait to cook the pasta until you are ready to serve the actual meal. Then you will have the pasta cooking water to thin out the sauce as needed, and you will have freshly simmered al dente noodles.

If you want to keep the sauce longer, you can freeze it up to 1 month. Then put it out on the kitchen counter at room temperature to thaw and reheat it on the stovetop.

Recipe Tips

Adjust the simmer time depending how you want to use the sauce. For pasta, I usually keep the sauce a little looser and simmer it for less time, closer to 10 minutes. Remember you can always use pasta cooking water to thin it out too in case you end up simmering it too long for your intended use. For pizza, I like a thicker sauce, so I simmer it longer, around 15 minutes.

You can puree the sauce if you want it very smooth. This adds an extra step, and you will need to squeeze it in before cooking the pasta. Just transfer the sauce to a high-powered blender and then pour it back into the pan before continuing with the pasta.

If you like spicy tomato sauce, you can turn this recipe into rigatoni arrabbiata. Just go all in on red pepper flakes. They are such an easy way to deliver some serious heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon of flakes into the sauce.

You can stir baby spinach or chopped kale into the sauce. The heat in the pan will wilt the greens in minutes. It’s such an easy way to add another nutritious ingredient.

Recipe FAQs

Is this a vegan tomato sauce recipe?

Yes. Just omit the parmesan or use a plant-based cheese when you assemble the entire pasta dish.

Can you use gluten-free pasta?

Yes. Just be aware that chickpea pasta and other gluten free varieties tend to have shorter cook times than traditional pasta. You always want you noodles to turn out al dente.

Can you turn this into a meat sauce?

Before you sauté the onions, you can cook 3/4 pound ground beef or Italian sausage that has been removed from its casings in the pan. It will take about 5 minutes to brown the meat. Then spoon it onto a plate and continue with the recipe as written by cooking the onions. Stir the meat back into the sauce before you add the pasta.

How do you make this recipe into creamy tomato sauce?

Once the sauce has finished simmering and before you add the pasta, you can stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream.

More Canned Tomato Recipes

You can’t beat the convenience of canned tomatoes. They get me through the majority of the year when fresh ones are not in season.

Here are more recipes using this pantry staple:

Roasted Eggplant Zucchini Tomato Stew
Cheese Tortellini Pasta Bake
Roasted Tomato Soup
Lentil Wild Rice Soup
Baked Tomato Farro Risotto
Oven-Baked Skillet Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Spinach

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Rigatoni Pasta & Tomato Sauce

4.84 from 6 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 4
Make the most of canned tomatoes in this easy sauce recipe that’s perfect for rigatoni pasta for a weeknight meal. The sauce is great for pizza too.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste
  • 1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • Parmesan rind, optional
  • 12 ounces dried rigatoni
  • Grated Parmesan and chopped parsley for serving


  • In a large skillet or saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they start to soften and turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and continue cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Pour in the tomatoes and add the Parmesan rind, if using. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
  • While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the rigatoni until al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.
  • Remove the Parmesan rind. Stir the rigatoni into the sauce with 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water. You can add more as necessary to thin out the sauce.
  • Season to taste with additional salt and pepper as needed.
  • Top with grated Parmesan and parsley before serving.


Storing: Let the sauce cool to room temperature before transferring to containers to store.
  • The sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Wait to make the pasta until you are planning to serve the meal. Warm the sauce on low heat on the stove.
  • You can store the sauce in the freezer up to 1 month. Thaw at room temperature before warming on the stove.
Arrabiata variation: To make a spicy tomato sauce, increase the red pepper flakes to 1 teaspoon.
Optional Additions:
  • You can stir in baby spinach or chopped kale after the sauce has finished simmering and before you add the pasta. It will soften and mix right into the sauce.
  • To make the sauce cream, stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream after it finishes simmering and before you add the rigatoni.
  • Once you have spooned the pasta into bowls or onto plates for serving, you can top it with torn fresh mozzarella.


Calories: 424kcal | Carbohydrates: 81g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 0.1mg | Sodium: 853mg | Potassium: 823mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 468IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 98mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Italian
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Hi, I'm Paige.

Welcome to Last Ingredient where you will find simple seasonal recipes with plenty of fruits and vegetables, all for the home cook.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I’ve been cooking this canned tomato sauce recipe for a while now and using penne or rigatoni. My family loves it.