February 12, 2018

Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce

Canned tomatoes are a pantry staple, so I think of them as a go-to ingredient. They are great for this quick, easy rigatoni with tomato sauce.

Canned tomatoes are a pantry staple, so I think of them as a go-to ingredient. They are great for this quick, easy rigatoni with tomato sauce.

Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce

I don’t like to make a big deal out of tomato sauce.

Canned tomatoes are a pantry staple, so I think of them as a weeknight/whenever go-to ingredient.

It doesn’t even have to be sauce. Tomato soup is pretty much just thinned out sauce, right? 

I know there are people who spend hours crafting their rendition of a treasured family recipe, but my version is finishes simmering in about 15 minutes. It’s an easy pasta sauce. That is delicious. And you don’t need much more than that.

There is a range of effort that I find myself putting into this sauce depending on my mood.

Keeping with that simple, no fuss meal prep, rigatoni with tomato sauce is on regular weeknight dinner rotation. I will even make the sauce on a Sunday, so then I am ready for the busy days ahead.

Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce

Rigatoni Pasta: The Perfect Shape For Sauce

With its ridges and big tubular shape, rigatoni is the ultimate comfort food. It really picks up the chunkier bits of tomatoes. Holding on to sauce is the job of those ridges.

Rigatoni is similar to ziti and penne, but it is larger. Also, the ends of rigatoni are cut straight unlike the angled ends of penne.

And ziti noodles are smooth without those signature pasta ridges.

For prep, you can boil it or you can make a baked rigatoni casserole with tomato sauce or cream sauce and cheese. It is a noodle that can do a lot of things, but no matter how you cook it, you will end up with a filling meal.

Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce

The Ingredients

For this pasta you will need these ingredients:

  • Canned Tomatoes: To save a step, I use crushed tomatoes. Unlike pureed tomatoes, they still are a bit chunky. Also, you avoid having to blend the sauce as you would if you use whole tomatoes.
  • Onions: This recipe uses chopped white onions. A yellow onion will work too. I cook 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.
  • Olive oil: The recipe starts with heating olive oil in a saucepan and sautéing the onions followed by the garlic and seasonings.
  • 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 tomato sauce. Make sure to taste as you go 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 tomato sauce and soup.
  • Rigatoni: If you happen to be out of rigatoni, penne or fusilli are great alternates because they hold on to the sauce.
  • Grated Parmesan: It just makes sense to finish the pasta with a sprinkle (or more) of Parmesan cheese.
  • Chopped parsley: For color and fresh herby taste, I top each serving with chopped parsley.

How To Make Rigatoni With Tomato Sauce

The first step is to sauté onions in olive oil. Once they are soft and translucent, I add minced garlic. 

To make the sauce even more fragrant and give it a nice kick of spicy heat, I always stir in red pepper flakes. If you lean into the spiciness and add more flakes, you will end up with an arrabbiata sauce.

After that, I dump in a big can of crushed tomatoes, bring everything to a boil and then turn down the heat to let the sauce simmer.

As the sauce is cooking, I like to add a Parmesan rind.

I hoard them in a little baggie in my fridge. They add a subtle richness, and pardon that cheffy word again, umami.

While the sauce is simmering, I cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water on the next burner over. Make sure you end up with pasta that is al dente, so it still has come bite to match up with the thick sauce.

Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce

A Sauce For Pasta And Pizza

The cook time kind of depends on what I’m planning to do with the sauce.

For pasta, I usually keep the sauce a little looser and simmer it for less time. Remember that you can always use pasta cooking water to thin it out, too. So if you end up simmering it too long, you can thin it out just a bit.

For pizza, I like a thicker sauce, so I simmer it longer.

Depending whether you prefer smooth or chunky sauce, you can puree it in the blender if you want to add that step.

Again this is where you have choices to make a could changes to suit your taste and what you’re going to use it for.

Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce

If I know I’m not going to be able to use all the sauce in a few days, I freeze it in ice cube trays, so it’s easy to only use as much as I need for a single meal.

Rigatoni with tomato sauce is such a simple and cozy dinner that I like to keep a stash of sauce in the freezer.

More Canned Tomato Recipes

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

Here are more recipes using this pantry staple:

Roasted Eggplant Zucchini Tomato Stew

Roasted Tomato Soup

Lentil Wild Rice Soup

Baked Tomato Farro Risotto

Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce

Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce

  • Author: Paige Adams
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 17-22 minutes
  • Total Time: 22-27 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 1x

Canned tomatoes are a pantry staple, so I think of them as a go-to ingredient. They are great for this quick, easy rigatoni with tomato sauce.


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


  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and Parmesan rind, if using, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
  2. Cook the rigatoni according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Stir the rigatoni into the sauce and add the pasta water by the 1/4-cupful to thin the sauce. Season to taste and top with grated Parmesan and parsley before serving.


If you prefer a smoother sauce, puree it in the blender. 

  • Author: Paige Adams
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 17-22 minutes
  • Total Time: 22-27 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 1x

Freeze the sauce in smaller portions as you plan to use them. Try freezing the sauce in ice cube trays. Then put the cubes in a bag for space saving storage.


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