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Rigatoni Pasta with Creamy Bolognese Sauce


Tender rigatoni pasta covered in a creamy bolognese sauce. This dish is comforting, wealthy and exactly delicious!

Rigatoni is one of those classic Italian dishes that everyone loves. It’s flavorful and is covered in the top tomato meat sauce. Some of my other top Italian classics are spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna and chicken parmesan. So yummy!

rigatoni noodles with bolognese sauce in white bowl

In my opinion, there is nothing better than a creamy pasta dish. And this rigatoni pasta is everything you would anticipate for. It’s comforting, wealthy and exactly delicious. You’ll be going back for seconds and maybe even thirds!. 😉

If you don’t have rigatoni noodles on hand, penne or ziti noodles also work great for this dish. Honestly the sauce tastes great on any type of cooked pasta, so feel free to use what you have on hand. We love to garnish our rigatoni noodles with fresh parmesan cheese and parsley or basil. So flavorful and delicious!

Penne vs. rigatoni

The two types of pasta are often interchanged due to their similar qualities, however there are some small differences. Penne has a cylinder shape and is cut at an angle on the ends. It’s often a bit more narrow than rigatoni.

Rigatoni noodles are slightly shorter and wider than penne noodles. They have square-cut ends and more of a tube shape. Rigatoni also has vertical ridges down the length of the noodle, making it a better adhesive than penne for sauce and cheese.

rigatoni bolognese sauce being made in pan

How to make rigatoni bolognese

  1. Cook noodles. Cook the noodles in salted water according to directions on package. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the rigatoni noodles.
  2. Saute. While the noodles cook, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-heat. Add the onions and peppers and sauté until tender. Then add the garlic and sausage and cook until browned. Drain any excess grease.
  3. Simmer and toss. Stir in Italian seasoning, tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken broth. Turn heat to low, then slowly mix in the heavy cream. Once the mixture is lightly simmering, add in the kale. S&P to taste. Then add in rigatoni noodles and toss. If the mixture is too thick, add in the 1 cup reserved pasta water.
  4. Serve. Add desired toppings like fresh parmesan, parsley, basil or red pepper flakes. Serve and enjoy!

Cooking tips

  • If you don’t have rigatoni noodles, both penne or ziti noodles work great.
  • Feel free to use baby spinach instead of kale or even just abandon it out.
  • Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a kick of heat.
  • Can use ground beef instead of sausage if preferred (however the sausage will give it more flavor).

rigatoni noodles with bolognese sauce in pan

Baked rigatoni

This recipe also tastes delicious baked in the oven. Just follow the simple steps below:

  1. Once you’ve stirred the noodles and sauce together, place the mixture in a greased 9×13″ pan.
  2. Then top with 1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese.
  3. Bake at 350°F for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

To make-ahead: Follow steps 1-2 above, however cover pan with plastic wrap or foil instead of placing in oven. Store in refrigerator for up to 1-2 days. When alert to enjoy, let the dish sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes prior to placing in oven. Bake at 350°F for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbly.

Favorite sides for serving

If you’re looking for a side dish to serve with this rigatoni pasta, below are a few of our favorites:

rigatoni noodles with bolognese sauce with parmesan cheese in white bowl

More pasta dishes to try:

Course: Main Dish

Cuisine: Italian

Keyword: rigatoni bolognese

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Servings: 6

Calories: 548

Tender rigatoni pasta covered in a creamy bolognese sauce. This dish is comforting, wealthy and exactly delicious!

  • 12 ounces rigatoni noodles
  • 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion (minced)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 15 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or half and half)
  • 1-2 cups chopped kale (or baby spinach)

Salt and red pepper flakes

Optional: fresh parsley, basil and/or parmesan cheese for serving

  • Cook the noodles according to package in salted water. Reserve 1 cup water and then drain.

  • While the noodles are cooking, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-heat. Add the onion and bell peppers. Cook until tender. Add the garlic and sausage. Cook until browned. Drain any grease.

  • Stir in the Italian seasoning, tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken broth. Turn the heat to low and then slowly stir in the heavy cream. Once it has arrive to a light simmer, add in the kale. Season with salt and pepper. Then add noodles and toss. Add reserved water if needed to lean out.

  • Serve with fresh parmesan cheese and herbs on top.

Baked rigatoni:
This dish also tastes delicious baked in the oven. Once you’ve stirred the noodles and sauce together, place in a grease 9×13″ pan. Then top with 1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Then bake at 350°F for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. 

Calories: 548kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 623mg | Potassium: 696mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 2405IU | Vitamin C: 42.9mg | Calcium: 101mg | Iron: 2.8mg

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Jamielyn Nye

Jamielyn Nye is the creative director and founder of Follow Us. She is also the author of the Follow Us Cookbook. When she’s not creating in the kitchen, Jamielyn loves to chase her four small monkeys and snuggle up on the couch with her man.


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