Last updated on October 30, 2023

Rigatoni 🍝 Traditions and authentic Italian recipes

Gianni from All Italian - Author
Gianni from All Italian

Rigatoni is a type of short pasta that we love in Italy because it is thick and holds the sauce very well. We share the tradition of rigatoni in our country and prepare the recipe with sauce «alla Norma», step by step.

A short clip of our rigatoni recipe. Below we explain all steps in detail

Rigatoni is a type of Italian short pasta from the culinary tradition of central and southern Italy, traditionally made with durum wheat semolina.

A piece of Rigatoni has the shape of a section of tube with 2 cm in diameter, a grooved surface (rigata in Italian) and a thick dough.

Detail of a Mezzo Rigatone
A rigatone that we prepare on this page with Norma sauce

In Italy we really like Rigatoni because when cooked al dente and eaten with a thick sauce, they make a very tasty mix.

It is a type of pasta that goes well with different types of sauces: the sauce slides into the rigatoni and is held by the grooves on the surface.

The classic combination is rigatoni and sauces with meat, especially those from the tradition of central Italy: carbonara, amatriciana and gricia (the amatriciana without tomato).

Rigatoni also tastes excellent with vegetable sauces, which is why on this page we prepare a delicious plate of rigatoni alla Norma, a typical Sicilian sauce made with tomatoes and eggplants.

On this page

Learning Italian 🇮🇹

The name «rigatoni» comes from the grooves on the surface of the pasta, which in Italian is the 🔊 rigatura.

The Italian words we use on this page:

🔊 Rigatoni Rigatoni
🔊 Pasta Italiana Italian pasta

What sauces we like in Italy with rigatoni

Rigatoni is a type of pasta that goes well with many different sauces, especially if they are thick, such as the rigatoni dough.

It tastes great with tomato sauce, with Arrabbiata and with Bolognese sauce: these sauces go into the cavities of the rigatoni, with which they mix perfectly.
Thanks to these properties, rigatoni is also widely used as baked pasta.

Rigatoni alla Carbonara en Amatriciana are popular on dining tables in central Italy.
But if you don't have anything at home, you can also make rigatoni with aglio olio e peperoncino.

One of the regions competing for the origin of rigatoni is Sicily, where they are prepared with local vegetables and cheeses in alla Norma sauce: we make the recipe on this page.

Rigatoni alla Norma 🍝 Authentic Italian recipe

(14) reviews

  • 👩‍🍳 Easy
  • 30 min preparation
  • 🤗 Guaranteed result

A pan of rigatoni with Norma sauce
The rigatoni alla Norma that we make step by step in this recipe

We cook together a plate of rigatoni with sauce alla Norma, typical from Sicily: it contains garlic, tomatoes, aubergines and cheese.

👉 In this recipe we pay attention to how we cook the rigatoni and how we mix it with the sauce; For more information about the sauce, see our page dedicated to the Norma sauce.

As usual, at All Italian we use ingredients that you can find outside of Italy, so that you can actually prepare the recipe.

Actually, the eggplants in the original Norma sauce recipe have to be fried in a lot of oil; instead, we grill them for a lighter sauce that you can eat and digest without any problems.

The original recipe also contains a lot of garlic and especially the typical ricotta salata (salted ricotta) from Catania, a hard and salty cheese that you can often find even in northern Italy. We replace it with Pecorino, with a similar taste and which you can also find outside Italy.





Ingredient image Ingredient name Cups Grams Ounces
rigatoni Rigatoni 6.3 oz 180 g
eggplant Eggplant 1 piece
peeled-tomatoes Peeled tomatoes 14.1 oz 400 g
ricotta-salata Ricotta salata (or Pecorino) 5.3 oz 150 g
garlic Garlic 2 cloves
basil Basil 10 leaves
olive-oil Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2 teaspoons
wine-white White wine 2 teaspoons
salt Salt 1 pinch
pepper-black Black Pepper 1 pinch

Rigatoni or mezzi rigatoni

We wanted to use classic rigatoni for our recipe: but these are not easy to find outside Italy.

Producer Grand'Italia markets the «Rigatoni», but it is actually tortiglioni: with twisted ridges.

Therefore we use Mezzi Rigatoni from brand De Cecco, of good quality and easy to find.

The portions of rigatoni

The «Guidelines for healthy eating» published by the Italian Ministry of Health, recommend using 2.8-3.5 oz (80-100 grams) of dried pasta per person.

That is why we indicate 3.1 oz / 90 grams of rigatoni per piece in our recipe.

How to cook rigatoni

In Italy we also have a rule for the amount of water and salt with which we cook dried pasta: 1 liter / US quart of water per 3.5 oz / 100 g of pasta.

When the water boils, we add 0.35 oz / 10 grams of coarse salt per liter of boiling water.

How to prevent rigatoni from sticking

Some suggest adding olive oil to the cooking water to prevent the pasta from sticking: We never do this in Italy!

To prevent the rigatoni from sticking:

  • Use a big pot so that each rigatone has more room to cook;

  • Stir the rigatoni as soon as they are added to the pan, and occasionally during cooking.

Besides, of course, the use of good quality rigatoni, i.e. made entirely from durum wheat semolina (🔊 semolina): this type of pasta in the pot does not corrode.

👉 Also check out our guide on how to perfectly cook al dente.

The alla Norma sauce

Unless you live in Sicily, it is unlikely that you will have the same ingredients as on the island: especially aubergines, tomatoes and of course ricotta salata.


Even in Italy we don't always find exceptional tomatoes, not in all regions.

To quickly to make pasta sauce with tomatoes we use San Marzano tomatoes; which you can easily find outside Italy as peeled tomatoes.

San Marzano tomatoes are very well known in Italy because they are not very acidic, very tasty and suitable for quickly cooking pasta sauce or pizza.


You can use both round and elongated eggplant and you can cut it into slices (if you grill them) or into cubes (if you fry them in oil).

We simply grill the eggplants and therefore skip this step and prepare a lighter and faster dish.

Ricotta salata

The ricotta salata from Catania (salted ricotta) is a hard and salty cheese, completely different from the fresh cow's milk ricotta that is commonly found in the supermarket.

For our recipe, we replace the salted ricotta with Pecorino: this is grated on the plate before serving.


  1. Wash, slice and grill the aubergines

    Wash the aubergines and slice them into slices of equal thickness, about half a centimeter thick.

    Grill the aubergine slices: we grilled them in a non-stick pan over medium heat, without adding oil.

    After grilling the aubergines, place them on a plate until they are added to the sauce.

    Wash, slice and grill the aubergines

  2. Heat the water for the pasta

    Pour cold water into a large pot and heat it over medium heat.

    Heat the water for the pasta
    Cover the pot with a lid to boil the water faster

  3. Make the tomato sauce

    Peel the garlic cloves and put them in a pan with the olive oil.
    Heat over low heat and gently fry the garlic for a few minutes.

    In Italian we call it 🔊 soffritto and it is used to to flavor the sauce.

    The garlic must not burn; while still white, add the peeled tomatoes to the pan.

    Mix well, add half a ladle of cooking water to thin the sauce and prevent it from drying out.

    Season with salt, pepper and cook over low heat.

    👉 If you cover the pan with the lid, the tomato sauce retains its aroma better.

    Make the tomato sauce

  4. Cook the rigatoni

    Add the coarse salt when the cooking water is boiling. Wait a minute for the water to boil again and toss in the rigatoni.

    In Italian we use the idiom 🔊 butta la pasta, < em>toss the pasta.

    Immediately after dipping the rigatoni into the cooking water, stir briefly to prevent them from sticking together.

    The cooking time is indicated on the packaging, but we do not trust it and occasionally taste the rigatoni to understand the state of cooking.

    👉 While the pasta is cooking, do not cover the pan, otherwise the salted cooking water will overflow.

    In Italian we use the iconic expression «Butta la pasta», literally «throw the pasta».

  5. Add the grilled eggplant slices to the sauce

    During cooking, the sauce gradually becomes dry: dilute it with an additional half ladle of cooking water.

    Also add the aubergines to the tomato, mix well and continue to cook the sauce over low heat.

    Add the grilled eggplant slices to the sauce

  6. Combine rigatoni and sauce

    Instead of straining the pasta with a colander, we adopt another method to obtain a sauce that is a little creamier and mixes better with the pasta.

    When the rigatoni aren't ready yet (to understand it you can taste them), turn off the heat under the pasta pot and transfer them with a schuimspaan to the pan with the sauce.

    Add another half ladle of the starch-rich cooking water and mix the sauce and pasta thoroughly.

    Continue cooking until rigatoni is ready.

    Combine rigatoni and sauce

  7. Serving

    Put the rigatoni on the plates and add the fresh basil leaves and a generous grated Pecorino cheese, or ricotta salata if you have it available.

Your Rigatoni alla Norma is ready. Buon appetito! 🍝

A plate of rigatoni with Norma sauce - made according to the Italian recipe
Mezzi Rigatoni with norma sauce from our pasta cookbook

Did you like it? Rate this recipe

In the restaurant in Italy, when you finish eating, the waiter will ask: 🔊 andava tutto bene? (was everything fine?)

Recipe rating Italian translation
🔊Abbastanza buono
🔊Non molto buono
🔊Non buono
Placeholder image

The tradition of rigatoni in Italy

Rigatoni is of course famous throughout Italy, but belongs to the tradition of the regions of central and southern Italy; the origin of rigatoni is generally attributed to the cuisine of Rome, but is disputed by other regions, such as Sicily.

The grooves on the pasta have a double function: they add thickness and structure to the piece of pasta, making it more enjoyable to chew al dente; and they hold the sauce, without slipping when you pick them up with a fork.

Traditional for southern Italian pasta, rigatoni is made entirely from durum wheat semolina, where we also use fresh orecchiette of it, and dried.

Detail of Mezzi Rigatoni from brand De Cecco
Detail of Mezzi Rigatoni (half rigatoni) by brand De Cecco, which you can also easily find outside Italy

Rigatoni and Tortiglioni: the difference

A type of pasta similar to rigatoni is tortiglioni: they are similar in size and thickness, go in the same sauces and are both very popular. But the difference is the grooves.

The groove of the rigatoni is always straight and longitudinal, from one end of the cylinder to the other.
On the other hand, the groove of tortiglioni has the shape of a spiral along the pasta tube.

Federico Fellini's Rigatoni commercial

In 1985 the famous Italian director Federico Fellini shoots a commercial for the pasta brand Barilla.

A pair of lovers dine in an elegant restaurant; while the waiter lists the haute cuisine dishes on the menu, she interrupts him and, cutting it short, orders a plate of rigatoni.

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Over All Italian

Hi! We are Italian expats and have been living abroad for years, currently in the Netherlands. Wherever we go, we carry part of our tradition with us. And we often notice that Italy, its heritage and its lifestyle, are very popular.
Now that we understand a little better the culture of the countries we live in, we want to offer an account with original content about our home country.
We are also writing this blog to practice English, so you will find our writing a little «creative» at times. Grazie mille!