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Baked Rigatoni with Cauliflower in a Spicy Pink Sauce

Scott Phillips

Servings: 6 to 8

Cauliflower adds hearty chunks to this comforting baked pasta with creamy tomato sauce and Fontina cheese. Create your own custom baked pasta recipe with the Recipe Maker.


  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 (28-oz.) cans whole tomatoes
  • 1 lb. yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 3 medium)
  • 1-1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. rigatoni
  • 1 lb. 1- to 1-1/2-inch cauliflower florets (about 4 cups)
  • 10 oz. shredded Fontina (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 2 oz. freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano (about 3/4 cup)


  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. Bring a pot of well-salted water to boil in a large pot with a pasta insert. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with 1 Tbs. olive oil.

    Pour off 1 cup of juice from one of the cans of tomatoes and discard it. In a blender or food processor, purée both cans of tomatoes with their remaining juice and set aside.

    Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil in a 6- to 8-qt. Dutch oven or heavy-based pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, about 1 minute, add the onions and 1/4 tsp. of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Push the onions to the side of the Dutch oven with a wooden spoon and add the garlic. Cook until it just starts to sizzle and becomes fragrant, about 10 seconds.

    Add the puréed tomatoes and cream (be careful; it will splatter), plus the remaining 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, so that the sauce thickens slightly. Add the parsley and the red pepper flakes, and cook until the flavors are melded, about 5 minutes more. Taste for salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

    Meanwhile, when the salted water comes to a boil, cook the rigatoni until it’s al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta by lifting out the insert and leaving the water in the pot. Add the pasta to the sauce. Return the water to a boil (with the pasta insert in the pot) and cook the cauliflower until barely tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and add it to the sauce.

    Add 1-1/2 cups of the shredded Fontina to the pasta mixture and toss well. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Top the pasta with the remaining 1 cup Fontina and then the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

    Bake uncovered until the cheese is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let the pasta rest for 10 minutes before serving.


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Reviews (10 reviews)

  • beachwood0532 | 09/05/2021

    This is a great recipe. I’ve made it several times and everyone loved it. Has anyone tried making it ahead of time, say the day before, and then cooking it the next day? If so, what was it like?

  • HaydnR | 04/24/2021

    It's fine but it would be just as good if you just made the sauce for the pasta. Baking it doesn't really add anything.

  • MathyRudkins | 12/27/2018

    Made this for a large family gathering and it was a big hit! Loved the rose sauce with the cauliflower.

  • Pam_in_CP | 02/24/2018

    I had a head of cauliflower I wanted to use and found this recipe. It was yummy comfort food on a cold day. Served with Italian chicken sausage. Like another reviewer said though, it makes a huge quantity! Serves more like 10-12. I had to pile it into my dish, and found myself wishing I'd either halved the recipe, or used 2 dishes and frozen one. I will still portion out the leftovers and freeze them.

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