Entrées,  Meatless (Vegetarian and Vegan),  Our Favorites,  Recipes,  Vegetarian

Baked Rigatoni with Spinach: Cheesy Italian Pasta Bake Casserole

This vegetarian pasta bake with spinach and cheese is one of our favorite comfort food meals. A meatless casserole with Italian flair!

Baked rigatoni pasta casserole with Parmesan and a salad on the side.

I’ve been making this vegetarian rigatoni baked pasta casserole recipe for many, many years now. It smells amazing while it’s cooking, and is pure comfort food.

I often serve this with a salad and either my favorite garlic bread or this skillet garlic Parmesan bread to go alongside.

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🧡 Why we love this recipe

  • It makes a LOT of food and tastes great as leftovers.
  • This recipe uses simple ingredients that always go over well, even with picky eaters.
  • The pasta mixture can be frozen and baked later on.
  • Let’s be honest – you get a great cheese pull when you go to serve it up. And who can resist that??

Spoon pulling a serving of baked rigatoni out of a casserole dish.
Spoon pulling a serving of baked rigatoni out of a casserole dish.

📝 Ingredients

Here’s everything you need to make this delicious rigatoni bake (see recipe card below for ingredient amounts and full directions):

  • Olive oil
  • Onion – I usually use yellow, but you can use whatever color you have on hand
  • Garlic
  • Canned crushed tomatoes – you can use ones that have garlic and/or herbs already in them for an extra flavor boost!
  • Dried oregano
  • Rigatoni – this is our favorite shape for this pasta bake, but feel free to swap out another tube-shaped pasta such as ziti or penne
  • Kosher salt – we’ll use this to season the pasta water as well as the ingredients as they cook
  • Tofu – this is the surprise ingredient here! Blending a block of tofu and mixing it into the filling gives you the texture of ricotta cheese with a nice boost of protein. And it doesn’t taste like tofu.
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg – you can also use a pinch of ground nutmeg if you don’t have whole
  • Frozen spinach
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil or parsley – optional, for garnish

✅ How to make this recipe

There are a few components that come into play when assembling this vegetarian baked rigatoni recipe. They’ll all come together in one big, beautiful casserole dish.

  1. Boil the pasta until it’s just al dente.
  2. Sauté the onions and garlic with crushed tomatoes and seasonings and let simmer.
  3. Purée the tofu in a blender or food processor along with an egg, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
  4. Stir together the cooked pasta, most of the tomato sauce, the tofu mixture, drained spinach, cubed mozzarella, and grated Parmesan and spread it into a 13×9-inch baking dish.
  5. Top with remaining tomato sauce, sliced mozzarella, more grated Parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Bake at 350°F until golden and bubbly, then let sit for 10 minutes or so before garnishing with fresh herbs and diving in!

See recipe card below for full instructions.

Baked rigatoni pasta casserole with Parmesan and a salad on the side.

💡 Tips and serving suggestions

  • Be sure to cook your pasta just to al dente. Err on the side of a little less cooked than a little more cooked. It will be in the oven for a bit, so it will continue to cook a bit. Overcooked pasta will result in a mushy casserole texture.
  • Let the pasta bake sit for 10 minutes or so before diving in. This will help things cool down a bit and it’ll hold together a bit better when you go to scoop it.
  • Place a large baking sheet underneath your baking dish. It should stay clean, but juuuuust in case, it’ll be there to catch any spills, preventing cheese and sauce from overflowing and burning underneath your oven rack. I tend to do this with muffin tins, pies, and more. I’d rather have to clean a little bit off of a sheet pan than my oven.
  • If you’re making my favorite garlic bread (or garlic parmesan bread) to go alongside, you can use the same sheet pan that you had underneath your baking dish to cook the bread while the pasta cools a bit.
  • Fresh basil makes a wonderful garnish for this baked rigatoni! Wait until right before serving and tear or cut it and scatter it on top. If you pre-cut your basil it often turns brown, so I like to save this step for the last moment.
  • If you’re a strict vegetarian, be sure to check your Parmesan cheese, as it is often made with animal rennet. There are brands that make vegetarian-friendly Parmesan, such as this vegetarian Parmesan from BelGioso. You can also omit the Parmesan, or use a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast to get a similar nutty flavor.
  • Casseroles like this freeze and reheat well. There are some great tips on freezing and reheating casseroles in this article on Southern Living.

Overhead view of a plate of baked rigatoni casserole with spinach and a salad.

🔪 Equipment

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Baked rigatoni pasta casserole with Parmesan and a salad on the side.

Baked Rigatoni with Spinach: Cheesy Italian Pasta Bake Casserole

  • Author: Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen – Ashley Covelli
  • Prep Time: 20 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 Minutes
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes (plus 10 minutes cooling time)
  • Yield: 8 Servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop, Oven
  • Cuisine: Italian


This vegetarian pasta bake with spinach and cheese is one of our favorite comfort food meals. A meatless casserole with Italian flair!


Units Scale


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drizzle a coating of olive oil into a 13×9-inch baking pan, place it on top of a large, rimmed sheet pan, and set aside.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion. Sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes more. Add both cans of tomatoes and dried oregano. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, once the water has come to a rolling boil, add 1-2 tablespoons of kosher salt and stir in the rigatoni. Cook according to the package instructions until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to keep the water from boiling over. Drain well and place the pasta back in the pot.

  4. In a food processor or blender, add the drained tofu, egg, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and the nutmeg. Process until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides with a spatula or spoon as needed.

  5. Small dice 1/4 to 1/3 of the fresh mozzarella and add it to the pot of cooked pasta, along with the tofu mixture and most of the tomato sauce (reserve around 1/2 cup for the top of the pasta bake. Squeeze the liquid out of the defrosted spinach, and add the spinach to the pasta mixture, along with 1⁄2 cup of the grated Parmesan. Gently stir together until combined.

  6. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared 13×9-inch baking dish. Dot the top with the remaining tomato sauce. Slice or tear the remaining fresh mozzarella and scatter over the top, along with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil, and another 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.

  7. Place in the preheated oven and bake until golden and bubbling, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving, garnishing with fresh basil if desired.


Feel free to use canned tomatoes that have garlic and/or herbs already in them for an extra flavor boost.

See notes about Parmesan cheese in my post above if following a strict vegetarian diet.

Keywords: casserole, vegetarian pasta bake, Italian pasta dish

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Ashley Covelli is a food photographer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor based in Ossining, New York. She loves helping people become enthusiastic and adventurous in the kitchen so that they can build skills and confidence to cook for themselves and their loved ones. She can almost always be found with at least 3 different beverages within arm's reach.

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