Learn how to make your favorite copycat Olive Garden baked ziti dish at home with this delicious Five Cheese Marinara sauce recipe. Take your spaghetti night to the next level with this amazing and easy pasta sauce all on Rigatoni noodles. Sure to become a family favorite in no time at all.
Make this Al Forno style by assembling the vegetarian five cheese marinara sauce and noodles and then baking in the oven for 10 minutes.
This recipe is great for a quick and easy weeknight meal the whole family will enjoy. Make this copycat olive garden sauce for a special Valentines day meal.
This sauce is gluten free. To make this a gluten free meal be sure to use your favorite brand of gluten free noodles.
What You'll Love About This Recipe
- Fun Copycat Recipe - This is a fun copycat recipe of one of our favorite Olive Garden dishes. It's always fun to be able to make a fun and tasty meal at home.
- Quick and Easy - This meal comes together quick and easy, it's made in less than 40 minutes from start to finish.
- Kid Friendly -Kids will love this cheesy red sauce on their favorite type of noodles.
- Classic - This is a classic American-Italian dish that tastes great and looks fancy.
- Added Protein -This is a vegetarian/meatless meal but you can add grilled chicken, shrimp, ground beef, or italian sausage for added protein.
- Easily Adapted- Make it your own way by making adaptations found in the variation and substitutions sections.
- Easy Ingredients- The base of this sauce is made from ingredients that are typically found in your cupboard. With exception of the five cheeses, this is a go to pantry staple meal.
- Perfect for Special Occasions-This makes a fun week day meal for the family, especially on a busy day. This also make for a fancy and elegant date night meal for two or a fun Valentine's at home romantic dinner.
- Rigatoni Noodles - We love making this recipe with rigatoni noodles but penne noodles also work great! Feel free to use your favorite style of noodles or ones you have on hand.
- Diced Onion- Used diced yellow onion but for a little extra flavor you can use purple onion as a substitute.
- Minced Garlic-Minced garlic is preferred in this recipe. If you don't have minced garlic you can use garlic powder as well.
- Diced Tomatoes-You will simmer down the diced tomatoes to make a smooth sauce. You can also use petite diced tomatoes.
- Italian Seasoning-Use italian seasoning or half basil and half oregano to help flavor this dish.
- Shredded Italian Cheese Blend- When you don't have the time or for ease, we have used the bagged Italian Cheese blend for this recipe with delicious results. This can be found in most cheese sections with other shredded cheeses.
See recipe card for quantities.
- On medium heat, saute onions until a translucent color. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute.
2. Add the diced tomatoes and italian seasoning and bring to a simmer while stirring. Cover and let simmer on low for 20 minutes.
3. Once the tomatoes have softened and sauce has begun to form add in the 5 cheeses or the italian cheese blend. Mix.
4. Add the sauce to a blender, or food processor and pulse until smooth.
5. Pour sauce back in the sauce pan or a serving bowl.
6. Top Rigatoni noodles with prepared Five Cheese Marinara Sauce. Serve warm.
Helpful Hint: Using a blender or food processor helps break down the tomatoes and ensures that the cheese doesn't clump together. If you don't want to use this method you can mash the tomatoes with the mixing spoon or potato masher. Cheese may clump together.
- Italian Cheeses - for this recipe we use Mozzarella, Parmesan, Ricotta, Asiago, and Romano. You can substitute any of these cheeses for your preferred flavors like Provolone, Gorgonzola, or Fontina.
- Italian Cheese Blend- for ease and convenience use a bag of Italian Cheese Blend found in most shredded cheese sections at the grocery store. This usually has a blend of 5-6 different cheeses. Use a 1 ¼ cup of this instead of the individual ones.
- Dairy Free - this is a difficult meal to make dairy free. If looking for a dairy free option you can use vegan cheese but note that you will likely not be able to make it a multiple cheese blend.
- Gluten Free- To make this a gluten free meal, make sure to use your favorite brand of gluten free noodles.
- Al Forno- Make this baked ziti style just like at Olive Garden by adding the noodles to a 9x9 baking dish. Top the cooked noodles with the sauce, sprinkle with ½ cup mozzarella cheese and bake for 10 minutes at 350* F or until cheese is melted and starting to brown.
- Grilled Chicken - though this is a meatless meal, you can add extra protein by topping this meal with grilled chicken.
- Ground Beef - mix in cooked ground beef with the sauce to give it extra protein.
- Italian Sausage- for a meat included meal and extra flavor add in cook ground italian sausage to the top of the dish or mixed in with the sauce.
- Potato Base- Use a baked potato as the base for this sauce instead of noodles. This will also make it a gluten free meal.
- Rice Base- Instead of noodles, use rice as a base for a gluten free options.
- 3 or 4 Cheese- Don't have all of the cheeses, make this a 3 or 4 Cheese Marinara by using the cheese that you can find or have on hand. It may be more cost effective to do less than the original recipe states.
- Spicy- for a spicy option, you can add crushed red pepper to your taste. Either top individual bowls or mix into the sauce.
Store cooked sauce separate from noodles in an air tight container for 3-4 days. To reheat, reheat the portion of sauce you wish to eat in the microwave for 1 minute depending on how much sauce you are reheating.
Because of the dairy this sauce does not freeze well. If you do freeze, freeze in an air tight container or freezer bag for up to 1 month. Thaw and reheat in microwave or stovetop.
Make sure to let the sauce simmer for at least 20 minutes to a half hour. This will help the tomatoes break down and the flavors mix together for the best sauce.
Make this Five Cheese Marinara with 3 or 4 cheeses of your choice from the recipe. This can make it more convenient or cost effective.
Five Cheese Marinara
- 1 Saute Pan
- 1 Blender, Immersion Blender, or Food Processor
- 8 ounces Rigatoni
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ cup diced onion
- 2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 28 ounces diced tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- ¼ cup mozzerella shredded
- ¼ cup parmesan shredded, or grated
- ¼ cup asiago shredded
- ¼ cup ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup romano shredded, or grated
Or (instead of five cheeses)
- 1 ¼ cup Italian Cheese Blend shredded
- In a saute pan over medium heat add 1 tablespoons of olive oil and saute ½ cup chopped onions for 3 minutes. When the onions are starting to become translucent add the 1 teaspoon of minced garlic and continue cooking and stirring for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the 28 ounces of diced tomatoes and 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning to the onions and stir all together. Bring the sauce to a simmer while stirring. Once the sauce begins to simmer, turn the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- While the sauce simmers, cook the Rigatoni noodles as directed on the back of the package. Drain and set aside.
- Once simmered for 20 minutes add ¼ cup cheese of each parmesan, mozzarella, ricotta, asiago, and Romano (or use 1 ¼ cup shredded Italian Cheese Blend). Mix until cheese is melted. The cheese may start to clump together once melted.
- Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. This helps eliminate tomato chunks and spread the cheese if it has clumped together. (see notes for other options)
- Top cooked rigatoni noodles with cheese sauce and serve immediately. If you want this meal to resemble a baked Ziti, add noodles to a 9x9 baking dish and top with cheesy marinara. Sprinkle ½ cup of mozzarella and bake for 10 minutes at 350*F or until the cheese melts and begins to bubble and brown.
- If you don't have a blender or food processor, use a spoon or potato masher to break up the tomatoes.
- For a more cost effective meal use 1 ¼ cup Italian Cheese blend found in the shredded cheese section of most grocery stores. This has a blend of delicious cheese that will pair well with this recipe.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove