This recipe is a perennial favorite of students. Back in the 1990s it appeared on a winter cover of Bon Appétit and then later in my book, American Favorites. This dish has plenty going for it—you can make it ahead, it’s and all-in-one main course, and it’s inexpensive.
Out-of-the-Ordinary Rigatoni with Spicy Tomato Sauce
6 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
11/2 cups chopped onions
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
3 28-ounce cans Italian-style tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
Scant 1½-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
1 pound large macaroni, rigatoni or penne pasta
21/2 cups (about 10 ounces) shredded Havarti cheese (see Shopping Note)
1/3 cup (1-2 ounces) freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pitted slivered black olives
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley for garnish
1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add onions and garlic and sauté, stirring for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, scant 1½ teaspoons red pepper flakes, pepper and 1 teaspoon salt and stir well. Add broth and bring to a low boil.
2. Cook until liquid has reduced and mixture is chunky, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and add more red pepper flakes, if desired.
To cook pasta, bring 5 quarts water to a boil and add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring water back to a boil and cook until pasta is just tender to the bite, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well in a colander and then spread in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart greased (with olive oil) baking dish that can be used for serving. Toss pasta with remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Season with more salt if needed.
3. Add warm tomato sauce to the pasta and toss well to combine. Add Havarti and toss again. Sprinkle the pasta with Parmesan and then with the olives. (The dish can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate.)
4. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat over to 350 degrees F. Bake pasta, uncovered, until hot and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with basil or parsley. Serve hot. Serves 4 to 6.
Shopping Note: Havarti is a mild Danish cheese with a creamy smooth texture. It is sold plain or flavored with caraway seeds or herbs. Use plain Havarti in this recipe. It melts easily, and its flavor complements the spicy tomato sauce.
Adapted from American Favorites (Houghton Mifflin, 1996 and paper back 1999) by Betty Rosbottom
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