Out-of-the-Ordinary Rigatoni with Spicy Tomato Sauce

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
Kosher salt
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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3 thoughts on “Out-of-the-Ordinary Rigatoni with Spicy Tomato Sauce

  1. This dish sounds terrific. I will make it for our daughter’s family, including 4grand kids who adore pasta.

    Thank you!

  2. Got this recipe from my Sister In-Law, Marlene Crofoot of Burnsville MN…..that she got out of the (Tribune?)paper, to use for Lent. It has turned out to be a Jasenosky/Crofoot cherished dish…not just for Lent, but for anytime! Absolutely everyone I’ve made this for has loved it.. Making it for our two beloved priests at St. Henry’s Catholic Church, here in Gresham..later this week. I know they’ll love it! Also, they can make it themselves for Lent! (or anytime, of course.) Going to match it up with a box of frozen garlic texas toast.. and a copycat version of Kozy Shack Rice Pudding, you would swear is the exact same thing! It stays like you just made it: no turning into a big clump, as other homemade rice puddings do! You can get that recipe at bunnyswarmoven.com If not available anymore, I will be happy to scan and email it to you. Thank you, with all my heart, for your fabulous Gratin Casserole. I call it my Havarti Casserole.Very Sincerely Yours, Judy Jasenosky, Gresham, OR.

    • Hello Judy, Thank you so much for such a nice comment. So glad you like that rigatoni gratin with the spicy tomato sauce. It’s in my book Sunday Casseroles and I’ve included the recipe in many cooking classes, always to enthusiastic reviews. Glad you are putting this recipe to such good use. I’ll check out the rice pudding recipe you mentioned (my husband loves rice pudding desserts!). All best wishes for a good 2017

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