Spicy Rigatoni Pasta

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Spicy rigatoni pasta bursts with a bold blend of fiery chili peppers, savory tomato sauce, and rich Parmesan, enveloped in perfectly al dente tubes of pasta for a tantalizingly zesty and satisfying flavor experience.

A dish of pasta with parmesan cheese and parsley.
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A spicy bowl of rigatoni pasta with sauce and parmesan cheese.

Creamy Spicy Pasta

Spicy rigatoni pasta is a mouthwatering Italian classic with a kick of heat. This dish features rigatoni pasta cooked to perfection and tossed in a rich and spicy tomato-based sauce. The heat typically comes from red pepper flakes or chili, which adds a fiery contrast to the savory flavors. Garnished with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, spicy rigatoni pasta is a comforting and flavorful choice for those who enjoy a little spice in their Italian cuisine.

Spicy rigatoni pasta is a dish that masterfully combines the hearty texture of rigatoni, a tube-shaped pasta, with the bold and fiery flavors of a well-spiced tomato sauce. The rigatoni’s ridges and wide hollows are perfect for capturing and holding onto the thick sauce, ensuring that each bite is as flavorful as the last. The sauce, typically a blend of crushed tomatoes and a variety of spices, including red pepper flakes, garlic, and sometimes even a hint of smoked paprika, provides a warming heat that permeates the dish. This spiciness is often balanced with a touch of cream or Parmesan cheese, which adds a rich depth and helps to mellow the heat, making the dish not just spicy but also deeply flavorful.

The beauty of spicy rigatoni pasta lies in its versatility and simplicity. It’s a dish that can be easily adapted to different heat tolerances and preferences by adjusting the amount and type of chili used. Some versions include the addition of protein like Italian sausage, ground beef, or pancetta, which lends a savory umami dimension to the dish. Vegetarians might opt for additions like mushrooms or bell peppers to introduce an earthy element. The finishing touch often involves a generous sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a handful of chopped fresh herbs like basil or parsley, which add a burst of freshness and color. Spicy rigatoni pasta is not just a meal, it’s a comfort food experience, offering a perfect balance of heat, flavor, and heartiness that makes it a beloved dish for spice lovers and pasta enthusiasts alike.

A pan full of Spicy Rigatoni Pasta in a sauce.

How to Make Spicy Rigatoni

To make this recipe, you’ll need:

  • Rigatoni (1 pound, uncooked): Rigatoni is a sturdy pasta with ridges that hold onto the sauce, making it perfect for this dish. It provides a hearty base for the creamy and spicy sauce.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (2 tablespoons): Olive oil is used for sautéing the onion and garlic, adding a rich and fruity flavor to the dish.
  • Yellow Onion (1 small, finely chopped): The onion adds a sweet and savory base to the sauce, enhancing its depth of flavor.
  • Garlic (3 cloves, minced): Garlic contributes a pungent and aromatic note, infusing the sauce with its distinct taste.
  • Tomato Paste (3 tablespoons): Tomato paste offers a concentrated tomato flavor and helps thicken the sauce, providing a robust base.
  • Red Chilies (1 tablespoon): Red chilies or red pepper flakes bring the heat to the dish, creating a spicy kick that balances the creamy elements.
  • Vodka (2 tablespoons): Vodka not only adds a subtle depth of flavor but also helps release and concentrate the flavors of the other ingredients in the sauce.
  • Tomato Puree (12 ounces): Tomato puree forms the primary tomato component of the sauce, contributing a smooth and velvety texture.
  • Heavy Cream (1 1/3 cup): Heavy cream is responsible for the creamy richness of the sauce, creating a luscious and luxurious texture.
  • Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese (¾ cup): Parmesan cheese adds a salty and nutty flavor, thickening the sauce and creating a creamy consistency. It also provides a savory contrast to the spice.
  • Dried Parsley (½ teaspoon): Dried parsley, while not as vibrant as fresh herbs, still contributes a hint of herbal flavor and a touch of color to the dish.

Garnishes:

  • Fresh Italian Parsley (chopped): Chopped fresh parsley adds a burst of color and freshness to the finished dish.
  • Fresh Basil: Fresh basil leaves can be used as a garnish, providing a fragrant and aromatic touch.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Additional grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top enhances the cheesiness and flavor of the pasta.

Once You’ve gathered the ingredients, we will use this method:

  • Boil water in a large pot, add the rigatoni and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions. Save about 1 cup of the pasta water. Set pasta aside when cooked.
  • In a large pan, over medium heat oil and cook onion until soft, then add the garlic and cook for another minutes.
  • Add in the tomato paste and red chilies and cook for 2 minutes, then add vodka to deglaze, and cook until dissipated.
  • Pour in tomato puree and cook for about 8-10 minutes until thick, stirring constantly.
  • Incorporate the cream, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the pasta, parmesan cheese, ½ cup of the pasta water, and dried parsley. Stir to combine and warmed through, adding more pasta water if a thinner sauce is desired.
  • Serve warm with freshly chopped parsley, basil and/or parmesan cheese.

FAQs

Can I adjust the level of spiciness in spicy rigatoni pasta?

Yes, you can easily adjust the level of spiciness to your taste. Use more or less red chilies (or red pepper flakes) and hot sauce as desired. Start with a smaller amount and add more gradually to reach your preferred level of heat.

What type of pasta can I use other than rigatoni?

While rigatoni is traditional, you can use other pasta shapes like penne, fusilli, or even spaghetti if you prefer. Different shapes will work well with the spicy sauce.

Can I make spicy rigatoni pasta vegetarian or vegan?

Absolutely! You can omit the use of meat or dairy products to make a vegetarian or vegan version of this dish. Substitute dairy-free creamer for heavy cream and use plant-based Parmesan cheese alternatives.

How can I make spicy rigatoni pasta less spicy if I’ve added too much heat?

If your pasta turns out too spicy, you can balance the heat by adding more cream or dairy to the sauce. Additional cream or a dollop of sour cream can help mellow the spiciness. You can also add more tomato sauce to dilute the heat.

Can I prepare the sauce in advance?

Yes, you can make the spicy tomato sauce in advance and store it in the refrigerator for a day or two. When you’re ready to serve, reheat the sauce and toss it with freshly cooked rigatoni.

Can I use fresh tomatoes instead of strained tomatoes (canned)?

Yes, you can use fresh tomatoes, but you’ll need to peel and puree them before adding them to the sauce. Canned strained tomatoes are convenient and provide a smooth consistency.

Is there a non-alcoholic substitute for vodka in spicy rigatoni pasta?

If you prefer not to use alcohol, you can omit the vodka. It adds depth of flavor but is not essential to the dish’s overall success.

What’s the best way to reheat leftover spicy rigatoni pasta?

To reheat leftovers, place them in a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave at medium power, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly warmed. You can also reheat it on the stovetop over low heat, adding a little extra cream or tomato sauce to maintain the sauce’s consistency.

Can I freeze spicy rigatoni pasta?

While it’s possible to freeze spicy rigatoni pasta, the texture of the sauce and pasta may change slightly upon thawing. If you do freeze it, ensure it’s well-sealed to prevent freezer burn.

A bowl of Spicy Rigatoni Pasta with sauce and parmesan cheese.

What to Serve With Spicy Rigatoni

Garlic Bread: A classic choice! Serve warm garlic bread or garlic knots to soak up the spicy sauce and complement the flavors of the pasta.

Green Salad: A simple green salad with fresh lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and a tangy vinaigrette can provide a refreshing contrast to the spiciness of the pasta.

Antipasto Platter: Create a platter with Italian cured meats, cheeses, olives, and marinated vegetables for a Mediterranean-inspired appetizer or side dish.

Roasted Vegetables: Roasted vegetables like asparagus, bell peppers, or zucchini seasoned with olive oil, garlic, and herbs can add a healthy and savory element to the meal.

Caprese Salad: A Caprese salad made with fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, basil leaves, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze offers a delightful combination of flavors.

Fruit Salad: A refreshing fruit salad with a mix of seasonal fruits like melon, berries, and citrus segments can provide a sweet and juicy contrast.

Bruschetta: Serve bruschetta topped with diced tomatoes, garlic, basil, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar as an appetizer or side dish.

Grilled Shrimp: If you’re looking to add protein, grilled shrimp seasoned with lemon and herbs pairs wonderfully with spicy pasta.

Steamed Broccoli: Steamed broccoli florets can be a simple and healthy side dish to balance the heat of the pasta.

Coleslaw: Creamy coleslaw with a hint of sweetness can provide a cool and crunchy accompaniment to the spicy rigatoni.

Roasted Potatoes: Roasted potatoes seasoned with herbs and a touch of paprika can be a hearty and satisfying side option.

Breadsticks: Alongside garlic bread, you can serve breadsticks with marinara sauce for dipping, adding another layer of Italian flavor.

Cesar Salad: A classic Caesar salad with crisp romaine lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese, and Caesar dressing complements the pasta’s richness.

Enjoy these sides with your Pasta:

A spicy pan full of rigatoni pasta in a red sauce.

Spicy Rigatoni Pasta Recipe

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Easy and spicy rigatoni pasta.

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A dish of pasta with parmesan cheese and parsley.

Spicy Rigatoni Pasta

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Spicy rigatoni pasta is a flavorful fusion of al dente pasta tubes, coated in a rich, spicy tomato sauce, punctuated with notes of garlic and herbs, creating a satisfyingly hearty and zesty dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb rigatoni
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp red chilies
  • 2 tbsp vodka
  • 12 oz tomato puree
  • 1 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp dry parsley
  • Optional Garnish: fresh herbs, parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Boil water in a large pot, add the rigatoni and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions. Save about 1 cup of the pasta water. Set pasta aside when cooked.
  2. In a large pan, over medium heat oil and cook onion until soft, then add the garlic and cook for another minutes.
  3. Add in the tomato paste and red chilies and cook for 2 minutes, then add vodka to deglaze, and cook until dissipated.
  4. Pour in tomato puree and cook for about 8-10 minutes until thick, stirring constantly.
  5. Incorporate the cream, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the pasta, parmesan cheese, ½ cup of the pasta water, and dried parsley. Stir to combine and warmed through, adding more pasta water if a thinner sauce is desired.
  7. Serve warm with freshly chopped parsley, basil and/or parmesan cheese.
Nutrition Information
Yield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 445Total Fat 28gSaturated Fat 15gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 71mgSodium 277mgCarbohydrates 36gFiber 3gSugar 7gProtein 12g

Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.

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About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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