This rigatoni recipe features a green onion and pancetta tomato sauce. It's a fast, easy and delicious pasta dish, perfect for busy weeknights!
This pasta is a re-creation of a dish I recently enjoyed at a local restaurant. Yes, I'm a serial re-creator! I was intrigued by the addition of green onion and I discovered that green onions and pasta make a perfect pairing. Who knew? I'd never considered green onion with pasta, at least not in a starring role. It was a revelation and with every bite I just knew I'd try my hand at making this dish at home.
I make pasta a lot for dinner. I'm sure that comes as no surprise to any regular reader of this blog. After all ... I live for Carbs! That said, I've never been 100% satisfied with the tomato-based pasta dishes I make at home. They always seem to be missing the richness and smoothness of restaurant dishes.
Then I read a little tip online recently that suggested adding butter. Say what? Yes, butter + tomatoes = an awesome pasta dish. Uh huh. It seems that the butter works to knock back the acidic tomato taste, leaving just the richness and smoothness of the tomatoes that I was after.
In this rigatoni recipe, the vodka also works to heighten the tomato flavour. In fact, that's it's only role really, since vodka adds little in terms of taste. The pairing of the pancetta and the green onions really shines with the creamy tomato sauce. There is only a bit of cream in this one - just enough.
You can adjust the amount of red pepper flakes to your taste, or skip them altogether, if you don't want any heat.
The vodka itself will cook off completely (the alcohol, that is) and leave behind just a tiny bit of flavour. If you'd prefer not to use alcohol or you don't have any one hand, just skip it.
I regularly make this dish for my vegetarian daughter by just omitting the pancetta. And it's still delicious! So don't hesitate to make this one meatless.
My Three Top Tips for Delicious Pasta Dishes
My pasta dish cooking technique has evolved over the years, to include a couple of techniques that I think produce the most satisfying pasta dishes ...
1. Be sure to generously salt your pasta cooking water, to bring lots of flavour to your finished dish. It's adequately salted when it "tastes like the ocean".
2. Rather than draining pasta in the sink, I scoop the cooked pasta right out of the boiling water with a spider strainer (or tongs, for long pasta) and put it directly into the hot sauce. Adding hot pasta to the sauce helps the pasta to absorb the flavours of the sauce more easily. It also allows for having the pasta-cooking water handy, in case you need to add some to thin your pasta sauce. Be sure to still drain the pasta well in the spoon before adding to the pasta, to avoid watering down your sauce.
3. I always cook the pasta with the sauce in a hot skillet (or saucepan) for several minutes before serving. I've found that the perfect pasta dish needs to come together in a hot pan first, not in the serving bowl.
Simply add the hot pasta to the hot sauce and cook, stirring, for just a couple of minutes. Take the time to taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning, as needed, as well. If you sauce thickens or tightens up during this last short cooking, add a splash of your pasta cooking water to loosen it up.
To make sure I don't dirty another pan, I always start my sauce in a large enough skillet or pot so that it will comfortably hold my cooked pasta as well, when it is cooked and ready to be added to the pot.
Bonus Tip! For tomato-heavy sauces, stirring a small pat of butter into the tomato sauce at the end of cooking tempers the acidity in the sauce and rounds out the flavours.
Rigatoni with Green Onion and Pancetta Tomato Sauce
- 3 cups dried rigatoni pasta
- 1/2 cup pancetta, diced
- 1 cup green onions, diced, green part only, plus more for garnish
- 1/8 tsp crushed red chili flakes
- 1/3 cup vodka
- 28 oz canned San Marzano tomatoes, or other good quality canned tomatoes,
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Freshly grated Parmesan and additional diced green onion, for garnish
- Boil a large pot of water and salt generously. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
- Meanwhile, pour canned tomatoes into a bowl. Break the tomatoes up with your hand and discard any tough ends. Dice your pancetta and green onions and set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook pancetta until browned. Remove to a bowl. Add green onions and cook, stirring, until softened and starting to brown (there should be a bit of fat from the pancetta in the pan, but if not, add a bit of butter). Add the chili flakes and cook briefly. Add vodka and cook off until only a few Tablespoons of the vodka remains. Add the tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the butter, sugar and salt and pepper, to taste. Add the cream and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low until pasta is ready.
- When pasta is cooked, drain and return to pot. Add sauce and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. If necessary, add some pasta cooking liquid to loosen the sauce.
- Serve with additional fresh diced green onion and Parmesan.
Nutritional information provided for general guidance only and should not be relied upon to make personal health decisions.