This Spicy Rigatoni is bursting with fiery flavors! Every forkful showcases the warmth of crushed red pepper, the richness of Parmesan and cream, and the tanginess of marinara. Perfectly paired with a glass of wine, it’s a dish that promises an authentic Italian experience.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Quick & easy: With a mere 20 minutes from start to finish, this dish is perfect for those bustling weeknights when you need a delicious dinner fast.
- One pot: Everything is prepared in one pot, meaning fewer dishes and cleanup for you!
- Versatile serving options: While it’s indulgent on its own, you can add your favorite proteins or veggies to customize it to your liking.
Easy spicy rigatoni
I’ve recently become obsessed with making this spicy rigatoni recipe because it’s just so decadent, comforting, and warming. I can dress it up with extra garnishes and add-ins when guests come over, or I can throw it together and enjoy it plain on busy evenings. That’s my kind of meal!
If you aren’t familiar with spicy rigatoni, it’s somewhat similar to penne alla vodka, but it’s made with tube-shaped rigatoni and a slight kick instead. The boldness of red pepper contrasts the smooth and silky texture of the cream-based marinara sauce incredibly well.
You can serve it as-is or add proteins like prosciutto, pancetta, or Italian sausage. Whatever you do, pair your dish with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan and basil for a gourmet Italian meal in the comfort of your own home.
Ingredients & substitutions
- Unsalted butter: Adds creaminess and richness. You can substitute butter with margarine, ghee, or extra olive oil if you prefer.
- Olive oil: Provides depth and a slightly fruity undertone. If you don’t have olive oil on hand, use grapeseed or avocado oil instead.
- Shallots: Impart mild, sweet onion flavors that don’t overpower the dish. Replace shallots with spring onions or red onions if they’re unavailable.
- Garlic: Infuses the dish with an aromatic and savory punch. If you’re out of fresh garlic cloves, garlic powder will work in a pinch.
- Crushed red pepper: Provides the kick! Adjust to taste or replace with chili flakes. You can also add Calabrian chilis for an extra fancy flavor.
- Rigatoni pasta: This tube-shaped pasta is known for holding sauce extremely well. Penne or fusilli can work too if you can’t find rigatoni.
- Chicken broth: Adds depth and a savory flavor. Vegetable broth works as a great alternative to make the entire dish vegetarian.
- Marinara sauce: Creates a tangy and rich base. Choose a high-quality store-bought brand or make your own marinara sauce from scratch.
- Kosher salt: Enhances all the other flavors. You can also use sea salt as an alternative.
- Heavy cream: Provides a rich, creamy, and velvety-smooth texture. Try half-&-half for a lighter version or full-fat canned coconut milk for a dairy-free option.
- Parmesan cheese: Adds a punch of nutty and salty flavors. Make sure to use freshly grated Parmesan for the best results. You can also use Pecorino Romano or Asiago.
- Basil: Adds a refreshing and aromatic finish. Parsley, cilantro, or thyme will also work.
How to make spicy rigatoni
- Sauté the shallots: Begin by melting the butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add shallots as the butter is melting, then let them get translucent.
- Garlic and spice: Mix in the garlic and chili flakes and let them open up for a minute or so. Be sure to stir them often so that the garlic and shallots don’t stick to the pan or burn.
- Add the pasta: Add the pasta to the hot pan, followed by the marinara sauce, broth, and salt. Mix everything together and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to simmer until the pasta is perfectly cooked.
- Final touches: Once the pasta is cooked, incorporate the heavy cream and Parmesan for a few minutes, then serve your spicy rigatoni garnished with fresh basil and an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese!
I love to enjoy a bowl of spicy rigatoni on its own, but it also pairs well with fresh and satisfying side dishes like these:
- Vegetables: Try Italian stuffed peppers or roasted cauliflower steaks to increase the vegetable count in your meal.
- Green salad: Add a spicy cucumber salad or shaved zucchini salad with feta to the side.
- Bread: Garlic bread or Spanish tomato bread makes for a more filling dish.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, you can really use any pasta you would like. A few of my favorite options include penne or ziti, which both end up with a similar taste and texture.
Spicy rigatoni is a moderately spicy dish. Depending on your preferences, you can adjust the crushed red pepper up or down.
Although this recipe is not gluten-free, it couldn’t be easier to make it that way. Just swap out the wheat-based rigatoni for your favorite gluten-free brand and double-check all of the other ingredients to ensure there are no gluten-containing ingredients or cross-contamination.
Storage & reheating
If you have any leftover spicy rigatoni, follow these simple storage tips:
- Fridge: Once cooled, store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.
- Freezer: You can freeze leftover rigatoni for up to 3 months. Just transfer it to a freezer-safe bag or container once it’s cooled.
- Reheating: Warm leftovers on the stove, adding a splash of broth as needed to add more flavor and thin the sauce.
- Prep ahead: If you want to save time, feel free to make the sauce a day in advance. Warm it up, then boil the pasta right before serving.
- Seafood rigatoni: Add shrimp or mussels for a seafood version.
- Vegetable medley: Mix in bell peppers, zucchini, and spinach.
- Alfredo twist: Swap marinara with Alfredo sauce for an extra creamy version.
- Spicy arrabbiata: Increase the red peppers and add capers if you’re a spice lover.
- Pesto: Mix in some basil pesto for an herbaceous take.
- Sausage: Add cooked, crumbled Italian sausage for more flavor and extra protein.
- Quality marinara: Choose high-quality marinara sauce for ideal results.
- Al dente pasta: Ensure your pasta is slightly firm (al dente) for the best texture.
- Stir often: Stirring prevents any sticking or burning, especially the garlic and shallots.
- Adjust the heat: Feel free to adjust the spice level to suit your taste.
- Cheese: Freshly grated Parmesan melts better than pre-grated cheese.
Looking for more pasta recipes?
If you enjoyed this spicy rigatoni recipe, you’ll have to try some more of my most popular pasta dishes like these:
- Creamy Sausage Pasta
- Chicken and Sausage Pasta
- Creamy Sausage Orecchiette Pasta
- Lemon Basil Pasta Salad
If you try this Spicy Rigatoni, share your thoughts! Leave a review below. Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram @lenaskitchenblog!
Quick & Easy Spicy Rigatoni
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 medium shallots diced
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper more to taste
- 16 oz rigatoni pasta uncooked
- 3 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 32 oz marinara sauce good quality
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt more to taste
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup parmesan cheese freshly grated plus more for serving
- ¼ cup basil chopped
- Place the butter and olive oil in a pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. As the butter is melting, add the shallots into the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until softened.
- Add the garlic and red chili flakes, mix together and cook for 1 minute. Be sure to mix often so that the garlic and shallots don’t stick to the pan or burn.
- Add the pasta to the hot pan, followed by the marinara sauce, broth, and salt.
- Mix it all together and bring it up to a soft boil to cook the pasta. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low for about 12-13 minutes.
- When the rigatoni is cooked to perfection, add the heavy cream and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Mix it together over medium heat until the sauce comes together for an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Garnish with fresh basil and an extra sprinkle of parmesan