Sausage Rigatoni

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This robust Sausage Rigatoni is made with everyday ingredients and is ready in about 30 minutes. Perfectly cooked rigatoni is tossed in a luxuriously rich sauce with tender spinach and Italian-seasoned sausage.

We love a good sausage and pasta recipe — try these recipes next: Creamy Sausage Pasta with fettuccine or this creamy Sausage Tortellini Soup.

Overhead image of Sausage Rigatoni in a pot

Sausage Rigatoni

Sausage Rigatoni is truly the perfect meal for when you’re craving some good, hearty comfort food. This pasta is rich, indulgent-tasting, and total restaurant quality — we couldn’t be more obsessed with it!

Additionally, Sausage Rigatoni makes a great meal to serve to company . It’s so flavorful and fancy looking, but low stress to make as the host — in fact, this is a great dish to make (mostly) ahead of time. More on this later!

SHORTCUTS

Sausage Rigatoni Shortcuts

This recipe is easy, but requires a bit of chopping upfront. Below I’ve got a few shortcut ideas to help save some time in the kitchen.

  • Pick up mirepoix. Most stores sell pre-chopped mirepoix (a French phrase for diced onion, carrot, and celery) in the produce section. If you’re in a hurry, grab that fresh-chopped mirepoix or you can even use frozen mirepoix–found near other frozen veggies in the store.
  • Alternatively, use a food processor to quickly chop those veggies!
  • Use jarred garlic or a garlic press.

Process shots-- images of the oil, mirepoix, and sausage being added to a pot and cooked

Sausage Rigatoni Ingredients

A few ingredients worth going into detail on:

  • Low-sodium chicken broth: It’s important to use a low or reduced-sodium chicken broth so the final dish doesn’t end up too salty. There is a good deal of salt in the dish between the sausage, pasta/reserved pasta water, and Parmesan cheese so we want to limit it in the broth.
  • Italian-style ground sausage: Depending on personal preference, use mild or spicy sausage — either works. Sausage can come in different-sized packages — as long as you’re in the general ballpark, this recipe will work just fine. We use 1 pound, but if you have a 19 ounce package, throw it all in if you like. You’ll just have a slightly meatier sauce. If using Italian sausages with casings, remove the casings before cooking
  • Tomato paste: While it might make sense you could use a different type of canned tomato in Sausage Rigatoni, it’s important to use tomato paste. This is the most concentrated tomato product. To get the paste, tomatoes are cooked for hours to reduce the liquid content — the perfect ingredient to add loads of tomato flavor without adding extra liquid to our sauce.

Process shots of Sausage Rigatoni-- images of the tomato paste, seasonings, garlic, and broth being added and all cooked together

VARIATIONS

Variations

  • Add some heat: For more heat (and flavor), use a spicy Italian sausage, and if you’re sensitive to spice use mild or sweet sausage instead. If some of your guests want more spice and others don’t, serve red pepper flakes on the side!
  • Swap the pasta: Rigatoni is our favorite in this recipe, but you can substitute it for another tubular pasta like ziti, penne, or mostaccioli.
  • Add some white wine: Leave out the white wine vinegar and replace 1/2 cup of the low-sodium chicken broth with a Chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc for more of a restaurant feel. Be sure to cook it off just like the chicken broth is cooked off.
  • Let’s chat heavy cream: We don’t recommend swapping out the heavy cream in Sausage Rigatoni. Here’s why: the acidity of the tomato paste has the potential of breaking or curdling the sauce with different substitutes (like half and half or milk). The cream balances the acidity of the tomato paste. Additionally, it adds such an incredible richness and thickness to the sauce — it’s a key ingredient!

Process shots-- images of the heavy cream, spinach, and pasta being added to a pot and all being mixed together

Sausage Rigatoni Tips

  • Salt the pasta water: Make sure the rigatoni is well salted as it cooks — this is important to the flavor of the pasta, reserved pasta water, and the dish as a whole. Add the salt when the water is boiling and then wait until the water returns to a full boil before adding in the rotini.
  • It’s easy to go on autopilot and dump in the whole package of rigatoni, but with the entire package, we didn’t feel there was enough sauce!
  • Emulsify: The final step of vigorously tossing the sausage cream sauce, hot pasta, and reserved pasta water is one of the “secrets” to Italian pasta. It’s called emulsifying and that’s how you get a luxuriously smooth and incredibly flavorful sauce that clings to the pasta.
  • Increase the sauce to personal preference: Sometimes the pasta absorbs more sauce or you just want an extra saucy meal, so don’t be afraid to add in a few splashes of the reserved pasta water until the sauce is exactly how you like it!

STORAGE

Sausage Rigatoni Storage

As with most pasta dishes, Sausage Rigatoni is best enjoyed as soon as the sauce is emulsified. (This is when all Italian-type pasta dishes taste their best!)

Of course, you can store leftovers, but will likely need to add some more chicken stock to loosen up the sauce as you re-heat. Leftover pasta will be softer, but still flavorful. Because of the pasta and dairy in this dish, it isn’t a great candidate for freezing and thawing — pasta will bloat and disintegrate.

Make ahead: If you’re making Sausage Rigatoni for company, you can make the sauce and store it for 3-5 days (with fresh sausage and chicken broth) ahead of time. Warm the sauce over low heat and loosen with a touch more cream or chicken broth. Cook pasta fresh and then toss with sauce and it’s ready to serve!

Overhead image of Sausage Rigatoni

QUICK TIP

Do you struggle to remember to pull out pasta water before draining the pasta? Here’s a trick: Place a colander in the sink with a mug or heat-safe measuring cup in the center. When you go to drain, you’ll be reminded to pull out some water first!

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Sausage Rigatoni

5 from 1 vote
This robust Sausage Rigatoni is made with everyday ingredients and is ready in about 30 minutes or less! Perfectly cooked rigatoni is tossed in a luxuriously rich and sausage-packed sauce that will have everyone licking their plates!
Print Recipe

Sausage Rigatoni

5 from 1 vote
This robust Sausage Rigatoni is made with everyday ingredients and is ready in about 30 minutes or less! Perfectly cooked rigatoni is tossed in a luxuriously rich and sausage-packed sauce that will have everyone licking their plates!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword sausage rigatoni
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Calories 608kcal
Cost $6.72

Ingredients

  • 3-1/4 cups (9 oz.; 250g) uncooked rigatoni pasta (not entire package!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup (135g) finely diced yellow onion Note 1
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • 1 cup finely diced carrots
  • Fine sea salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. (16 oz.) Italian sausage Note 2
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (~4 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon each: Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, onion powder Note 3
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Optional: 1/8-1/4th tsp red pepper flakes
  • 5 tablespoons (80g) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, optional -- Note 4
  • 1 cup (225g) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup (225g) heavy whipping cream Note 5
  • 4 cups (75g) coarsely chopped loosely packed baby spinach
  • For serving: Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs (like thyme, parsley, or basil) and red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • PREP: Start by dicing the onion, carrot, and celery (you can do this quickly in a food processor). Dice garlic, measure out seasonings, and set out the rest of the ingredients.
  • RIGATONI: Bring a large pot of water to boil and generously salt the water. Set a large colander in the sink with a glass mug or liquid measuring cup in the center of the colander (this is so you don't forget to grab some pasta water before draining!) Once the salted water is boiling, add rigatoni (not the whole box, just 3-1/4 cups!) and cook according to package directions, draining pasta 1 minute before directed. Before draining, pull out a mugful of water and then drain. Do not rinse.
  • VEGGIES: Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven; heat to medium-high. Add in carrot, onion, and celery. Season to taste. (I add 1/4 teaspoon salt & pepper here.) Cook, stirring occasionally, until becoming soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the sausage and cook, crumbling as you cook, until browned all the way through. Add in the garlic, seasonings (only add red pepper flakes if you like some heat!), and tomato paste. Season to taste with salt & pepper. (I add 1/4 teaspoon of each again here.) Cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant and tomato paste begins to darken, about 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat if anything is burning.
  • SAUCE: Add in the vinegar and stir until evaporated. Add in the chicken broth -- it should sizzle and boil. Cook until mostly all is evaporated into the meat. Reduce the heat to low and add in the cream. Mix and allow sauce to come to a low simmer. Cook until slightly thickened, about 3 more minutes.
  • FINISHING: Add coarsely chopped spinach and pasta. Use tongs to vigorously toss the sauce with the cooked pasta. If needed, slowly add the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce until the sauce clings nicely to the pasta. Taste and season if needed with additional salt. Serve on plates with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes if desired, and fresh herbs, if using.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Mirepoix: Save time by dicing these veggies in a food processor, or pick up a pre-made mirepoix (also sometimes called soup starter). Most stores sell pre-chopped mirepoix in the produce section. If you’re in a hurry, grab that fresh-chopped mirepoix or you can even use frozen mirepoix–found near other frozen veggies in the store.
Note 2: Sausage: Depending on personal preference, use mild or spicy sausage -- either works. Sausage can come in different-sized packages -- as long as you're in the general ballpark, this recipe will work just fine. We use 1 pound, but if you have a 19 ounce package, throw it all in if you like -- you'll just have a meatier sauce. If using Italian sausages with casings, be sure to remove the casings before cooking. If sausage doesn't leave behind 2 tablespoons grease, add an additional 2 tablespoons olive oil. 
Note 3: Fennel seeds: for a stronger fennel flavor, use up to 2 teaspoons. Measure and then crush the seeds (mortar and pestle or pound in a bag with the bottom of a frying pan) and add in. Ground fennel is stronger, so you'll need less. If you can't find the seeds/ground fennel, the recipe will still be tasty -- you may want to amp up the other seasonings a touch.
Note 4: Vinegar and chicken broth: Vinegar adds nice acidity when paired with the chicken broth. If you'd like to use wine in this recipe, leave out the vinegar and replace 1/2 cup chicken broth with a white wine like a Chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc for more of a restaurant feel. Be sure to cook it off just like the chicken broth is cooked off. (You'll still add the other 1/2 cup chicken broth after adding the wine.)
Note 5: Heavy cream: We don't recommend swapping out the heavy cream. Here's why: the acidity of the tomato paste has the potential of breaking or curdling the sauce with different substitutes (like half & half or milk). The cream balances the acidity of the tomato paste and adds such an incredible richness and thickness to the sauce -- it's a key ingredient!

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 608kcal | Carbohydrates: 55.1g | Protein: 20.2g | Fat: 34.1g | Cholesterol: 73.3mg | Sodium: 919.8mg | Fiber: 3.1g | Sugar: 3.7g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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