This creamy, dreamy spicy rigatoni is super easy, super fast (20 minutes) and uses cupboard staples. Silky, harissa spiked tomato sauce tossed through perfectly al dente rigatoni makes for a very special, flavour-packed dish fab for busy days or a cosy night in.
There’s just something about a bowl of pasta. Comforting, warm, hearty deliciousness – this spicy rigatoni, spiked with harissa paste – hits all the best flavour notes and is the ultimate in a delicious bowl of food. It’s also incredibly easy. The sauce comes together in the time it takes the pasta to cook and then all you have to do is mix the two together.
This recipe is easy enough for those nights you get home late and feel like you can’t face cooking (we’ve all been there), and it’s special enough to serve for a crowd, or be the star of a dinner party. You also make the sauce in advance, then just toss through cooked pasta when you’re ready to serve, so it’s great for entertaining as well as meal prep. I love to serve it with no-knead focaccia and a fresh green salad!
The spice here comes from harissa paste, one of my favourite go-to condiments that I always have in my fridge. It’s a North African chilli paste that’s smoky, savoury and spicy and packs a real punch.
The only ingredient you might not already have to hand is harissa paste – but there are a couple of alternatives you can use which I outline below.
- Harissa paste. This North African paste gives the pasta its spicy kick. It’s traditionally made from dried chillies, garlic, lemon and spices like cumin and coriander. It’s DELICIOUS and a real flavour powerhouse so I always have a jar on hand. You can find it in the spices aisle of your store, or you can pick it up from Amazon. Spice level differs depending on the brand, so taste it before you use it and reduce the quantity here if you’re worried it’s spicy. If you can’t find harissa, use another chilli paste or use red pepper flakes.
- Rigatoni. I love using rigatoni because it’s a great shape for the sauce to cling to, but another shape like penne, fusilli or long shapes like spaghetti, fettuccine or linguine would also work well so just use whatever you have to hand.
- Cream. Use heavy cream here if you can (double cream in the UK and regular pure cream in NZ/AU). You could also use sour cream, or use your favourite dairy-free alternative. Just don’t use yogurt – the heat will cause it to split and curdle and you’ll have a lumpy sauce rather than something smooth and silky.
- Parmesan. Use a block of parmesan and grate it yourself if you can. Pre-grated cheese is coated with an anti-caking agent that prevents it from properly melting into a sauce, so it’s best to avoid it here. You could use pecorino or manchego instead if you like.
How to make it
Start by getting your pasta cooking in a large pot of boiling water on the stove top. Dice your onion, then get that into a large, high-sided pan with a little olive oil and salt and cook for a couple of minutes, until it’s starting to soften. Add the garlic, harissa paste and tomato paste and stir through the onion. Pour in the cream and stir again.
Once your cream is combined with the harissa and tomato paste and the sauce is looking nicely orange, sprinkle over 3/4 of the parmesan and toss through the sauce. When your pasta is al dente – cooked, but still with a little bite to it – transfer it directly into your sauce with a slotted spoon, along with 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. PRO TIP: Pasta cooking water is the secret to any delicious pasta dish. That’s because it’s full of starch, which will thicken your sauce up and help the sauce coat the pasta. Never drain it away!
Toss the pasta through the sauce so every piece of rigatoni is well coated. If the sauce is looking a little thick, add a bit more pasta water and toss again. Likewise, if it’s a little runny, keep cooking and tossing the pasta in the pan and it’ll thicken up again. If it’s really not thickening up, add a little more grated parmesan and toss it through. PRO TIP: Remember that your pasta will continue to absorb the liquid as it sits, so if it is looking a little loose in the pan, it should be perfect once it hits your plate.
Divide between plates, top with the rest of the parmesan and fresh basil leaves and you’re done!
Got a question?
It does not! You’ll find a lot of recipes similar to this one that will use vodka, but I don’t find it’s super necessary here.
You can – but it will never reheat quite as well as it would have been when it was fresh. It will also continue to absorb liquid in the sauce, so you’ll need to add a little water to it when you heat it (1 or 2 tablespoons should be fine). Either reheat it on the stovetop or in the microwave at 30-second intervals. It will keep well in the fridge, stored in a covered container for 4 days.
You could also make the sauce ahead of time, then just cook the pasta and mix it through the sauce when you’re ready to serve. The sauce will keep well in the fridge in a covered container for 5 days.
Different brands of harissa paste have different levels of spice, so my advice is always to taste yours first! The spice is heavily tapered by the cream and the tomato paste so it’s not super spicy – it just has a nice, warming level of heat. If you’re worried, reduce the amount of harissa to 1 tablespoon or even 1/2 tablespoon.
Like this recipe? Here are some more quick pasta ideas you might enjoy
If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you! You can leave me a comment below.Print