Serves a Crowd

Rigatoni with Sausage, Peas and Fresh Ricotta

March 15, 2011
4 Ratings
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

I love the combination of hot tomato sauce + cold ricotta, could very happily spoon it up all day long....and as far as I am concerned nearly anything benefits from sausage.

No bells and whistles here, great tomatoes..fortified with a bit of garlic, some red pepper flakes and a bit of fennel....roast sweet (or hot) sausage (with fennel seeds), cool creamy hand made ricotta ( I get mine at Claudios, on 9th street, in the Italian market, they make it fresh every day) a few baby peas of pop and color a shave or two of ricotta salata in lieu of parm and there you have it...this is easy enough for a weekday (esp if you make the sauce ahead of time) and just perfect for a lazy Sunday, a big pot of sauce bubbling away as you finish the paper, ready to transition from sips of coffee to sips of wine. I usually do a riff on a Caesar or a Tri-colore salad to go with this and have a loaf of Italian bread on hand....sorbetto is the best sweet note to end on (esp if you live in Philly and have access to Capigiro.)or some fresh fruit with biscotto

You'll have extra sauce leftover, which freezes well or will be amazing on a eggplant sandwich...spruced up with a bit of fresh ricotta later in the week. - Aliwaks —Aliwaks

Test Kitchen Notes

Often, the best way to let fresh ingredients shine is not to do too much to them. In this dish, Aliwaks uses fresh ricotta and ricotta salata, unadulterated, to add a final flourish to a hearty pasta without (according to her) "bells and whistles." Of course, there's the piquant tomato sauce, laced with garlic and fennel, that simmers gently for two hours. And then there's her addition of savory pork sausage and green peas to give texture and color. And then there's the crowning glory: the ricotta itself, mellow and milky, dolloped on top of the pasta so that it eases the sting of the red pepper flakes; it gently works its way into the sauce, rendering it creamier and creamier as you devour it. - A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 large cans whole San Marzano tomatoes (look for DOP or is it DOC I can't remember)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf (pref fresh)
  • 1 cup diced fresh fennel (reserve the fronds for garnish)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 pound sweet or hot (or both) Italian sausage with fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup defrosted petit pois
  • 1 pound rigatoni (large ridges)
  • 1 pint fresh ricotta
  • 1/4 pound ricotta salata
  1. Run the tomatoes through a food mill and discard the peels and seeds. (You can puree them in a blender or food processor if you don't have a mill.)
  2. Heat the olive oil gently in a large heavy saucepan over medium low heat. Add the bay leaf, fennel, garlic and red pepper flakes (for a milder sauce, you can add these at the end). Season with salt and pepper and saute until the fennel is soft and ever so slightly brown at the edges.
  3. Add the tomatoes, stir, and lower the heat to low. Cook gently, stirring every so often, for 2 hours.
  4. If you have a grill or grill pan, grill the sausages whole, then slice into 1/2-inch rounds. Alternatively, you can rub them with a bit of olive oil and roast in the oven on a sheet tray at 400 for 10 to 12 minutes, and then slice into rounds.
  5. When the sauce is reduced, cook the pasta according to the package directions (but probably you should add the pasta to rapidly boiling, highly salted water; then once it comes back up to a boil, cook for 8 to 10 minutes). Retain 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.
  6. Pour two-thirds of the sauce into a large saute pan, add the sausage and heat through over medium heat.
  7. Add the warm pasta to the sauce, plus about 1/2 cup of pasta water (more if you think you need it). Saute, turning with tongs and shaking the pan until the sauce has been absorbed into the pasta. Add the peas at the last minute.
  8. Serve with a HEAPING dollop of cold ricotta cheese and shavings of ricotta salata. Garnish with fennel fronds.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • ECMotherwell
  • lorigoldsby
  • lastnightsdinner
  • babs1652
  • Jennifer Wagner
    Jennifer Wagner

38 Reviews

MmeDupont June 5, 2015
Hi! This is a great recipe overall and probably my new tomato sauce recipe. I made this recipe last night with two of the 1lb 12 oz cans, which is the correct size. My fancy local grocery had San Marzano canned tomatoes, but they weren't the Cento. Nevertheless, the sauce turned out wonderfully (and these were already peeled, so less fuss). I never knew fennel could subsume its flavor into a sauce so well. I had trouble with cooking my hot Italian turkey sausages, so we ended up crumbling them into the sauce, which I think looked better from a presentation standpoint, anyway. I assume that the "pour 2/3rds of the sauce" instruction meant we were supposed to save the other 1/3rd, but I just used all the sauce since it had cooked down a great deal after 2 hours. I also used just 2/3rd of a pound of rigatoni, since there was just two of us. After dinner, we had three full portions of leftovers. Again, the amount of sauce to rigatoni seemed fine to us. I could not find ricotta salata, but we didn't miss it and home cooks should regard it as entirely optional. We topped each portion with a tablespoon or two of my homemade ricotta and it was the perfect accompaniment to the spicy sauce (also reduced the amount of red pepper flakes in the beginning, since I was using hot sausage). Served with a date, almond, and arugula salad and dark chocolate brownies for an impressive date night meal.
Mil April 29, 2014
I am making this now, and hoping large means 1lb.12oz cans San Marzano. Recipe sounds incredible, can't wait until it is ready to eat. Thank you!
ECMotherwell August 24, 2013
Just made this tonight. Totally blown away, what an outstanding meal! Thank you, Aliwaks!!
Heather B. June 13, 2011
Made this tonight - it was delicious! We loved it. Thanks!
lorigoldsby March 30, 2011
This was great! Loved the ricotta salata!

It is DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) for agricultural products like parmigianno-reggiano, prosciutto di parma and balsamico tradizionale di modena and DOC or DOCG for wines. I would be remiss if I didn't remember this...If you are ever in Bologna, check out "Italian Days Food Experience" with Alessandro (#1 on you'll never forget which is which again. We had a wonderful day with him touring all of the cheese, meat, vinegar and wine productions.
lastnightsdinner March 30, 2011
This was last night's dinner! And it was wonderful. Thanks for giving us a great go-to pasta for any night of the week!
babs1652 March 28, 2011
Had this for dinner last night and it was excellent. Even my Picky Pete son loved it. I made my own ricotta, (a first for me) and wondered why I hadn't been eating ricotta with my tomato sauce all along! It was tasty without being overwrought and will be a regular in my meal rotation. Congrats!
adamnsvetcooking March 27, 2011
Made it for dinner. Every one happy bellies and big smiles. Thank you for a great recipe!
Jennifer W. March 27, 2011
Good Luck Aliwaks. I agree, your main course and Louisa's cake would make a lovely pair.
Waverly March 27, 2011
Am just off to the store - this will be our dinner tonight. It sounds incredible - maybe I'll make the ricotta cake for dessert. I agree with you, Aliwaks, I think it will make the perfect meal.
Waverly March 27, 2011
The combination of your pasta and Louisa's cake made a delicious meal. Your sauce was fantastic...and I will pass along the greatest complement of all - the children all had seconds. (Note: we left off the red pepper and served it at the table...I really like the way the cold cheese tempers the heat of the red pepper).
mwhitlockca March 25, 2011
My family LOVED this last night - they could not stop telling me how great it was. Only simmered for 40 minutes, and it still came out wonderfully. Thanks for submitting this amazing recipe!
Sagegreen March 24, 2011
Congrats on being a finalist!!
Aliwaks March 24, 2011
You guys! aw shucks, thank for all the good thoughts... I love that you're all gonna make this its like I'm having you over for dinner on a Sunday (which I would totally do except I only have like 6 chairs)
aargersi March 24, 2011
just started a batch of this - smells great already!
Aliwaks March 27, 2011
How'd it come out???
TasteFood March 24, 2011
Congratulations! Great idea to use ricotta salata!
gingerroot March 24, 2011
Oh yum, Aliwaks! Congrats on being a finalist. Looking forward to enjoying this soon!
Midge March 24, 2011
Yay Aliwaks! This sounds scrumptious.
ChefJune March 24, 2011
STOP! You're making me VERY hungry. I think I'm making this sauce tonight.
dymnyno March 24, 2011
Like a great composed salad, this is a great composed pasta. The refrigerator could be a source of backup ingredients if you didn't have peas or ricotta salada, or any kind of sausage would work just as well. A great go to recipe.
Aliwaks March 27, 2011
Indeed! In fact last time I made this ( it's an everyother week kind of thing) I threw in some defrosted frozen artichoke hearts. Yum! And have made same sauce with chicken thighs also yum.
lastnightsdinner March 24, 2011
I love the one-two punch of fresh ricotta and ricotta salata here. And you know you had me at fennel ;) Congrats, Aliwaks!