5 Ingredients or Fewer

One-Pot Tomatoey, Cheesy Pasta with Shallots

January 31, 2019
20 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 2 or more
Author Notes

This is a favorite pasta formula for fall and winter weeknights. It's something of a riff on pasta con ceci, minus the soupiness and chickpeas, plus much bigger noodles. Cooking the rigatoni right in the sauce means a super emulsified, creamy final dish, thanks to the starch. And it's endlessly customizable—think bacon, garlic, spices, a splash of red wine, peas, white beans, Italian sausage, breadcrumbs, or anything else that hits the spot. But as is, in its most simple state, I think it's pretty perfect. —Ella Quittner

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: A Wildly Simple Trick for the Creamiest, Cheesiest, Tomato-iest Pasta. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced shallots in thin rings (about 5 to 6 large shallots)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 5 tablespoons tomato paste, preferably double concentrated
  • 2 teaspoons red chili flakes, plus more to taste if you like things spicier
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 pound rigatoni
  • 1 cup tightly packed (about 3 ounces) very finely grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
  1. In a 12-inch nonreactive skillet (or a large Dutch oven), heat 2 tablespoons oil over a medium flame. Add the shallots and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Turn heat to medium-low and use your spatula or spoon to gently break apart the shallots' rings so they’re mostly in separate circles. Sauté for 8ish minutes, until fully slack and beginning to brown around the edges.
  2. Make a well in the center of the pan, add another splash of olive oil, then and add the tomato paste. Sauté for 3 minutes, while mixing the shallots and tomato paste together. Make another well in the center of the pan and add the red chili flakes. Sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the water and stir everything to dissolve the tomato paste. Increase the heat to medium-high. Scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan and bring the liquid to a rolling simmer. Add the rigatoni and another 1 teaspoon salt. Let cook (still at a rolling simmer) for 9 to 10 minutes, stirring every once in a while to give all the noodles a chance to be fully submerged, until only about 1/3 of the sauce remains (it should be thickened) and the noodles are cooked but al dente. Reduce the heat to low and add the Parmesan, stirring until it fully melts and combines to create a thick, creamy sauce. Turn off heat, taste, and add more salt if needed.
  3. Serve hot, with more grated Parmesan on top. Oh, and a large glass of red wine on the side.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Susanna
  • Megan
  • Katlyn Gangl
    Katlyn Gangl
  • Ella Quittner
    Ella Quittner
  • Smaug

15 Reviews

Iona S. December 22, 2020
You do have to keep adding more water and stirring so the pasta gets evenly cooked but the end result is so good!
kym November 23, 2020
Defiantly was not too much salt for us! Was delicious! I did put it in a casserole dish and topped with burrata and shredded parm and cracked black pepper. I think peas would be a really great addition as well!
kym November 24, 2020
*and broiled until gbd!

Susanna September 6, 2019
Love this. Definitely not too much salt in the recipe—cf Samin Nosrat— unless you’re used to undersalted food. I didn’t have any tomato paste on hand so used a 14-ounce can of Sardinian cherry tomatoes, which I reduced for 20 minutes or so before adding extra water and pasta. Also incorporated chopped Calabrian chile peppers, so it turned out pretty much as an arrabbiata.
Ella Q. January 12, 2020
Sounds so good, Susanna!
Smaug January 10, 2021
If you're eating in restaurants or otherwise buying prepared food, you're doubtless accustomed to vastly oversalted food. Restaurant chefs in particular, whose job is more to get your attention than to feed you, have been pouring on the salt and fat- for which most humans have an unhealthy affinity- for centuries to "amp up" their dishes. Currently it's "Umami" that's being grossly overemphasized- at lleast that doesn't seem to pose a major health risk.
Megan June 17, 2019
This turned out very well for me, but I had the other half box of rigatoni cooking in a separate pot and was able to use some of that pasta water in this. Otherwise, the sauce would have cooked away before the pasta was done. I probably had the heat a bit too high. Only used 2 tsp red pepper flakes and found it plenty spicy. Like a yummy cheesey amatriciana. Used regular strength tomato paste.
Ron P. April 16, 2019
The quantities of salt and chili flakes are a bit over the top on this, IMO. You may want to cut them in 1/2 or 1/3.

I struggled a bit with the amount of liquid - all of mine was absorbed and my rigatoni were still crunchy. I may have had the heat to high, or it could just be variation between brands of rigatoni, as I expect thicker ones would require more liquid. I had to approach this like a risotto, gradually adding liquid and simmering until the desired consistency was reached.

While it was a little frustrating to cook the first time, it was worth it. The velvety sauce had a delightful richness. The spaghetti-o comparison is fun. The color of the sauce and the large amount of incorporated dairy does evoke this memory, but the shallots, hot pepper and al dente rigatoni give an upscale, adult feel that would make it fine to serve to company.

Some thoughts about modifications: 1) Inspired by the risotto analogy, I'm tempted to reduce the salt further and use chicken broth instead of water to give the dish even more richness. 2) While 100% shallots was nice, I think this dish would also be good with most combinations of onion, garlic, shallots or leeks. If you went close to 100% onions, I expect it would start leaning towards a vegetarian amatriciana.
Katlyn G. April 2, 2019
Very creamy and yummy! And so easy/inexpensive. I doubled the recipe as well. Next time, I’ll put in less red pepper flakes. We like spice, but 2 tbsp was definitely too much for us!
cindy January 21, 2024
I think it is 2 tsp
Caitlin S. March 26, 2019
I doubled the recipe except the red pepper flakes and it was still very spicy! Good, but not a meal for the whole family.
Katie P. February 18, 2019
This is basically an amazing adult version of spaghetti Os (in the best way possible). I didn’t think it was too salty.. I am guess it depends on the tomato paste and parm you’re using.
Katie P. February 18, 2019
Oh also we doubled it bc as written it’s only for 2 servings
Ella Q. March 5, 2019
I love that description! I was a total spaghetti Os fan as a kid...
Heikki February 17, 2019
Too much salt in the recipe