HELLO to the Februarys.
Polar vortex? End of Sugar Free January? Formal dating holiday coming up on the 14th? The time is now. Date Night Rigatoni is here, and it is here for all of it.
Why is rigatoni so good, actually? Why does pasta taste better when it’s in the shape of oversized chewy tubes with just the right amount of density and flop to them?
I mean, in this case, it could be because browned sausage and sauteed kale give just the right amount of hearty wintery-ness to the pan, or it could be the heavy handed garlic and crushed fennel seeds making the house smell like a restaurant, or it could be because the silky smooth tomato cream sauce speckled with red pepper flakes and delicate shavings of Parmesan just always brings out the best in everything.
Or it could be because pasta is pasta. Full stop.
Here’s my challenge to you for your next date night, whether that’s with you and your dog, you and your baby, you and your special person, or all three (hi, it me): EAT LIKE YOU LOVE YOURSELF.
So… in other words, it’s time for Date Night Rigatoni.
Things that would go well with this recipe:
- Miracle No Knead Bread – for sopping up that sauce??!!
- Toasted Bread and Parmesan Kale Salad! An obscure old post but definitely my favorite kale salad of all time.
- Salted Caramel Brownies and bonus that you can make them heart-shapey. Date night ON POINT.
Thank you to my friend Stephanie for introducing me to this recipe – I made some variations (hi, kale!) and a few other slight substitutions, but general concept came from her!
Check out our video for how to make Date Night Rigatoni:
- 1 lb rigatoni + 2 cups reserved pasta water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups chopped fennel or celery
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 lb Italian sausage
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed or chopped*
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups chopped kale
- 1 teaspoon salt
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- red pepper flakes
- Pasta: Cook rigatoni according to package directions in well-salted water. Reserve 2 cups of the starchy water when you drain.
- Sausage: Heat olive oil in a large, deep pot over medium high heat. Add the fennel and onion. Saute until very soft – about 10 minutes. Add the sausage. Cook, breaking into small pieces, until browned all the way through.
- Sauce: Turn the heat down. Add the garlic, fennel, and tomato paste. Saute until fragrant – about 3 minutes. Add the wine; let it sizzle out. Add the cream; let it come to a low simmer. Stir in the kale. Season with salt.
- Fall In Love: Toss sauce with the cooked pasta. Add reserved pasta water as needed to thin the sauce. Stir in freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Finish with red pepper flakes and more Parm. Serve with a glass of wine because THIS IS VERY ROMANTIC AND FANCY!
Fennel seeds: I would recommend using 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds if you are using celery instead of fennel. It will give you more fennel-y flavor.
Pasta: I recommend cooking to al dente so there’s still a slight firmness. That way the noodles will hold up nicely when you toss them with the sauce.
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Sauté
- Cuisine: Italian