Rigatoni with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Ever have one of those days that starts out horribly and then turns into a decent, nay, great day?

Today was such a day. And it only started horribly in the sense that Baby Chef is teething and was up about four thousand times last night. I “woke up” starving, irritable, and counting down the minutes till naptime (150, give or take). It didn’t help that I had no ready made breakfast food on hand and a kitchen with more dirty dishes than I care to disclose.


First good thing of the day: taking Baby Chef to get breakfast at 6:30. We just went to the grocery store where I had a well-balanced breakfast that happened to also include donuts.

Second great thing: rhubarb! At our dawn jaunt to the grocery store, I found the beautiful harbingers of spring and grabbed a few pounds. Don’t know what I’m doing with them yet, but I always, always, buy rhubarb at every grocery store trip of the spring. Oh, and during our afternoon walk, a local place had rhubarb sorbet. Let’s just say babies like rhubarb sorbet. A lot.

Third great thing: this incredible rigatoni with creamy tomato sauce recipe. The recipe came from my Grandma and I’ve tweaked it a little bit, but wow. Despite having to tear big saucy noodles into bits for little man every other minute, this recipe tasted like something I’d get in a really nice restaurant.


Let me say more. I cooked the meat in the morning, so all that was left was making a quick sauce and cooking the noodles. The sauce base is basically sauteed onions (I mince mine to death), with garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, wine, and spinach. Then you toss the cooked noodles with the sauce, meat, and a hefty amount of cream before covering it with cheese. It bakes for about twenty minutes to get uniformly hot and bubbly.

I think it’s safe to say that a pasta with cream, wine, and cheese can make any day turn around for the better. Even the ones that start before dawn. Trust me on this.

Rigatoni with Creamy Tomato Sauce
yield: 4 servings
  • ¼ pound ground sweet Italian sausage
  • ¼ pound ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced (or minced)
  • ½ pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 5-6 ounces frozen chopped spinach
  • ½ cup wine (something you'd like to drink; I used a Cab)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup blend of Italian cheeses, or mozzarella/parmesan mix
  • 8 ounces rigatoni noodles (about half a package)
  1. Cook meats in a medium pan over medium-high until completely cooked. (Drain any grease if not using lean ground beef). Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In the same pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Saute till soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and saute till mushrooms exude most of their liquid, about 5-6 minutes.
  3. Stir in cooked meat, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, frozen spinach, wine, and salt. Bring heat up to get to boiling, then reduce heat down to a simmer.
  4. Let sauce simmer 15 minutes. Meanwhile, boil and drain the rigatoni noodles. Heat oven to 350.
  5. In a casserole dish, combine cooked noodles, sauce, and heavy cream. Top with the cheese and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.


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