Rigatoni with Meat Sauce

Photo by Marge Perry

This is the hearty pasta dish that everyone loves to eat. It gets its stick-to-your-bones, deep, rich flavor from the ground beefcooked in red wine and a double hit of tomatoes. We use canned crushed tomatoes to give the sauce body and tomato paste for intensity. The diced zucchini melds into the sauce and adds texture and heft to the meat (and more vegetable nutrients). As with all heroic pasta dishes, the rigatoni cooks right in the sauce, which not only saves you from having to wash an extra pan—it makes the pasta more flavorful. Serve this with a green salad dressed with a shallot vinaigrette.

4 servings


    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
    • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
    • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
    • 12 ounces lean ground beef (85%)
    • 5 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/2 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
    • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes with basil
    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/4 cups)
    • 12 ounces rigatoni pasta
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
    • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced


    1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the beef and garlic and cook, breaking the beef into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon, until the onion and beef are lightly browned, 9 to 10 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook until it is nearly evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and zucchini; bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until slightly thickened, 2 minutes.
    2. Stir in the rigatoni, salt, pepper, and 3 cups water; bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the sauce is somewhat thickened, about 18 minutes. Add 1 cup water and continue cooking until the pasta is tender, 9 to 10 minutes more.
    3. Serve the rigatoni topped with the Romano and basil.

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