Sopranos Saucery: Rigatoni with Sausage & Tomato Sauce

I don’t work for HBO but I wish I did. They produce some of the best television out there–better, in fact, than most of the movies that get released these days. I think “The Sopranos” is the best show in the history of television, and I’ve been watching TV a long time. Not only is it a terrific show, it has its own cookbook. Kirk bought it for me for my birthday (and I, actually, bought one for my brother–a big Sopranos fan–a few years ago when it came out. Does he cook from it? Fuhgetaboutit.) I was wary of whether the recipes would come out but now I feel like a jamook: look how well this rigatoni with sausage and tomato sauce came out.

[If you want to know what a “jamook” is, check out The Sopranos mobspeak dictionary.]

Now look, I don’t want a dead fish in my mailbox–maybe I’m oobatz for telling you this–but I tinkered with this recipe a bit. Not in a huge way but enough that it took stugots. And speaking of stugots, you’ll need sausage:


The recipe calls for 1 lb of sweet Italian sausage but Whole Foods was out of sweet sausage, so I bought garlic and herb Italian sausage. I initially asked for a pound but the lady started lifting a few sausages and I was like “Madonn’! Too many!” and she said “Marron!” and I said: “Just one sausage, please.”

So I got one sausage (the one you see) and when I got home I cut it out of its casing, cut it up a bit, and sliced up some garlic. This went into a saute pan with some olive oil on medium heat until the sausage was brown:


[I should note here that the recipe says to do this all in a pot but I like using my saute pan. I realize that makes things evaporate faster, but I like it that way.]

Now comes the issue of wine. The recipe says add 1/2 cup dry white wine but I didn’t have dry white wine. I had this (a birthday gift from last month):


This is a Malbec from Argentina and I have no idea what that means but the back said it goes great with tomato sauces so I said: “Bella!” and decided to use it. I poured a glass and poured that glass on to the sausage and garlic. You can watch this happen on the following YouTube video:

You let most of the wine evaporate and then add canned tomatoes which you crush by hand. [The recipe says put the tomatoes through a food mill, but c’mon! What do I look like, a mortadella? (You are what you eat!)] Here’s a video of the tomatoes getting added:

And that’s basically it. Add a generous amount of salt, pepper, I added red pepper flakes (which gives it some nice heat), bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and let simmer ’til it’s a sauce: about 30 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook rigatoni in a large pot of boiling salted water. It cooks for about 10 minutes–make sure it comes out just al dente. Drain, adding a little pasta water to add to the sauce. [This is my idea taken from Mario Batali’s show: the starch in the water helps the sauce adhere to the pasta later on.]

Tear fresh basil into the sauce:


[You can see how it cooks down. Ain’t it a beaut?]

Add the rigatoni to the saute pan:


Toss together with the sauce and that’s it! You pour it onto a plate and then grate some Pecorino Romano cheese on top.

I’m actually late to the Pecorino Romano game. I know Mario and other chefs I admire frequently grate it on their pastas, but I’d been sticking with Parmesan. Now that I’ve tried Pecorino, it’s much sharper and more peppery and, consequently, more alive. It really brings out a dish like this.

So next week, when you watch The Sopranos, try this recipe. It’s either that or the Moe Green Special. Sleep with one eye open, if you catch my drift. Salud!

14 thoughts on “Sopranos Saucery: Rigatoni with Sausage & Tomato Sauce”

  1. Next time you can double the recipe, put half in a baking dish, put that in the freezer. Why??? So the next time someone pops over after a tak’n care of a little bidnis, you say, “sit, I have rigatoni in the freezer, you’ll eat.”

  2. Great picture, the cookbooks in the corner are a nice touch. For a second I thought the red one was Nigel Slater’s Real Food but it looks different to my much-loved edition. His chocolate espresso cake never disappoints. Happy travelling.

  3. Malbec is the Argentine emblematic wine. It is produced mainly in the province of Mendoza and goes excellent with red meats, tomato sauces and strong cheese. Excellent choice!!

  4. Note to self: Stop reading this blog at 8:30 a.m. (I’m going to crave italian food all day long at work)!!!

  5. I’m glad I’m not the only one who eats thematically. I love having italian when watching the Sopranos, diner food with The Gilmore Girls, French with Amelie. But I could never figure out what to eat while watching “Six Feet Under.”

  6. I always do thematic food for the Sopranos — which we’ve been saying for years is not only the best thing on TV, but as you said, better than most movies produced these days. I made my own version of Carmela’s Lasagna and posted about it — with all due respect, I think the whole family would be proud.

  7. We smoked cigars and drank scotch. How’s that for thematic?

    Sorry I didn’t make it over last night. (Even sorrier after I saw that pasta). But I am glad the book worked out.

    Did you like Big Love? I wrote up some things I liked about it on TDK. Hooray for Mormons.

  8. That sauce looks great, similar to what I had last night, except I added bell peppers to mine. And no hatin’ Adam, I love the Amateur Gourmet, but that’s some amazingly ugly carpet your kitchen has there!

  9. I love this recipe — the mark of a authentic Italian tomato sauce is none of that crummy dried oregano/basil stuff!!! Just fresh, live flavors!

  10. looks damn tasty AG! another great dish to make if you’re in a Sopranos sorta mood is pasta puttanesca…

  11. Funeral Potatoes, of course! They would also go well with “Big Love”

    Julie wrote: “I’m glad I’m not the only one who eats thematically. I love having italian when watching the Sopranos, diner food with The Gilmore Girls, French with Amelie. But I could never figure out what to eat while watching ‘Six Feet Under.'”

  12. I made this last night and it was great. I too used Malbec and I found that it worked great. I also added in a small can of tomato sauce (with the regular size can of tomatos) and a bit of pesto at the end. Tossed the sauce with penne pasta (didn’t have any rigatoni on hand). Giada De Laurentiis would be impressed.

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