Rigatoni tossed in a flavourful sun-dried tomato and chilli sauce with ricotta, pecorino, and fresh oregano. It’s fresh, vibrant, and delicious.
I love pasta. I firmly believe that we all love pasta, or at least we all should.
Anyone that says otherwise just simply hasn’t had good pasta. A good pasta dish can honestly change your life. It becomes a dish you constantly think about and crave.
To the point where even imagining another pasta dish can almost make you feel a little guilty. You’ll keep going back to the same dish, over and over. This is one of those pasta dishes that will win even the most adamant of sceptics over.
Recently I’ve been craving sauces with chilli, I’m a spice fiend at heart and I love a little heat in my food. I also love sun-dried tomatoes in almost everything, so it was only fitting to combine the two for an incredible sun-dried tomato and chilli rigatoni.
Sun-dried Tomato and Chilli Rigatoni
It is as delicious and flavourful as it sounds. This is a pasta dish that’s creamy, rich, a little bit spicy and packed with depth. But it’s not just got incredible flavour, it’s also got texture which makes a huge difference.
It’s super simple to throw together, the sauce can literally be prepared with just a food processor. The ingredients are also very accessible making it perfect for a quick weeknight dinner, or perhaps even a romantic meal for your partner.
It’s that good.
The sauce has heat from the chilli, and acidity and umami-ness from the sun-dried tomatoes. There’s saltiness from the pecorino as well as nuttiness from the walnuts.
The fresh oregano brings earthiness, warmth and pepperiness that compliments the rest of the dish. There’s also ricotta which adds a lovely creaminess and richness to the sauce.
It’s a little indulgent, but so worth it.
This sun-dried tomato and chilli sauce is actually verging on being more of a pesto. Considering it also contains oil, a hard cheese, herbs, and toasted nuts. It’s blitzed till mostly smooth but with a little bit of texture remaining.
It’s most definitely reminiscent of a sun-dried tomato pesto, however at the same time it also feels like a sauce. But either way, it’s a recipe you absolutely must try if these are your style of flavours.
There is also a reason I selected rigatoni as the pasta of choice here.
Sun-dried tomatoes are ripe tomatoes that are dehydrated and dried out in the sun. They may undergo some form of pre-treatment prior to spending several days in sunlight.
Cherry and plum tomatoes are the often the varieties used to dry out as they provide a great balance of natural sweetness and acidity. It is common practice in some parts of Italy for communities to dry tomatoes on their roof tops, either whole or as a sauce/puree.
These are often available in supermarkets in small jars, usually stored in oil. These are the ones that will work best for this recipe as we will also be using the oil from that jar too. The oil is packed with flavour and great to add to dishes, dressings and sauces.
In the world of endless pasta shapes, one may question if there is in fact any differences between them all. There absolutely is. Though they’re made from the same ingredients and do in fact taste the same, they behave differently when combined into a dish.
For this recipe my preference is rigatoni as it has a large tube size and ridges. This allows it to better hold chunkier, thicker, creamier sauces. That’s exactly what we need here, this sauce is thick, creamy and chunky from the walnuts and sundried tomatoes.
The rigatoni holds the sauce perfectly and the ridges on the outside also help to adhere even more sauce. This means a flavourful bite every time.
However you could absolutely opt for any pasta of your preference. Penne would also work well, though the small tube size means less sauce to hold on to. Spaghetti or bucatini are two other good options to consider as both love a creamy sauce.
Take your pick, either way it will be delicious.
This recipe is:
- Perfect for a weeknight or date night meal
What you’ll need to make this Sun-dried Tomato and Chilli sauce:
To make this recipe you’ll require the following:
(Full recipe and method at the end of the blogpost)
- Sun-dried tomatoes – these are available in jars, packaged in oil. We’ll be using this oil too
- Red bird’s eye chillies – feel free to omit if you want this to be completely mild
- Kashmiri chilli powder – great for flavour and colour. If you can’t find this feel free to substitute for paprika
- Pecorino – an Italian dry, hard cheese. I use a vegetarian pecorino which I purchase from Tesco (if you’re UK based). If you struggle to find a vegetarian pecorino, you can substitute for cheddar
- Ricotta – an Italian whey cheese
- Walnuts – if you have a nut allergy, perhaps substitute for sunflower seeds (if those are fine for you), otherwise omit entirely
- Fresh oregano – if you struggle to source fresh oregano, feel free to use dried instead
This sauce is a game changer
It absolutely is, it’s so different and so flavourful. It’s become a regular recipe over here as it’s made from ingredients that I usually have on hand. This sauce has tons of umami from the sun-dried tomatoes, as well as texture and heat.
I love a little bit of spice in my dishes and the chillies add the perfect amount of heat for me. The ricotta and pecorino add creaminess and richness which totally elevates the sauce. It tastes like a pasta dish straight out of a restaurant.
This is a sauce that you could even mix into salad dressings, or use for cannelloni, or lasagnes. It would even make for an excellent filling for ravioli. The sauce would also work brilliantly on pizzas. I mean, the possibilities are clearly endless.
It’s not just a delicious sauce, but it’s also versatile, and that’s extra bonus points in my books.
How to make this recipe vegan
It’s very easy to make this sauce vegan, you simply require a vegan ricotta substitute and pecorino substitute. There are some decent vegan cream cheeses available which would also work well as a substitute.
Some vegan cheeses can have an artificial/coconutty flavour so I’d avoid those as they would detract from the flavour of the sauce. Try and find a decent vegan hard cheese or vegan cheddar that you enjoy the flavour of!
At the very worst case if it’s tricky to find a vegan cream cheese, feel free to add a vegan cream, for example oat cream. It will have a different flavour and texture but it will provide the richness that this sauce requires.
How to make this Sun-dried Tomato and Chilli Rigatoni
1) Toast the walnuts in a dry pan on a low heat for around 5 minutes, then set aside
2) Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor along with some of the oil from the jar (see recipe at the end of the blogpost for exact measurements)
3) Add all the remaining ingredients to the food processor. Slicing the garlic and chillies finely helps with ensuring a smooth and even blend. Placing the whole chillies and garlic runs the risk of leaving big pieces behind unless you have a powerful food processor. A big mouthful of garlic or chilli is not what we want
4) Add the pecorino and ricotta as well. I finely grate the pecorino as I also find this helps for an even distribution
5) Blitz the mixture into an almost smooth paste. Leave some small chunks behind for texture
6) Meanwhile, boil your pasta till a minute before al-dente. It will finish cooking in the sauce. If you over boil your pasta it will then over cook in the sauce, in turn falling apart. Big no for mushy pasta! Add the sauce to the pasta once it has reached this stage. But make sure to reserve a good amount of pasta water for the next step
7+8) Add a generous splash of pasta water and mix together on a low heat for a further minute. Add more pasta water if the consistency is too thick
9) Finish with some more fresh oregano (or dried if using), and an optional grating of pecorino
Sun-dried Tomato and Chilli Rigatoni
- Food processor
- 250 g sun-dried tomatoes about 17 sun-dried tomatoes
- 3 red bird’s eye chillies
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder or paprika
- 60 g pecorino finely grated (see blogpost for more info on vegetarian pecorino)
- 125 g ricotta
- 50 g walnuts
- Small handful fresh oregano or dried if fresh is not available
- 4 tbsp oil from the sun-dried tomatoes jar
- 500 g dried rigatoni
- First toast the walnuts in a dry pan on a low heat for around 5 minutes, then set aside
- Then place the sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor along with the oil from the jar, as well as the garlic, chillies, chilli powder, pecorino, walnuts, ricotta and half of the oregano. If your food processor is not very powerful, finely slice the garlic and chillies before adding in to ensure no large pieces remain
- Blitz until almost smooth, but some chunks of the sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts remain
- Boil the rigatoni in salted water until just 1 minute before al-dente. (Take around 60-90s off of the packaging time as a guide), then drain but reserve a good amount of the pasta water
- Add the sun-dried tomato and chilli sauce to the rigatoni, along with a good ladle of pasta water and the remaining oregano. Place on a low heat and mix until combined. Add more pasta water if required to thin out the sauce
- Best served immediately with an extra grating of pecorino