Three Favorite Pasta Recipes – The Boston Globe

Rigatoni with tomato purée, butternut squash and red peppers

Makes 4-6 servings

Milk Street Facebook community member James Adcock blends sautéed onions, whole canned tomatoes, steamed butternut squash and roasted, peeled red peppers until smooth, then simmers the sauce to combine the flavors. Our version, perfect for a weeknight, cooks the squash with the tomatoes and uses store-bought roasted peppers. We think the sauce is perfect for ridged tube-shaped pasta such as rigatoni, ziti rigati or penne rigate, but it’s also great for cheese ravioli or tortellini.

Roasted peppers don’t need to be chopped since they go in the blender for pureeing. And don’t worry if the squash starts to fall apart during cooking, because it too will be mixed.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ medium yellow onion, chopped

Kosher salt and ground white pepper

14 ounces peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2½ cups)

1 can (14½ ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand

1 cup drained roasted red peppers

1 pound rigatoni, ziti rigati or penne rigate

½ cup loosely packed fresh basil, coarsely chopped

Finely grated parmesan cheese, to serve

In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ tsp salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the squash, tomatoes with their juice, ½ cup water and ¼ teaspoon white pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted into the squash meets no resistance, about 20 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in the roasted peppers and let cool, uncovered, about 5 minutes. Transfer the tomato-squash mixture to a blender. Blend until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping the mixer as needed.

In a large saucepan, bring 4 liters of water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Add mashed potatoes and ¼ cup reserved water, then cook over medium heat, stirring constantly and adding more reserved water as needed, until pasta is al dente and sauce clings to noodles, 2 3 minutes away. Off the heat, taste and season with salt and white pepper, then stir in the basil. Serve sprinkled with parmesan.

Spaghetti with tomato-saffron sauceConnie Miller/of CB Creatives

Spaghetti with tomato-saffron sauce

Makes 4-6 servings

Another member, Clare Hardy, infuses allium-accented tomatoes with the unique scent and flavor of saffron, then enriches the sauce at the end with fresh cream. Hardy uses finely chopped tomatoes sold in cartons (aseptic packaging); we have found that canned crushed tomatoes have a similar texture and tend to be more widely available in supermarkets. The recipe calls for spaghetti, but just about any shape of pasta works well.

The saffron threads should be bloomed in ¼ cup reserved cooking water; this helps to fully extract their flavor and aroma. Also, sour cream is not a good substitute for sour cream. Sour cream is lower in fat, so it has a thinner taste and consistency, and it will break up when heated.

1 pound of spaghetti

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon saffron threads

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 medium shallots, finely chopped

2 tablespoons dry vermouth or white wine

1 can 28 oz crushed tomatoes or 26.5 oz carton finely chopped tomatoes

½ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ cup fresh cream

In a large saucepan, bring 4 liters of water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of the reserved water and the saffron; put aside.

In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, combine the oil, garlic and shallots. Cook, stirring often, until the aromatics are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the vermouth and scrape up the browned bits, then stir in the tomatoes, oregano and saffron water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the crème fraîche, then add the spaghetti and cook, stirring constantly and adding reserved water as needed, until the pasta is al dente and the sauce clings to the noodles, 2 to 3 minutes. Take off the heat, taste and season with salt and pepper.

Orecchiette Puttanesca with Tuna and White BeansConnie Miller/of CB Creatives

Orecchiette Puttanesca with Tuna and White Beans

Makes 4-6 servings

This hearty pasta dinner is from member Karen Waldman. The bold and salty puttanesca sauce finds delicious partners in creamy white beans and flaked tuna. This recipe is a one-pot wonder. We first boil the pasta, drain it, then use the same pot to make the sauce. Waldman prefers orecchiette pasta because the little saucer shapes catch chunks of olives, capers, and tuna. She also likes to keep the consistency on the “soup” side; stir in more pasta water at the end to adjust the consistency to your liking.

Be sure to rinse and drain the beans. If their starchy liquid makes it into the pan, it will make the sauce thick and heavy. And, don’t worry about removing the garlic cloves after they’re lightly browned. They will soften and break up slightly as the sauce cooks.

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Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

2 medium garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup pitted green or black olives (or a combination), coarsely chopped

¼ cup drained, rinsed and patted capers

1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand

1 can 15 ½ ounce cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (5 ounces) tuna in olive oil, drained and crumbled

1/3 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

In a large saucepan, bring 4 liters of water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente. Reserve 2½ cups cooking water, then drain.

In the same saucepan over medium heat, combine the oil and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the pepper flakes, olives and capers. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until capers begin to brown, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juice and the beans, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens slightly, 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in 1 ½ cups reserved water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add orecchiette and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente, 2 to 4 minutes; add more reserved water if needed to dilute. Taste and season with salt and black pepper. Off the heat, stir in the tuna and parsley. Serve drizzled with additional oil.


Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television broadcasts. Globe readers get 12 weeks of full digital access, plus two issues of the print magazine Milk Street, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send your comments to [email protected]