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Rigatoni with Homemade Marinara Sauce

Serves 4 to 6

This Italian recipe for pasta with tomato sauce is one of my favorites because, besides being quick, easy, healthy and delicious, it is very versatile. The pancetta or fat back can be omitted for a vegetarian version. You can make it even lighter by using half as much olive oil. I always use dried herbs for the cooking process, but add fresh at the end for a bright burst of flavor. It is excellent with white, multigrain or, my personal favorite, whole wheat pasta. During the summer, I often make the same sauce with finely chopped fresh tomatoes from my garden instead of canned.

Rigatoni with Marinara Sauce Recipe Photo

Heat a large sauté pan over low heat. Add olive oil and fat back. Cook very slowly, reducing heat if necessary, until some of fat has rendered and pieces are transparent, being careful not to brown. Raise heat to medium-high. Add onions and peppers; sauté until softened. Add garlic and sauté one more minute. Add tomatoes, wine, dried herbs, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until liquid has reduced, about 20 minutes. (The amount of reduction depends on the desired thickness of the sauce. I usually prefer this sauce when it is just thick enough to stick to the pasta.) Taste for seasoning. Reduce heat to lowest setting; partially cover with lid until ready to use.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta, but do not rinse. Add to the sauce with the fresh herbs and toss to combine. Let the pasta set for about 3 minutes in order for the pasta to absorb the flavors. Serve, passing the grated cheese separately.

Notes: Leftover pasta can be reheated in the microwave. It is also quite good at room temperature.