Craving some chicken pasta with an Italian twist? Make this Creamy Rigatoni Pasta with Chicken and Capers in a rich and velvety Mozzarella cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato sauce! The delicious pasta sauce in this recipe features simple ingredients, such as garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, dried basil, red pepper flakes, cream (or half and half), and Mozzarella cheese.
What is rigatoni?
Rigatoni are a tube-shaped short pasta with ridges. Rigatoni pasta have ridges down their length which you can clearly see in my photos. This type of pasta originated in Italy, and the word rigatoni comes from the Italian word rigate which means ridged or lined. Rigatoni is one of the most favorite pasta dishes in Sicily, Italy, where it is often used in a traditional Sicilian dish Pasta Alla Norma (sautéed eggplant tossed with tomato sauce and topped with ricotta salata cheese and basil).
What is the difference between penne and rigatoni pasta?
While both rigatoni and penne pasta are short, tube-shaped pasta, rigatoni is larger in size. Also rigatoni pasta has ridges while typical penne does not. Here, I have to stress that in Italy there are 2 types of penne: penne lisce (smooth, without ridges) and penne rigate (with ridges). Rigatoni recipes usually involve thick sauces, such as bolognese or a rich alfredo sauce. Penne pasta without ridges is better suited for more delicate sauces such as pesto sauce, or simple tomato sauce with garlic and olive oil.
Best sauces for rigatoni pasta
Pasta with ridges makes a perfect surface for sauces to coat. Ridged tubular pasta like rigatoni is perfect for thick, creamy sauces, such as Bolognese sauce. Such thick pasta sauces stick better to this kind of pasta thanks to the ridges on the pasta surface.
What is a good substitute for rigatoni?
Because both rigatoni and penne are tubular shaped short pasta, you can use penne if you can’t find rigatoni. Do keep in mind that pasta with ridges, such as rigatoni, is better for thick sauces like the mozzarella sauce in this recipe, because the sauce will stick better to the outside surface with ridges. So if you are to use penne, make sure you use the penne with ridges.
How to cook pasta al dente?
To cook pasta al dente means to cook the pasta so that it’s soft yet firm at the core of the noodle. The pasta cooked al dente should feel firm to the bite, hard under your teeth, while being soft yet not mushy. “Dente” means “tooth” in Italian. “Al Dente” literally means “to the tooth” in Italian. To achieve this desirable pasta texture you normally have to boil pasta 2 to 3 minutes shorter than normal. For instance, if your package instructions tell you to cook pasta for 12 minutes in boiling water that means that to cook your pasta al dente, you should cook it for 10 minutes (2 minutes less) once the water starts boiling.
How to make rigatoni pasta
Below are some key step-by-step photos and instructions showing how to cook rigatoni pasta with chicken and cream sauce.
First, sauté sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and thinly sliced chicken breasts in olive oil. Make sure to season the chicken with salt and paprika.
Next, make the pasta sauce. Add half and half, dried basil, red pepper flakes to the skillet. Bring everything to boil. Immediately reduce to simmer, and add shredded Mozzarella cheese, stirring at all times.
Keep stirring your sauce on low heat until all the cheese melts and the creamy pasta sauce forms.
Add capers and cooked and drained rigatoni pasta to the skillet with the cream sauce. Stir everything well, and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Also, you might have to add cooked pasta water to thin out the cream sauce.
What wine goes with creamy chicken pasta?
Rich cream sauce pairs well with a fruity white wine, such as Chardonnay. Therefore, Chardonnay wine and chicken alfredo pasta always go well together. If you prefer red wines, pair you creamy chicken pasta with light red wines, such as Grenache or Rosé. Light red wines pair well with the cream sauce that uses rich cheese, such as Mozzarella or Parmesan, along with chicken pasta.
More pasta dinner ideas for rigatoni:
These 2 excellent recipes are perfect examples of how rich, thick, heavy sauces work well with rigatoni pasta:
Chicken Pasta Recipes that work for either penne or rigatoni
Craving some chicken pasta with an Italian twist? Make this Creamy Rigatoni Pasta with Chicken and Capers in a rich and velvety Mozzarella cheese sauce with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Garlic! The delicious pasta sauce recipe uses simple ingredients, such as garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, dried basil, red pepper flakes, cream (or half and half), and Mozzarella cheese.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 4 oz sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 lb chicken breast , thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 8 oz rigatoni (for gluten free, use gluten free rigatoni)
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 tablespoon basil , dried
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
- 3 tablespoons capers
- 1/2 cup reserved cooked pasta water or more
- 1/4 teaspoon salt to taste
Note: if using sun-dried tomatoes in oil (in a jar), make sure to drain sun-dried tomatoes from oil, before using them. Reserve 2 tablespoons of this drained oil for sautéing as described below:
In a large pan, on high heat, sauté garlic and sun-dried tomatoes (drained from oil) in 2 tablespoons of oil (reserved from the sun-dried tomatoes jar - see note above) for 30 seconds until garlic is fragrant. Add thinly sliced chicken breast, sprinkle with salt and paprika, and cook on high heat for 1 minute on each side. Remove from heat.
In the mean time, cook rigatoni pasta al dente. Reserve some cooked pasta water. Optionally, you can drain and rinse the rigatoni with cold water (to stop cooking).
While the rigatoni is cooking, make the pasta cream sauce. Add half and half to the skillet with the chicken. Add 1 tablespoon of basil, at least 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Bring to a gentle boil. Add Mozzarella cheese. Immediately reduce to simmer and cook, constantly stirring, until all cheese melts and creamy sauce forms.
Add capers. Stir to combine. If the sauce is too thick - don't worry - you'll be adding some cooked pasta water soon.
Add cooked rigatoni to the skillet with the cream sauce, and stir to combine.
Add about 1/2 cup reserved cooked pasta water because the cream sauce will be too thick (do not add all water at once - you might need less or more of it). This will water down the thickness of the cheese sauce and make it creamier. Immediately, season this creamy chicken rigatoni pasta with salt and more red pepper flakes, to taste, if needed. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes for flavors to combine.
Note: Make sure to salt the dish just enough to bring out of the flavors of basil and sun-dried tomatoes.
WHAT IS HALF AND HALF? To make 1 cup of half and half, combine 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream or heavy whipping cream.