Made with pork sausage and pancetta, this Tuscan rigatoni dish will surely be served at our house more than once! According to Acquacotta: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany’s Secret Silver Coast author Emiko Davis, Rigatoni Alla Buttera: Cowboy-Style Rigatoni, is one of the most popular dishes in southern Maremma, the region on the coast of Tuscany where she lives. The dish was created by the wives of cowboys who raised the famous Maremmana cattle, but couldn’t afford to eat the beef, so instead they would use pork or anything they might have at the time.
Emiko Davis recounts tasting this dish for the first time in her book: “A blanket of pecorino cheese covered the pasta, and I swirled it in a little bit before taking a bite. I can still remember the incredible flavour. I gave a forkful to Marco and watched his eyes light up. ‘What do you think is in this?!’ I asked him. With every bite we tried guessing the possible combination of ingredients that made it so good. It was something salty. Something rich. Something umami. It was quite possibly the tastiest plate of pasta I have ever eaten, and every plate of rigatoni alla buttera eaten since has had to try to match that one.
Afterwards, we found the list of ingredients of the dishes (it’s always posted somewhere at a sagra) and we realised our guesses were, for the most part, wrong. Marco was convinced its tastiness was due to chicken livers, but it was actually something so simple. Pork sausages, pancetta, the usual battuto of onion, celery and carrot. Wine. Tomato. I had to try this at home.”
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 brown (yellow) onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- ½ celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 30 g (1 oz) prosciutto, cut into thin strips
- 60 g (2 oz) pancetta, cut into thin strips or diced
- a few sage leaves
- 1 rosemary sprig, leaves chopped
- 300 g (10½ oz) pork sausages, casings removed
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) dry white wine
- 200 g (7 oz) tomato passata (puréed tomatoes)
- 320 g (11½ oz) dried rigatoni (large tube-shaped pasta) or penne pasta
- finely grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, for serving
- Pour the olive oil into a wide frying pan and add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, prosciutto, pancetta and herbs with a pinch of salt. Cover the pan with a lid and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened and the fat is transparent. Add the sausages, crumbling the meat into the pan. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring to brown all sides.
- Pour over the white wine and let it cook down for about 5–7 minutes.
- Add the tomato passata and 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of water and bring to a simmer. Cook on low for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary (this is a fairly robust sauce with lots of flavour from the prosciutto, pancetta and sausage, so you may not need any extra salt), then continue cooking for a further 10 minutes or so. You should have a well-reduced, thick, rich sauce. Set aside.
- Put the pasta in a large pot of boiling, well-salted water. Boil until al dente, then drain and toss with the sauce.
- Serve with plenty of finely grated pecorino or parmesan cheese.
Excerpt and photo printed with permission from Acquacotta: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany’s Secret Silver Coast by Emiko Davies, published by Hardie Grant Books March 2017.