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Rigatoni with Red Peppers

From the AICR Test Kitchen
Week of March 18, 2013
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Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

Rigatoni with Red Peppers

from the
American Institute for Cancer Research

Cooking up pasta with red peppers and spinach produces a wonderfully tasty, colorful and healthy dish. Rigatoni is an integral part of Italian cuisine, being very common to central and southern Italy. The term itself comes from the word rigati, which is Italian for “ridged.”

Rigatoni, like most pasta pairs, perfectly with red peppers and tomatoes. Peppers are an ancient food that originated in Central and South America. They have been cultivated for literally thousands of years. They found their way to Europe in the 1500s with the colonization of the New World. When buying, choose peppers with vivid color and taut skin. Make sure they are free from soft spots and blemishes.

The addition of spinach makes this a satisfying mixture. The subtle sweetness of the red peppers is balanced by the acidity of the tomatoes and the earthy taste of the spinach. The Parmesan cheese with its unique bite and basil’s Mediterranean quality complete the taste.

You can serve this dish with a salad made of tomato wedges, thickly sliced cucumber and thinly sliced onion. Dress the salad with a mixture of equal parts of olive oil and fresh lemon juice, a dab of Dijon mustard and salt and pepper to taste. You might also want to include some hearty, crusty pumpernickel bread.

This pasta dish makes great leftovers. Simply refrigerate, reheat and serve.

Rigatoni and Red Peppers

Rigatoni with Red Peppers

  • 12 oz. rigatoni, whole-wheat preferred
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, deseeded and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 oz. fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

Cook rigatoni according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup water. Return pasta to pot to keep warm.

While pasta cooks, in skillet heat oil over high heat. Stir in onion, peppers and tomatoes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Sauté, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, add spinach and continue to sauté until vegetables are tender and spinach is wilted, about 5 more minutes.

Add vegetables, reserved pasta water and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese to pasta and gently toss to combine.

To serve, top pasta with basil and remainder of Parmesan cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

Per 1½ cup serving: 282 calories, 6 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 49 g carbohydrate,
14 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 171 mg sodium.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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