This quick rigatoni one-pot meal, with an easy-to-make, shortcut meat sauce made with ground beef, is my ace-in-the-hole dinner. You know, for when it's been a day, everyone is hungry, and the last thing I feel like doing is cooking. It's fast, comforting, and kid-friendly.
There's a time for handmade tagliatelle with bolognese that's been simmered lovingly for four and a half hours, and then, there's a time for this quick rigatoni: soccer practice followed by the dentist, math that needs supervising and laundry that needs folding, hungry children, and you. You know the drill. All you have to do to make this quick rigatoni, while doing everything else, is boil some rigatoni (psst...any pasta you've got is fine, but if you have rigatoni, the meat sauce so delightfully fills the holes, you know?). Then fry an onion, some garlic, brown ground beef in the same pan. Throw in tomato paste and tomato sauce and season with Italian seasoning and dinner's ready.
A classic bolognese sauce begins with a soffritto (a.k.a. sofrito, a.k.a. mirapoix, a.k.a. the start of many a European soup, stew, or sauce): a finely minced base of onions, celery, and carrots. After that's cooked down a good long time, the meat is browned, the tomato and wine and stock (or milk/cream) are added, and a long, long simmer is had. This sauce is a shortcut version of that, ready as soon as the meat is browned and the sauce is heated through. There's no stock or wine here, just canned tomato sauce and a big dab of tomato paste for deep tomato-y flavor. I've used beef here, but I also often make this sauce with ground turkey, and it's also good.
Making a quick meat sauce
Before making the sauce, set a pot of water to boil for the pasta, so it'll be ready to add into the sauce as soon as the sauce is done.
This quick meat sauce starts off with browning onions. You'll want to use a large, straight-sided skillet or a medium-sized pot for this, so you have room to add the pasta. After the on onions start to soften, you'll add in some freshly minced garlic and season with salt and pepper. Optionally, you can add a frozen cube of basil here if you have one on hand. A few minutes longer and you push the onions to the edges of the pan and add in the ground beef. Brown the meat, breaking it up (I like to use this inexpensive tool for breaking up the meat—it works perfectly—but an ordinary wooden spoon also works well).
As soon as your meat is cooked though, add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, and Italian seasoning, then simmer for a few minutes more until the sauce thickens. Stir in the cooked noodles and dinner is ready.
Quick Rigatoni with Meat Sauce (meat)
Cook the noodles:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. When it reaches a rolling boil, add the noodles and lower the heat to medium. Cook the noodles until tender, 7-10 minutes. Drain.
Make the quick meat sauce:
- Dice the onion to a medium-fine dice. Heat the olive oil in a large, straight-sided skillet or medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the minced garlic cloves to the pan, along with the frozel basil cube, if using.Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes more.
- Push the onion-garlic mixture to the edges of the pan. Place the ground beef in the center, breaking it up into small chunks.
- Cook until the meat is no longer pink and cooked through, 5-7 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the tomato sauce and stir again. Season with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste.
- Simmer the sauce for another 2-3 minutes, until thickened. Add in the noodles and toss to coat.