Whole Grain Penne Rigate Pasta With Chicken and Pancetta Tomato Sauce Recipe

This is one of those old fashion cook all day sauces that is totally worth it and really easy to make.  It’s easily adaptable to ingredients you like or just the ones you have on hand.

If you don’t have pancetta use uncured bacon or make this vegetarian and leave it and the chicken out.  If you don’t have cooked chicken and you want meat, you can add in cooked shredded pork loin or butt, maybe Sweet Italian Sausage, ground beef or cooked shredded beef brisket, shrimp, scallops or even lobster would work.  Come to think of it so would left over turkey from Thanksgiving!  It’s really one of those dishes that is extremely adaptable.

If you want to keep this recipe totally vegetarian or vegan add in mushrooms and some sun dried tomatoes or how about some kalamata olives and roasted sweet red peppers.  What are your favorite vegetables?  Cauliflower, broccoli, or summer squash would be nice additions to a pasta dish.

You should also use whatever pasta you want.  This recipe works with penne, elbows, shells, spaghetti, tagliatelle, fusilli, pagodas or curls.  Yes those are all available in a gluten free version and many from Schar made in Italy.

The key is letting this sauce simmer during the day so you end up with deep rich flavor of past sauces you may remember as a kid.  Well at least that was my childhood.  My mom always cooked from whole ingredients.  How lucky was I getting to grow up with great food and then being taught how to cook them.  Thanks mom!

One more adaptation for this recipe.  I happened to plant a San Marzano tomato plant this year and it has been producing tons of tomatoes.  I’m not a good gardener and once I plant something I rarely do anything else.  I kind of gave it a stake but it basically growing all over the garden.  It took over most of the basil and rosemary but as long as I don’t have to spend lots of time out there and it grows, I really don’t care.  I’m excited that I even got one tomato.  If you don’t have one of these great plants growing at your home and you can’t find any in the grocery store, then you can use canned tomatoes.  You just have to make sure they are San Marzano tomatoes.  That is what makes a really favorable sauce.



1 package of pancetta, diced  (can use uncured bacon)

1 sweet organic onion

3-4 dozen San Marzano plum tomatoes cut into quarters or large can of San Marzano tomatoes

1/2 cup filtered water

15 oz can of tomato sauce

2 large cloves of garlic

1-2 TB tomato paste

1 large zucchini sliced

1-2 cups shredded cooked organic chicken (1/2- 3/4 whole chicken)

handful of spinach

handful of flat Italian leaf parsley

handful of fresh basil, chiffonade (roll the leaves into a cigar and slice to make ribbons)

Course sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

12 oz box gluten-free Multigrain Penne Rigate (corn, rice, buckwheat flours)  or your favorite pasta

Optional red pepper flakes


The sauce for this recipe is one that will cook many hours so you need a deep sided heavy pan with a lid.  I use an enamel cast iron deep skillet from Le Creuset.

Heat this skillet to medium high and add in the diced pancetta.  Cook until it starts to crisp, then add in the onion.    Cook together until the onion starts to soften and become opeaque.  Keep an eye on the pan so it doesn’t burn.

At this point add in the water and scrape the bottom of the pan to get all of those tasty bits off and into your sauce.

Toss in the tomatoes and top with the tomato sauce and a good pinch of salt.  Put the lid on and turn down to low.  Let this simmer for a minimum of 3 hours with no maximum.  You want these fresh tomatoes to break down into a sauce.

After 1 hour add in the garlic by grating it on a microplane.  This will give you a fine and delicious pile of garlic that you want to mix into the sauce.  Put the lid back on and leave it alone.

After 2.5 hours of simmering add in the tomato paste and give it a taste.  At this point the tomatoes should be totally broken down into a sauce.  See if it needs any more salt and add in some pepper.

When you put the pot of water on to boil for your pasta, add in your sliced zucchini and shredded cooked chicken.  Make sure the zucchini is completely covered with the sauce and put the lid back on.

After you drain the pasta add it to your serving dish or big bowl.  Spoon the sauce over top, add the parsley and spinach and gently combine.

The last step is to cut the basil chiffonades and sprinkle on top and if you want cheese.  You can use Daiya Mozzarella which is gluten, dairy and soy free.  Pictured here is raw milk gouda that I grated on top.  One note about the basil.  Do not cut it until you are ready to add it or it will start to brown and break down as they are delicate leaves.  You can also add in the red pepper flakes when you add this to the serving bowl, sprinkle on top when serving or each person can sprinkle their own serving.

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One Response to Whole Grain Penne Rigate Pasta With Chicken and Pancetta Tomato Sauce Recipe

  1. Nancy October 14, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    I love this recipe, Diane! I scored some San Marzanos at the Farmer's Market last weekend. I roasted them in the oven and then put them through a food mill and now the lovely sauce is waiting in my freezer for a perfect recipe. Thanks for sharing this.