A Not-So Secret Addiction

When a person is addicted to something, it usually involves a negative connotation – hush hush gossip, shunned by friends, followed by eventual intervention and rehabilitation to get the person off of said substance. However, when that substance is food, somehow the person is now a connoisseur, someone worth admiring – a high brow intellect with in depth knowledge of substances worth seeking.

Words & Photos by: DINEGIRL

In NYC, there are a gazillion restaurants which offer memorable meals and dishes. The truly special places have something on the menu which keeps you coming back. The really unbelievable places have one dish that you absolutely must have, will rearrange flight schedules for, and yet you are reluctant to tell too many people about it since you can’t just let anyone in on such a great secret. In other words, you can’t just share your addiction with everyone.

There’s a magical restaurant (everything on the menu is amazing, seasonal,and special) in the East Village called Lavagna which has a pasta dish so addictive that leaves you dreaming of it, craving it, and doing bad things (like breaking your diet – hey now, family show here…) to get more of it.

It is their Rigatoni with Sausage…. so simple and straightforward, yet there’s something soul satisfying that you don’t know what you would do if they took it off the menu. In a quest to bring this addiction home, a mini journey yielded surprisingly successful results.

For the Sauce:

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 small yellow onion – finely chopped

2-3 links mild Italian sausage – casing removed

1/4 cup dry white wine or vodka

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 tin (14.5 oz size) San Marzano crushed tomatoes

1 cup frozen peas

1/4 cup heavy cream

extra knob of butter (1 Tbsp)

kosher salt and pepper


1 tsp kosher salt

2 cups rigatoni

freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


– Heat the butter and oil together in a large skillet over medium heat. Lower heat to medium low and add the chopped onion. Add a small pinch of salt and stir lightly. Cook until soft and light, about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

– Raise the heat to high and add the sausage. While it’s browning, break up the sausage with a wooden spoon and cook until the little bits have a golden brown color, 3 to 4 minutes. Once browned, add a pinch of salt and lots of pepper.

– Squeeze in the tomato paste in the center of the skillet so it cooks a little and stir it in with the meat, 30 seconds.

– Add the wine or vodka and stir until almost all of it has evaporated. About 2 minutes, you need to make sure the alcohol is cooked off.

– Add the tinned tomato and stir. Once the sauce comes to a boil, lower the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce is simmering…


– Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the salt and then add in the pasta. Stir it so it doesn’t stick together. Cook for about 6-8 minutes to al dente. (grab a fork and taste one if you’re not sure).

– Lightly drain the pasta and return it to the pot (a little pasta water in the pot is fine!)


– Add in the frozen peas, lower the heat to super low or turn off

– Add the cream and knob of butter, stir the sauce and check the seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if needed


– Once you’re happy with the sauce, spoon over about 2 ladles of sauce over the pasta and lightly mix together so that the pasta gets a nice coating. Add more sauce if you prefer. Divide into bowls and serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and freshly cracked black pepper.

Dinegirl is not responsible for any rigatoni related weight gain or subsequent stints in rigatoni rehab.

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Words by DINEGIRL Photos by DINEGIRL