Any given weeknight, there’s a 75 percent chance that I’m making pasta for dinner. There are many reasons for this—it’s quick, easy, and helps me use up leftovers in the pantry and fridge—but the #1 reason is simple. I just love a good plate of pasta!
What Is Paccheri?
Paccheri (pronounced pa-care-e, not pa-chair-e) is a large, smooth, tube-shaped pasta from Campania in southwestern Italy; you may also see it called schiaffoni. It’s said to take its name from the Neapolitan word paccherià, “to slap,” which may refer to the sound made when eating the pasta or the sound it makes when sauce is being poured on top.
According to The Pasta Project, paccheri has been around for a long time in the region around Naples. It was previously considered a pasta shape for the poor since the pieces are large and filling, and you could feed many people with smaller quantities.
This is one of my favorite pasta shapes because you have to eat one piece at a time and can therefore really savor the distinct chewy texture of the pasta. It’s commonly served with a thick, saucy ragu which gets conveniently caught in the large tubes. Paccheri is also served stuffed, similar to cannelloni.
Paccheri vs. Rigatoni
Paccheri is often compared to a more commonly found pasta shape, rigatoni. While at a brief glance they may seem incredibly similar due to their overall tube shape, they have their differences. Paccheri is visibly larger and wider than rigatoni. It’s also more commonly smooth on the outside (although it can be found ridged), whereas rigatoni always has its signature ridges.
One thing these pasta shapes have in common is how they’re served. Both rigatoni and paccheri go extremely well with thick sauces and ragu, so if you’re in a pinch and can’t find paccheri, rigatoni makes a good substitute.
How to Cook Paccheri Pasta
Paccheri takes 7 to 10 minutes to cook to a perfect al dente. The best way to test if the pasta is cooked is simply to taste one. Paccheri is a thick, large pasta, so I always fish one out and cut it in half to give it a taste test, throwing the remaining half back into the pot.
We’re looking for it to retain its shape and chew. It will have some time to finish cooking in the sauce, so it’s better to pull it out a bit early than too late.
How to Make Paccheri with Sausage Ragu
As with many weeknight pastas, you’ll put your multitasking skills to use here.
While the pot of water comes up to a boil, prep your ingredients and get your sausage ragu going. You should have plenty of time to focus on your ragu and bring that together, but keep your eye on the pasta water and, once it’s boiling, add the salt and the paccheri.
As the pasta boils, scoop out some pasta water to thin out the ragu and transform it into a thick sauce. The heavy cream comes in last, just before you add the pasta, and then everything simmers in the pan for a few minutes to really come together. The tubes of paccheri will catch the ragu and the creamy sauce will coat the pasta.
Variations and Substitutions
The best weeknight pasta recipes are those that are adaptable, and this quick sausage ragu is just that. Think of it as a blueprint—you can follow it precisely or play with it to make it your own. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Use sweet sausage instead of spicy sausage
- Leave out the sausage altogether and opt for a simple creamy tomato sauce instead
- Leave out the heavy cream for a more tomato-forward sauce
- Add sliced red bell peppers or halved cherry tomatoes to the ragu along with the onions
- Use white onion or shallot instead of red onion
- Add an Italian herb seasoning instead of fennel seed and chili flakes
How to Store Leftovers
As with many pasta dishes, this recipe is best served and eaten as soon as it’s made, as the texture changes when cooled and reheated. If you want to make less, halve the recipe for 2 servings.
If you do end up with leftovers, store them in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Add a sprinkle of water and loosely cover it before microwaving until warm.
Quick and Easy Weeknight Pastas
- Vegan Cacio e Pepe
- Chicken Carbonara
- Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
- Creamy Miso Mushroom Pasta
- One-Pot Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Artichokes, and Capers
Prep the pasta water:
Set a large pot of water over medium-high heat. Cover and bring to a boil.
Start the ragu:
Set a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. Once melted, add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent and slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the fennel seeds and chili flakes (if using) and cook for another minute. Add the sausage, breaking it up in the pan as it cooks. Sauté until the sausage is nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and lower the heat to low. Let cook, stirring often, while you start cooking the pasta.
Cook the pasta:
Once the pot of water is boiling, season with salt and add the pasta. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. A few minutes before the pasta is done cooking, reserve 1 1/4 cups of pasta water for the ragu.
Finish the ragu:
While the pasta finishes cooking, add the reserved pasta water to the ragu and turn the heat back up to medium. The sauce should be simmering and start to thicken. When the pasta is just about done, add the heavy cream.
Finish the pasta and serve:
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta directly into the pan with the ragu. Gently stir or toss together to coat the pasta in the sauce. Once the pasta is coated and the sauce has thickened up, about 3 minutes, remove from the heat. Taste, adding salt if needed.
Serve immediately topped with black pepper, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and basil.
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