Friday, August 18, 2017

Rigatoni al Segreto – Dinner and a Movie

This Rigatoni al Segreto recipe was the most closely guarded secret at Gino’s, one of New York City’s most famous Italian restaurants. It was as legendary, as their signature zebra-print wallpaper, and it won awards as the best red sauce in town. 

While there were rumors that the secret ingredient was butter, no one really knew for sure. Once the restaurant closed in 2010, the recipe got out, and indeed, the butter legend was confirmed. Having never been there, I was excited to try it, but there was a big problem. Actually, a small problem. The recipe called for just a half-tablespoon of butter. Regulars knew this couldn’t be right, and so the recipe remained a mystery. Was it a typo? Was the old chef just trolling people?

We may never have known; had it not been for a documentary called, “The Missing Ingredient.” It’s a great film, but despite the name, it’s not about the butter. However, there’s a scene near the end, where the old chef makes this pasta for the filmmaker, and it shows how much butter goes in.

He made a much larger amount than the published version, but I concluded that it was a typo, and should’ve been half a stick of butter. So, not only am I recommending that you make this delicious sauce, but I also really hope you checkout the movie soon (it’s on Netflix). Enjoy!


Ingredients for four small or two large portions:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 or 3 cloves crushed garlic
a pinch of red pepper flakes (not in original recipe)
1 can (28 oz) San Marzano tomatoes, blended smooth
1/2 cup water to rinse out the can of tomatoes
Small handful of basil leaves, left whole or sliced just before adding
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1.5 oz by weight), plus more to top
4 tablespoons butter, cubed
*8 ounces dry rigatoni

* This recipe probably makes enough sauce to coat 12 oz of pasta, but I like lots of sauce.

39 comments:

Zeke Mystique said...

Salted or Unsalted butter?

Zeke Mystique said...

Salted or Unsalted butter?

Kennapop3 said...

I will of course use my own tomatoes picked at the peak of perfection and home canned, with just the right amount of core removed. the rest of course will be as close as I chose to come ? or not to all the other secrets.

Melissia said...

I'm definitely looking forward to trying this out. You can order that exact can of San Marzanos on Amazon, which I'm going to try out.

DOP by the way means "Denominazione d' Origine Protetta", or asI'm told it translates to, "Protected Designation of Origin". It's a European thing, basically means this is legitimately from the area it claims to be from. A pity this isn't done in the US...

This is also something you want to look for with Parmiggiano, as well.

Bill said...

Just spitballing here, but could one substitute a shake-shake of cayenne powder for the "pinch of red pepper flakes"?

zmajooov said...

Mighty chef John, i always wanted to make my sauce have a nice basil taste to it but never managed to pull it off, so i ask you if there is a trick or a way to make the tomato sauce have that beautiful basil aroma. Thanks

me me said...

Just for the record, for us downtrodden peasants in the UK, "The Missing Ingredient" isn't available here. :-(((

Jordan Holcroft said...

Hey Chef John,

Could I prepare the sauce with the butter and the basil and store it in the fridge?

Thanks,
Jordan

Phil Lusardi said...

Wait a second... you used a stick blender for tomatoes AND used the term "mouthfeel" in the same video?
Where did you go on vacation?... bougie school?

Kris Mucci said...

This recipe has been up less than 12 hrs and already over 66k views on YouTube.

Amazing!

Steve said...

This is a very similar profile to Marcella Hazan's famous three ingredient sauce. The same can of San Marzano tomatoes, a stick of butter, and an onion. It's an amazing sauce and I'm sure this one will be as well. I plan to try it later this week.

Campbell Bruce said...

@me me, get them either at wholefoods or order on amazon.

Davin Fossum said...

I was expecting anchovy paste to be in the recipe, would that be too much though?

Unknown said...

The part in the documentary, "The Missing Ingredient" that Chef John refers to is @ 50:35 in the film.

aaassss said...

Wow, what a delicious recipe, my new favourite tomato sauce.

Can you please do a fool proof recipe for cacio e pepe?

Julie Biddle said...

In my university days a friend had a secret ingredient in her spaghetti sauce. A little marijuana leaf (dried). If it's legal in your area I heartily recommend trying it. It has a bit of a buttery/oregano flavour. A teaspoon of the dried leaves in a pot of sauce (or more if you like) isn't going to get you high, but it does add flavour like any herb.

rotunder said...

Chef John, first of all thanks for the recipe.

Secondly, I have a question about cooking the onions. On some other recipes I have noticed they will cook the onions on medium temp, for about 10 mins, rather than med-high for about 5? Is there much difference in the taste/texture there, or is it preference thing or maybe time saving? Please let me know...

Dale Moser said...

Chef John,

To me there are two parts of a recipe: ingredients and directions. As near as I can tell you provide no directions with your recipes. Am I missing something?

Dan Bauer said...

I made this yesterday, ate the entire batch like it was a bowl of soup (I'm trying to minimize carb intake at the moment). Goshdarn delicious!

Jenny Livingston said...

Made this yesterday and while I added a few ingredients too early, it came out amazing. I got san marzano tomatoes that were grown in the US but other than that, everything was the same.
Amazing pasta dish. I feel it could even do with some mushrooms added as well, which I will for sure try next time I make it.

This one is going in the books under "Keepers"

Howard Bischof said...

Just made it. Epic!

LogicApe said...

I made this tonight and it was dynamite! A few less onions than Chef John, and mine reduced a bit more, but the taste is spot on. My Publix had two or three brands of San Marzano tomatoes. Super good - I can't wait to make it again!

Michelin said...

We made this last weekend, and it was fantastic. It was super simple to make. We used high quality ingredients all around, including my favorite brand of pasta (Baia). I've made similar sauces before, but none with the butter. The butter is truly the magic in this dish because everything just tasted elevated.

J Baroody said...

My nephew just sent me this link. We bounce Italian dish recipes off each other. Funny thing is I was able to give him some context because I had eaten in Ginos a few times when I lived in NYC. It was just north of Bloomingdales on the opposite side of Lexington Ave. The bright red wallpaper with the zebra pattern was arresting, to be sure. The atmosphere was definitely upper Eastside, but in an old school, old world kind of way. They had their share of celebrity diners, but again, it was all low key.
I can't remember ever being disappointed with the food. All the dishes I had there were excellent. Instead of the rigatoni, I usually had homemade ravioli with that sauce. Are there more Gino recipes out there?

beemo said...

I am eating this as I type. Fantastic. All done with correct ingredients, san marzanos, fresh basil, reggiano, etc. Thanks again

Bret Frohwein said...

I made this tonight. it's amazing!

Thank you for the recipe

FRivera said...

Chef John, thanks for reminding me of Gino's in Manhattan, at Lexington and 61 Street. After I left my first real job, I stayed on good terms with my former boss, she treated me a couple of times to non-business dinners. After I left, I insisted on inviting her out for one last dinner together. She chose Gino's; she was a regular there and well-loved by the wait staff. I can't remember what I ordered, but I think it was some type of pasta with chicken. Not sure if it was Rigatoni al Segreto, but if I didn't have it, certainly it was my loss. Sorry I don't remember. I think that was in either 1987, or 1988, not sure. Thanks for bringing up the fond memories.

John said...

You could cook the butter with the tomato sauce right from the beginning, much like Marcella Hazan's famous Marinara recipe, which this reminds me of.

Karen said...

My husband ate 3 platefuls exclaiming, "This tastes SO good!" with each plate. Then he gave it his highest praise and told me that I could make it again. Next time, I'll use a higher quality cheese.

Patrick said...

Chef - Can I make this without the butter ?

Daniel McIntyre said...

I might try adding a bit of mild Italian Sausage to the sauce and using the Irish butter I have in the fridge.

goldpanman said...

This was excellent! It tasted so good I thought I was eating at a fancy Italian restaurant. I couldn't find the San Marzano tomatoes but I did find a brand of Italian plum tomatoes. It was worth the extra price. This is definitely going into my favorites recipe folder. Thanks for the recipe Chef John.

msPaulaA1 said...



@ Zeke, if you use unsalted butter you can better control the amount of salt added to the sauce - better to have to add salt to taste at the end than to have it too salty to taste.

Wait - No Anchovy Paste?
I am thinking that even as great as this sauce was the first time I made it that a little smear of anchovy paste in the oil at the beginning before the onions would add a bit more depth to the tomato flavor.

Dennis said...

Chef, I made this tonight for dinner and it was superb. Thank you for this incredible recipe!

Jacinta Teresa said...

Hi chef, this recipe was so easy and simply Delicious! When I opened the can, the smell was so fragrant and the tomatoes (which I smashed with a fork) were in a thick sauce. Thanx for another great recipe!!

Thekhaled said...

Great stuff chef John! The butter did it! I also added in some extra olive oil in the end and my god that's some silky smooth tomato sauce right there! And as always, I enjoyed!

Vineyard said...

Late comment, but anyway.

Thank you very much fpr sharing this. It was delicious and reminded me and my mother of our Vactions in Italia, back in my childhood.


Tako toma said...

This sauce is lit. Best damn sauce, I used aged Americana Grana this time, and it turned out fantastic, although I compensated with using some really damn good Amish butter... So good. Thank you your recipes are the best!

Chris P said...

@Zeke - Always assume unsalted.