Federica Cucinelli’s Rigatoni with Tomato and Basil

This is a simple summer time pasta that highlights all the fresh picked garden tomatoes to perfection and lets the flavors shine


The inspiration

I came across the article on nytimes.com over a month ago and held onto it waiting for the day when my garden tomatoes would be ripe and ready. This pasta recipe by Italian luxury brand designer Brunello Cucinelli’s wife Federica looked like the perfect one to try.  

We had just picked a harvest of juicy tomatoes from our garden with our cousins who were visiting from Austin, Texas, and these tomatoes were looking great.


All I kept thinking is what is the best way to use my garden tomatoes to show of their bright flavors and started looking for a good recipe that would highlight their freshness.


How to host a relaxed dinner party like and Italian

Funnily the article was not about this pasta recipe at all.  The topic of the article was about how to host a relaxed yet opulent dinner party – Italian style.  How to Host a Relaxed Dinner Party Like an Italian.

Brunello Cucinelli was sharing his tips on how he hosts lunch and dinner soirées that are always a hit.  This was an awesome article from the NYtimes Food section with a few basic tips on how any of us can host a wonderful party.  

If you are curious about what Cucinelli’s Italian dinner party tips are, I’ve included his key success factors at the end of this recipe.

Simple all-time favorite pasta

In the article Cucinelli talked about his all-time favorite pasta dish: his wife Federica’s rigatoni with tomato and basil.  To quote from the article

‘Cucinelli howls with delight at the thought of this dish his wife Federica makes for him. What renders it superlative is a perfect pasta texture and abundant sauce. “The pasta should be swimming in the tomatoes,” he says.’


The recipe

This recipe is so simple that I have to admit I wasn’t sure the pasta was going to turn out delicious, but I had faith that if a native Italian and that too an Italian designer shared this pasta recipe, then it must be good.  And it was!  


The pasta highlights all the fresh picked garden tomatoes to perfection and lets the flavors shine so beautifully that I will be making this pasta many times over the summer with fresh tomatoes from my garden.  Fedrica Cucinelli’s pasta with cherry tomatoes sauce


This truly was one of the simplest in flavor and the most delicious pastas I have made. Try it with fresh garden tomatoes this summer.

Rigatoni Pasta with Tomato and Basil
recipe by Federica Cucinelli, wife of Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli from nytimes.com  Federica Cucinelli’s pasta with tomato and basil


  • 1 lb rigatoni pasta
  • 4 cups cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • 5-7 fresh basil leaves plus more for garnish
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil


  • Bring water to a boil and cook pasta al-dente according to package directions.
  • Meantime, in a pan heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add all the cherry tomatoes and pinch of salt. Cook on medium heat until tomatoes release their juices.
  • Add fresh basil leaves and continue to cook tomatoes, adding more pasta water as needed to create a saucy texture. I added about 1-cup pasta water.
  • Once pasta is cooked al-dente, add it immediately to the tomatoes, saving some of the pasta water to use later. Add black pepper and Parmesan cheese and cook for 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted and a creamy sauce is formed.  Add more pasta water to make a sauce like consistency.
  • Once cheese is melted, pasta is ready. Serve garnished with chopped basil leaves and sprinkle of more Parmesan cheese.

About Brunello Cucinelli:

From nytimes.com:  “A humble farmer’s son and onetime engineering student who dropped out of university, Cucinelli became a self-taught philosopher before he began selling cashmere sweaters, and eventually launched his company with a distinctively humanistic formulation of what a capitalist enterprise could achieve — for which he is being awarded Germany’s prestigious Global Economy Prize for “Honorable Merchant” this Sunday.

His finely crafted goods — the epitome of understated Italian ease — are almost all made by workers who are paid above average and enjoy a theater, an amphitheater, a library and a cafeteria serving locally grown food (all built by Cucinelli) in Solomeo, the antiquated Umbrian village that is his wife’s hometown.”

How to host a dinner party like an Italian

Curious about how to host a successful lunch or dinner soirée like an Italian? In this article Brunello Cucinelli gave ten tips for entertaining the Italian style, but for regular folks like me they were not all practical. So here are Brunello Cucinelli’s five most practical entertaining tips that any one of us can emulate to make sure our own soirees are a hit.

Respect the Meal as a Sacred Ritual

“When we were just a family of farmers, we didn’t have lights in the house and so what was life about for us? It was meals,” Cucinelli says.

Never try to Snapchat a Cucinelli dinner. No devices are allowed at the table, and everyone dines together, whether it’s at his grand Florence affair or during the daily lunch in his company cafeteria.”



Dim the Lights

“I was born by candlelight,” he says. “A meal deserves that kind of softness.” At the Florence dinner, pillar candles illuminated centerpieces of thyme, rosemary, oregano and lavender plants, and votive flames lined the winding garden paths with flashing, honey-toned light.”


What’s Disposable Is Worthless

“No paper, no plastic, no throwaway item will ever grace Cucinelli’s tables, which he covers in tablecloths of the finest fabrics, and sets with glass, silver and china. Everything tastes better, he says.”


Take Time to Debate and Consider Life

“If we lose these very important, very beautiful moments of debate, of polemos as Heraclitus called it, we lose the real sense of an encounter — and we’ll lose the joy of living,” he says.


The Greatest Luxuries Are Silence and Time

“I didn’t have TV growing up. I had the stars,” he says. “If you lift your eyes to the skies, life will look different to you.”

The contemplative evenings left him with a vast appreciation for quiet, so as a gift to his guests, Cucinelli eschewed music for his Pitti Uomo dinner party, preferring to help them focus their attention on the overgrown cedars, cypresses and palm trees of the villa’s garden, and the bright three-quarter moon above. “


Here is a link to this fun and illuminating article from nytimes.com How to Host a Relaxed Dinner Party Like an Italian.

Buon Appetito! 🍷🍝

6 thoughts on “Federica Cucinelli’s Rigatoni with Tomato and Basil”

  1. Very nice post Kalpana. Enjoyed reading.
    The pasta recipe is great. Will make it. Mom likes the penne pasta.

    1. Thanks Basanthi. I loved Cucinelli’s entertaining tips, we can all try and follow them and I am sure our guests will feel very special when they come over. The pasta recipe was outstanding, definitely try it!

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