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Garlicky Rigatoni Pasta with Spinach and Toasted Breadcrumbs

Close up of bowl full of garlicky rigatoni pasta with spinach.

Rigatoni pasta is tossed in garlicky olive oil, spinach, crispy toasted breadcrumbs, and chili flakes. A fantastic quick and tasty 20-minute dinner!

Eating less meat is one of the things I’m striving for this year. And this garlicky rigatoni tossed with spinach and toasted breadcrumbs makes it easy. It’s the latest addition to our weeknight dinner rotation and I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon. It’s just too quick and simple to pass up! Not to mention the fact that we always have the ingredients on hand. (You probably do, too.) With minimal effort, this hearty rigatoni pasta can be on your plate in 20 minutes. And since it’s free of meat, it’s the perfect Meatless Monday feast.

Rigatoni pasta is perfect for this dish.

Bowl of uncooked rigatoni.

The word rigatoni is derived from the Italian word rigato, which means “ridged” or “lined”, hence the ridges on the pasta. These ridges make for a clingy surface, allowing things like sauces and cheeses to stick to them much better than smoother pastas, like ziti. Here, the robust clingy rigatoni picks up all of that garlicky goodness, cooked spinach, and toast-y breadcrumbs for a delectable mouthful. You can use any pasta shape you’d like, though. I’m just here to tell you rigatoni is the best choice ;)

This dish was inspired by spaghetti aglio e olio, which is what I meant to make the night this recipe was born. But I decided to change things up at the last minute when I noticed we had an abundance of rigatoni in our pantry. We also had a fair amount of baby spinach in our fridge that was going to quit at life in a day or two, lol.

How to make this recipe.

While the rigatoni cooks, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic. Stirring often, let the garlic simmer for about a minute, until aromatic. Scoop 1 cup of pasta water from your boiling rigatoni and add it to the skillet, then add the spinach. Keep tossing and stirring it around in the hot pan until all of it has wilted down, about 5-7 minutes.

Skillet with oil, garlic, and spinach in it, with a wooden spoon.

Finally, stir in the chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

Skillet with cooked spinach and garlic, and the addition of dried chile flakes, with a wooden spoon.

Heat a small dry saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, dump the Italian breadcrumbs into the pan and let them toast for about 3 minutes or until golden brown and aromatic. Be sure to shake the pan often to prevent burning.

Pan full of toasted breadcrumbs.

When the rigatoni is done, drain it and transfer it to the skillet with the garlic and spinach. Add half of the toasted breadcrumbs and give it a good toss. Add the parmesan and the rest of the breadcrumbs, and stir again. (Adding the toasted breadcrumbs in two segments prevents clumping and gives better coverage.) Season to taste, and dig in!

Skillet full of rigatoni pasta mixed in with garlid, spinach, and breadcrumbs.

I hope you dig this simple pasta dish as much as we do. And if you’re looking to fill your Meatless Mondays with more delicious pasta recipes, check out my Lazy Skillet Lasagna or my Instant Pot Pasta Primavera.

Tag me on Instagram if you make this! @killing__thyme

Skillet full of prepared rigatoni pasta.
Print Pin
5 from 7 votes

Garlicky Rigatoni Pasta with Spinach and Toasted Breadcrumbs

Rigatoni pasta is tossed in garlicky olive oil, spinach, toasted breadcrumbs, and chili flakes for a quick and tasty 20-minute dinner.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword 20 minute, Italian, Pasta, Rigatoni pasta, weeknight dinner
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Dana Sandonato

Ingredients

  • 12 oz rigatoni pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, and sliced
  • 1 cup pasta water
  • 5 oz roughly chopped or ribboned baby spinach (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tsp crushed chili flakes (optional) More or less depending on your heat preference
  • 1/2 cup toasted Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Cracked black pepper

Instructions

  • Cook the rigatoni pasta as per the instructions on the packaging.
  • While the rigatoni cooks, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the garlic. Stirring often, let the garlic simmer for about a minute, until aromatic. Scoop 1 cup of pasta water from your boiling rigatoni and add it to the skillet, then add the spinach. Keep tossing and stirring it around in the hot pan until all of it has wilted down, about 5-7 minutes. Finally, stir in the chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
  • Heat a small dry saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, dump the Italian breadcrumbs into the pan and let them toast for about 3 minutes or until golden brown and aromatic. Be sure to shake the pan often to prevent burning.
  • When the rigatoni is done, drain it and transfer it to the skillet with the garlic and spinach. Add half of the toasted breadcrumbs and give it a good toss. Add the parmesan and the rest of the breadcrumbs, and stir again. Adding the toasted breadcrumbs in two segments prevents clumping and gives better coverage.
  • Taste, and season with salt and pepper to your taste. Add extra chili flakes if you're up to it!

7 Comments

  • Claudia
    February 13, 2020 at 9:47 am

    5 stars
    One of my new favorite recipes for weeknights! So simple. A nice kicked up version of aglio e olio like you said. The toasted breadcrumbs are a genius move.

    Reply
  • Trish Bozeman
    February 6, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    5 stars
    Breadcrumbs are something that seriously MAKE a pasta dish, but for some reason I often skip. Now I’m kicking that mindset right out of my brain because they are so easy and make all pasta better! LOL! Love the quick, garlicky sauce with the spicy flakes. Great recipe, Dana!

    Reply
  • Carmy
    February 3, 2020 at 10:08 pm

    5 stars
    I literally just bought a box of rigatoni pasta because I was “out” – no reason for the replenish but it’s just something I like to have in my pantry. So you’re totally right with this recipe being a pantry staple. I love that you toasted breadcrumbs as well – it adds a nice extra layer of texture to this that really makes it a household favourite!

    Reply
  • Debra
    February 3, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    5 stars
    YUM. I love how you build the flavor with so much garlic and chili flakes. The toasted breadcrumbs add another layer of texture and taste. A winner. Always looking for more tasty meatless dinner ideas.

    Reply
  • Sean@Diversivore
    February 3, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    5 stars
    PASTA FOR LIFE. Amaaaaazing recipe (and it looks incredible too). Garlicky, simple, and perfect. The spinach is a great way to round it out, and the breadcrumbs are a fantastic idea for adding more flavour and texture. I could see this becoming a go-to recipe quite easily. Great stuff Dana!

    Reply
  • Lisa
    January 30, 2020 at 9:41 am

    5 stars
    Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!!! This is the ultimate for meatless Mondays! Love that bit of spice from the chili flakes and your toasted breadcrumbs are positively inspired. So few ingredients and yet so much flavor. Pour the wine and pass a plate!

    Reply
  • Gloria
    January 29, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    5 stars
    I am a pasta lover. I could eat it EVERY DAY!! This sounds delicious. I think I will get the ingredients and make it this weekend. With a nice bottle of wine….this will be a winner for sure.

    Reply

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