Radiatori pasta tossed with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes is an easy, flavorful dish. The spinach and sundried tomatoes are cooked with pancetta and red pepper flakes and then finished with some Pecorino Romano cheese, all while the pasta cooks. In no time you have a delicious pasta dish to put on the table even on the busiest weeknight.
Every component of this dish adds another dimension of flavor and the radiatori makes it fun to eat. When I was growing up, pasta was part of our daily diet. Whether it was a dried pasta dish, like Penne Pomodoro or a fresh homemade pasta, it was part of our dinner just about everyday.
As a kid the short squat pasta shapes were my favorite because of the way they held on to thick sauces and they were easier to eat. I have to admit not much has changed! Now Casarecce with Pesto is one of my favorites. If you want to try a tasty long pasta give Trenette al Pesto a go!
What is radiatori pasta?
Radiatori is a short pasta shape that appears to resemble the grill of a radiator from an automobile. To some they look like old-fashioned heating fixtures. There is some debate about it’s origin, but the inspiration for it’s shape seems to have come from the Italian auto industry. Some say that it was first introduced between WWI and WWII, while others contend that it was created around 1960.
Radiatori is typically made from durum wheat semolina flour, which produces a high gluten pasta that holds up well and cooks to a lovely al dente bite. It is made using an extrusion type of mold that creates a rough surface, so the pasta is able to stand up to hearty sauces.
Radiatori pasta is wonderfully versatile. Similar to rotini and other squat pasta shapes, radiatori are great for holding chunky sauces like this one. The folds and curves also work well with creamy sauces, soup, pasta salad and baked pasta.
Ingredients notes and substitutions
As with most Italian dishes, simple ingredients create great flavor. That is why when it comes to food, in order to have the best experience you should use fresh premium ingredients.
- Pancetta adds a smokey pork flavor to the pasta but if you can’t find it you can substitute a thick good quality bacon instead.
- Sun-dried tomatoes are one of the main components to this dish. They have a much more concentrated sweetness then fresh tomatoes and they add a delightful texture to the dish. You can use a dried version or those preserved in oil. If you use the dried version, they will need to be reconstituted in boiling water before chopping them and adding them to the dish.
- The white wine can be any variety you like. I prefer something a little more oaky and robust like a Chardonnay. Just make sure that you enjoy the flavor of the wine as it will become more concentrated as it cooks.
- Spinach is the other main ingredient in this chunky sauce and for this dish I like using frozen spinach that has been thawed. Don’t bother straining the liquid out, just go ahead and add it to the sauce.
- Pecorino Romano cheese provides a wonderful saltiness to the dish. You can substitute grated parmesan.
- Radiatori Pasta is the star ingredient, but if you can’t find it, you can substitute other similar pastas like rotini, girelli, campanelle, or cavatappi.
How to make Radiatori with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Cook the radiatori pasta in a large pot of salted water and in the mean time brown the pancetta in olive oil. Cook until it is crispy. remove it from the pan and set it aside.
- Cook the garlic, red pepper flakes and sun-dried tomatoes in the same pan until the garlic is just fragrant. Add the white wine to the pan and cook until it is reduced by have.
- Stir in the spinach and any liquid and cook until the spinach is heated through.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta water. Pour the pasta into the sauté pan. Mix well and add some pasta water if the pasta is too dry. Remove the pasta from the heat and mix in the pancetta and pecorino romano. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish and pass more cheese at the table.
Radiatori pasta FAQ’s
In this recipe I am using a dried pasta product, which takes about 8-12 minutes to cook. I recommend following the package instructions for the brand you are using. If you are using fresh pasta, the cooking time would be closer to 3 minutes.
Generally cooking times will vary slightly depending on how al dente (toothy) you want the pasta to be when you add it to your sauce. In most cases the pasta will continue to cook in the sauce so you will want to remove from the boiling water closer to the 8 minute mark. In this recipe you will simply be tossing the pasta with the spinach mixture so you can allow it to cook a little longer.
This pasta dish can be served as your main course with a side salad. You can also make this your first course or a “primo” as they do in Italy. Follow it with a meat course like Grilled Lollipop Lamb Chops or Lemon Pepper Salmon with Dill.
For a while most supermarkets imported this pasta from Italy and many still do. Most recently, more US pasta companies have been producing radiatori as well. Some of the more common brands available are Colvita, Anna and Garofalo. You can find radiatori in many local grocery stores and Italian food stores. Wegmans, Walmart and Target all carry this shape under their own brand, along with other less common pasta shapes.
I love to get your feedback so if you tried this recipe for Radiatori Pasta with Spinach and Sun Dried Tomatoes or any other recipes on this website, please leave me a comment below. I hope you enjoy our recipes and look forward to hearing from you!
Radiatori with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 4 oz Pancetta diced
- 1 clove Garlic large
- ¼ tsp Red pepper flakes
- ⅓ cup Sun-Dried tomatoes chopped
- ½ cup White wine
- 16 oz Spinach frozen, thawed and chopped
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese grated
- 1 lb. Radiatori Pasta
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan set over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy. Remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside. Lower the heat to medium low and add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the oil. Cook just until fragrant about a minute.
- Add the sun-dried tomatoes to the pan and cook one minute. Carefully pour the wine in to the pan and cook until it is reduced by half. Stir in the spinach, any liquid and salt. Cook for a minute or two and remove from the heat.
- When the pasta is cooked to al dente, reserve 1½ cups of pasta water and drain the rest. Transfer the pasta to the sauté pan, add the pancetta and romano cheese and toss with the spinach. Add a little of the pasta water to loosen the sauce a bit if it is too dry. Serve with more cheese for sprinkling.