pork rigatoni with peppers
pork rigatoni with peppers

Rigatoni with Pork and Peppers

This simple, rustic rigatoni dish is earthy and savory. It's a fine well-balanced Italian dinner. You will especially love the sausage-like freshness of fennel and pork paired with the spicy, sweetness of summer peppers and tomatoes.

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes
Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on email

 This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Recipe Rundown

pasta rigatoni with pork and pepper, tomato sauce

Step aside spaghetti because rigatoni is the cool new kid. The noodles are like extra wide penne pasta. Rigatoni pasta really grabs sauce. Believe me, you’re going to want your noodles all up in this crazy delicious sauce.

ground pork simmering in tomato and pepper sauce with fennel

As you can imagine by the color alone, this vibrant sauce carries the essence of the summer sun. Not to mention the aroma of fennel steam wafting through the air.

You see, the reason why this works has everything to do with synergy: from the moment the pork touches the hot oil to the moment you grate Pecorino Romano over top, you are layering flavors. It’s the kind of straight-forward dinner that your s.o. (significant other) will love you for.

The Building Blocks of a Flavorful Pepper Sauce

peppers (fresno and baby bell)
combination of fresno chile peppers and mini bell peppers

How Salt and Sugar Affect Flavor

Salt is a well known flavor enhancer, making sugar the over-looked younger sibling. It sounds strange, but sugar has the unique ability to unlock more of the sweet dimension of tomatoes and peppers during the cooking process. Don’t just take my word for it. Try it for yourself.

I’m confident that once you experience what sugar can do for your savory cooking, you will reach for it as instinctively as salt. In this recipe, tomatoes are graced with…dun-dun-dun-dun…coconut sugar. Similar to brown sugar, coconut sugar is intensely robust and good enough to lick off the palm of your hand.

Recipe Snapshot

Star Ingredient: peppers
Flavor Affinities: TOMATO + PORK + FENNEL + PEPPERS
Function: cooling
Tastes: sweet, spicy, savory, tangy
Textures: saucy, chewy
Ease: easy
Method: simmering
Wisdom: A reduction of fresh summer peppers and tomatoes becomes intensely flavorful with layers of seasoning from beginning to end.

Watch this how-to video for the Rigatoni with pork and pepper sauce

Pork is a natural choice for tomatoes and peppers. Consider the classic example of sausage pizza. As it turns out, you already know peppers, tomatoes, fennel, and pork are flavor affinities. Sometimes, when I am looking for inspiration, I take what I already know and try to re-construct it into something new.

how to cook pork with tomatoes and peppers
rigatoni served with ground pork, pepper and tomato sauce

The last thing I will leave you with is this: always salt from the beginning to the middle…to the very end. When you use salt in the beginning of this recipe (like all recipes), you need less of it. Your taste buds will thank you.

Rigatoni with Pork and Peppers

This simple, rustic rigatoni dish is earthy and savory. It's a fine well-balanced Italian dinner. You will especially love the sausage-like freshness of fennel and pork paired with the spicy, sweetness of summer peppers and tomatoes.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: pasta, peppers, pork, Rigatoni, tomato
Prep Time: 0 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 735kcal
Author: Chef Sara Furcini


  • 8 oz Rigatoni or penne
  • 3 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  • 8 oz mild peppers such as fresno or baby bell peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 oz parmesan freshly grated
  • 2 oz Pecorino Romano freshly grated
  • 1 lemon zest and juice


  • Fill a large pot 3/4 full with water and add 3 large pinches of kosher salt. Bring to a boil and add rigatoni. Stir to prevent sticking, then cook until tender all the way through. Strain.
  • Begin building the sauce in a large pan over medium heat. Start by adding olive oil and cook the pork for a few minutes. Stir every so often to break up the size of the ground pork – browning is a good thing.
  • Season the pork as it cooks with a pinch of salt, fennel seeds, paprika, and cayenne. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add coconut sugar and 1 tsp salt and heat another minute.
  • Slice the peppers and discard the stems (keep the seeds though). Layer the cherry tomtoes and peppers into the pan and stir. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the tomatoes and peppers are VERY tender and juicy.
  • Add minced garlic and shave the Parmesan over the pan using a microplane or the small holes of a cheese grater. Then add the rigatoni and cover to steam the noodles a bit (2 minutes).
  • Shave lemon zest and Pecorino Romano over the pasta in layers of 3. For example, shave a bit and cook 1 minute. Then stir. Shave some more, cook 1 minute. Then stir. Serve right away.



Use any mild variety of peppers, such as fresno or baby bell peppers. Do not discard the seeds.
Use cherry tomatoes for their sweet flavor or grape tomatoes.
If your cayenne powder is dull red (not bright red), then throw it out and buy fresh. Cayenne goes bad quickly and imparts a bitter taste to food when it’s old.
Pecorino Romano:
This cheese is funkier than Parmesan cheese and has an intense flavor. Taste a small piece to make sure you like it. If you don’t, you can just use Parmesan in this recipe.


Serving: 1bowl | Calories: 735kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 42g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 101mg | Sodium: 949mg | Potassium: 889mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1450IU | Vitamin C: 108.7mg | Calcium: 298mg | Iron: 3.2mg

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which may pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you!

More Italian Recipes:

Looking for more Italian food? Then you are going to love these Dutch Oven Meatballs, Valentine Tuile Cannoli, or this Thin Crust Pizza.

More Recipes

Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 days ago

This turned out fantastic! I did use more paprika in my version 😊

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x