I have enjoyed Maggiano’s ever since Allan and I went to their location on the Vegas Strip for our first anniversary. Their menu offers Italian classics like chicken marsala, lasagna, and ravioli, but what I really enjoy there is Maggiano’s Rigatoni Arrabbiata.
Deconstructing the Recipe
In working on this copycat recipe, I started by looking visually at the meal. I saw large rigatoni noodles, chunks of chicken, a pale orange sauce, and bits of spinach. There’s some ricotta folded in, and its not overly saucy.
While I have notes on preparing the chicken later, it’s clear the sauce is the star. So next I thought about the name, specifically the Arrabbiata in Maggiano’s Rigatoni Arrabbiata. Arrabbiata is a classic Italian sauce known for being spicy; however, it is not usually a creamy sauce. Arrabbiata actually means “angry” in Italian. I assumed from the description “spicy tomato cream sauce” coupled with the name of the dish “Maggiano’s Rigatoni Arrabbiata” meant that the sauce must be a classic arrabbiata sauce with heavy cream added. The ricotta folded in probably further cuts the heat.
Next I wanted tips on spicing the sauce. After searching for Maggiano’s ingredients list, I found that they keep specific ingredients rather vague. Grilled chicken, spinach, and spicy tomato cream sauce are the only listed ingredients. I figured then to leave the spicing on the sauce simple and with common ingredients: salt, pepper, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes for heat.
I also noticed in the dish that there were flecks of spinach both in the sauce and on top of the dish, meaning some of the spinach needed to be cooked into the sauce. This is easily done in the last 5 minutes of simmering the creamy sauce.
Finally, you will notice that Maggiano’s Rigatoni Arrabbiata is served thoroughly mixed, instead of as pasta with sauce on top. This ensures every bite is full of the sauce’s flavors. To achieve this, I simply mixed everything together in the sauce at the end and served.
How to prepare Maggiano’s Rigatoni Arrabbiata Chicken
I recommend starting your Maggiano’s Rigatoni Arrabbiata by first preparing your chicken breast. Per the Maggiano’s menu, their chicken is grilled before being added to the sauce. Unfortunately that’s not always possible to do at home – sometimes it’s too cold to grill, or you don’t have one. So instead of grilling, I prepare the chicken breast by pounding it flat, seasoning, and frying in canola oil. Frying in the oil adds deeper flavor plus some color to the exterior of the chicken, which makes up for the grill lines you would have got by grilling the chicken.
A benefit of cooking your chicken indoors in a skillet is that you can re-use the same skillet to make your sauce. Add the olive oil to whatever oil and drippings are already in the skillet then begin frying your onions for the sauce. This will add a deeper flavor than your pasta sauce would have otherwise.
How to prepare Maggiano’s Rigatoni Arrabbiata Sauce
In this Maggiano’s Rigatoni Arrabiata recipe I’ve given a relatively easy method to prepare your Arrabbiata sauce. There are just two parts to be careful with. First, when you add your garlic and red chili flakes to the fried onions, stir quickly and reduce the heat if things are cooking too fast. The garlic should just turn brown and the chili flakes should take on a slightly deeper color just before adding the tomato sauce. Make sure you have the tomato sauce close at hand to pour in if anything starts to burn. It is better to add the tomato sauce a minute early than to have your garlic or chili flakes burn.
The second part to be careful with is adding the cream. Before adding the cream, make sure your sauce is on the lowest heat setting possible. It’s ok if it stops simmering just before adding the cream. Once you add the cream, stir it in quickly to combine, then increase the heat to medium-low. You’re looking for the sauce to simmer lightly, just to make sure the cream warms up with the rest of the sauce.
One last thing that I strongly recommend to more perfectly copy Maggiano’s Rigatoni Arrabbiata is to combine everything at the end. Your pasta, chicken, and sauce should be stirred together in the skillet. Now you can serve this mixture to your plate and top with a few more fresh spinach leaves before serving.
Other Maggiano's Recipes to try
I preserve dozens of quarts of tomatoes every summer, and end up making a ton of pasta. Here are some of my favorite Maggiano recreations:
- Copycat Maggiano’s Meatballs: These beef meatballs work as an appetizer or main course.
- Copycat Maggiano’s Taylor Street Ziti: A 30-minute ziti that’s a spot on copy.
Also, check out my Linguini Genovese, a delightful sauce slow cooked with beef, onions, and tomato.
How to make Copycat Maggiano's Rigatoni Arrabbiata
Copycat Maggiano's Rigatoni Arrabbiata
- 1/2 Onion finely minced
- 1/2 tbsp Olive oil
- 3 tbsp Minced garlic
- 1-2 tsp Red chili flakes
- 2 cups Tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
- 3/4 cup Heavy cream
- 2 cups Spinach chopped and loosely packed
- 1 lb Chicken breast approximately 1 breast
- 1 tbsp Canola oil for frying the chicken
- 8 oz Dry rigatoni pasta cooked al dente
- Sprinkle of salt and pepper to coat chicken
- Place chicken on a sturdy cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Pound with the flat side of a meat mallet until the chicken is a uniform thickness. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper on each side.
- In a skillet, heat about 1 tbsp canola oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken to the skillet. Fry 3-4 minutes on each side to form a nice crust on the chicken. Check the temperature of your chicken breast. If it has reached 165F remove the chicken from the skillet. If not, fry for 1-2 minutes per side until complete, adding ⅛ cup of water if needed to prevent burning.
- Remove chicken to a plate and cover with tin foil. Set aside.
- In the same skillet or a new one, fry the minced onion with ½ tbsp of olive oil. Fry until the onions are becoming crisp and browning. Add the garlic and chili flakes and continue frying until the garlic is starting to brown and the chili flakes are lightly toasted.
- Add the tomato sauce to the fried onion mixture and stir well to combine. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the tomato sauce is not very watery.
- Reduce the heat to very low, until the sauce is barely simmering. Now add the heavy cream and stir until well combined. Add the spinach, bring to a very low simmer, and cover the pot partially with a lid to steam the spinach into the sauce, approximately 5 minutes. Remove sauce from the heat.
- Chop the chicken breast into bite sized strips and stir into the sauce.
- Next, add in the cooked rigatoni pasta and stir to combine. Simmer for a minute.
- Scoop the ricotta in small blobs over the rigatoni and fold in. Serve.