Oretta Zanini De Vita writes in her Encyclopedia of Pasta (2009) that rigatoni goes by a host of names throughout Italy: bombardoni; cannaroni; cannerozzi rigati; ciofelloni; gnocconi; maniche; rigatoni romani; rigatoncini; scaffittuni; scorzasellari (“celery peelers”); trivelli; and tufoloni rigati. The shape’s defining features are its tubular form and its ridges. Rigatoni’s name comes from the Italian word rigato meaning lined, striped or ruled. The shape’s ridges allow it to hold sauce better than smooth tubular shapes such as paccheri or ziti.
If dimensions interest you, The Geometry of Pasta (2010) by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy gives rigatoni’s specs: length 1.8 inches; width 0.6 inches; and wall thickness 1mm. (Note: Emiliomiti sells a range of rigatoni dies. In addition to my No. 98, I own a No. 116 die that makes a 23mm rigatoni.) My No. 98 rigatoni die creates pasta that measures up pretty close to The Geometry of Pasta’s numbers—a tad smaller in width, but damn close on wall thickness. When using my torchio to make rigatoni with a No. 98 die, I cut after every half revolution of the torchio’s handle. This delivers two rigatoni just under 1.8 inches in length.
Most factory rigatoni consists of semolina flour and water, but I make rigatoni with an egg dough. To serve 2, I use 135 grams of Type 00 flour from Central Milling and about 69 to 72 grams of an egg mixture made with a whole egg and an egg yolk. I say “about” because I play around with the amount of liquid depending on how dry I want the dough. Less liquid produces a sandy mixture closer to what one uses to make a commercial extruded semolina and water dough. A hand-cranked torchio needs a dough with a higher percentage of moisture than a typical factory-extruded dough. Without this extra liquid, the torchio becomes really hard to turn by hand and the dough extrudes unevenly from the die (even after a hydration period). I aim for a dough that gives the finished pasta a rough, bronze die-finish, but that evenly extrudes without an excessive amount of force.
So after making rigatoni with a No. 98 bronze die, how do you dress it? A handful of sauces traditionally pair with rigatoni. If you’re a staunch traditionalist from Rome, consider making Rigatoni con la pajata (Rigatoni with veal intestines). Popes, Peasants, and Shepherds: Recipes and Lore from Rome and Lazio (2013) by Oretta Zanini De Vita and La Pasta (2010) published by Slow Food Editore both have a recipe for this classic Roman dish. Zanini De Vita writes that pajata “is the Roman name for the first section of the intestine of the milk-fed calf, used with its chyme. Today it is difficult to find, and lamb intestine is used instead of calf. Its flavor, however, is much stronger.” If finding pajata is difficult to find in Lazio, good luck finding it here in United States (if available at all).
Many other sauces traditionally compliment rigatoni. For pork lovers, try Rigatoni alla gricia made with guanciale (cured pork jowl) and pecorino cheese. Add tomatoes and onions to this sauce and you have a version of Rigatoni all’Amatriciana. Rigatoni alla carbonara is another delicious classic (again, made with guanciale or pancetta). Rigatoni can pretty much handle any hearty sauce that meets your fancy.