Rigatoni al Segreto – Dinner and a Movie

This Rigatoni al Segreto recipe was the most closely guarded secret at Gino’s, one of New York City’s most famous Italian restaurants. It was as legendary, as their signature zebra-print wallpaper, and it won awards as the best red sauce in town. 

While there were rumors that the secret ingredient was butter, no one really knew for sure. Once the restaurant closed in 2010, the recipe got out, and indeed, the butter legend was confirmed. Having never been there, I was excited to try it, but there was a big problem. Actually, a small problem. The recipe called for just a half-tablespoon of butter. Regulars knew this couldn’t be right, and so the recipe remained a mystery. Was it a typo? Was the old chef just trolling people?

We may never have known; had it not been for a documentary called, “The Missing Ingredient.” It’s a great film, but despite the name, it’s not about the butter. However, there’s a scene near the end, where the old chef makes this pasta for the filmmaker, and it shows how much butter goes in.

He made a much larger amount than the published version, but I concluded that it was a typo, and should’ve been half a stick of butter. So, not only am I recommending that you make this delicious sauce, but I also really hope you checkout the movie soon (it’s on Netflix). Enjoy!


Ingredients for four small or two large portions:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 or 3 cloves crushed garlic
a pinch of red pepper flakes (not in original recipe)
1 can (28 oz) San Marzano tomatoes, blended smooth
1/2 cup water to rinse out the can of tomatoes
Small handful of basil leaves, left whole or sliced just before adding
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1.5 oz by weight), plus more to top
4 tablespoons butter, cubed
*8 ounces dry rigatoni

* This recipe probably makes enough sauce to coat 12 oz of pasta, but I like lots of sauce.

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