The Washington Post

Spicy Umami Pasta

Spicy Umami Pasta 2.000

Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Nov 22, 2022

This is a great example of a pantry pasta, the kind of thing you might be able to throw together without a recipe. But if you'd rather not think about proportions and what goes with what, here's a sauce that delivers heat, depth of flavor and buttery richness for a super-satisfying dinner.

Total time: 35 mins

Storage Notes: Refrigerate for up to 4 days.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 2 servings

  • Fine salt
  • 8 ounces rigatoni, shells or orecchiette-style pasta
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 medium shallots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sambal oelek or chile paste of your choice, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine or pasta water, or more as needed
  • 8 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese, plus more as needed
  • 2 scallions, chopped, for serving


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente, removing it from the heat 1 minute early. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water, if using.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallot and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chile paste, tomato paste and honey and cook, stirring, until bubbling, about 1 minute more. The sauce will not be smooth due to the thick pastes. Add the white wine or 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water, and olives; stir until the sauce is smooth, about 1 minute more.

Add the pasta to the sauce. Cook, tossing to coat, until the sauce is thick and the noodles are coated, about 3 minutes. Add more wine or pasta water if the sauce becomes too thick.

Sprinkle the cheese over the pasta and toss it one more time to combine. Taste the pasta to make sure it is cooked enough and cook 1 or 2 minutes longer, if needed. Season with salt, if desired.

Remove from the heat, sprinkle with chopped scallions and a little more cheese. Serve hot.

Recipe Source

Adapted from “Good Enough” by Leanne Brown (Workman Publishing, 2022)

Tested by Emily Heil.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (generous 1 cup): 787

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 32g 49%

Saturated Fat: 17g 85%

Cholesterol: 63mg 21%

Sodium: 1045mg 44%

Total Carbohydrates: 106g 35%

Dietary Fiber: 12g 48%

Sugar: 13g

Protein: 18g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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