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Spaghetti alla Rustica

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Learn how to make the Spaghetti alla Rustica that a Manhattan Italian restaurant charged $18 for. This classic pasta recipe can easily be prepared in just 20 minutes!

Spaghetti alla Rustica | Learn how to make the Spaghetti alla Rustica that a Manhattan Italian restaurant charged $18 for.

This simple Spaghetti alla Rustica is made with garlic, thin slices of sauteed red onion, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, Parmesan, and fresh basil. You can buy all the ingredients for $10 and make enough to serve at least 4 people. Plus, the cooking time is only 20 minutes.

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When I was in grad school in Manhattan I spent my weekends hostessing at an Upper East Side restaurant called Centolire. I worked 9:30 am-9:30 pm at that crazy restaurant where the chef was nicknamed “the monster” and where paychecks would sometimes bounce. I made $12 an hour, just enough to cover my rent in Harlem.

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Sometimes during these dreaded double shifts, the manager would let me have a plate of the Spaghetti alla Rustica. For a moment, while I twirled the pasta around my fork, I would forget the craziness swirling around me. The Spaghetti alla Rustica was like a warm hug in a day spent trying to appease the cold millionaires that came through the door.

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After a year I left the restaurant, ready to get a real job and eager to receive paychecks that I could actually cash. I still wanted that Spaghetti alla Rustica though, so I dug around online and learned how to make it, with just a couple small tweaks (like adding garlic). I’ve been making this recipe ever since.

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Years later, when this website launched, this was one of the very first recipes that I shared! Today it’s back with better photos, but the recipe itself is the same.

Here is the original iPhone photo that went with this post! I can’t believe that this is from 2011!


How to Make Spaghetti all Rustica:

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Spaghetti alla Rustica

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Inspired by a New York City restaurant, this Spaghetti alla Rustica is made with simple wholesome ingredients, and the total preparation time is just 20 minutes.


  • 1 large Red Onion, Thinly Sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Butter
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 2 tablespoons White Wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 28-ounce can Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1 pound Spaghetti
  • 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • Fresh Basil


    Put a pot of salted water on to boil.  Then melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the wine, onions, and garlic.  Cook the onions for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the pasta to the water once it boils.

    Once the onions are soft, add the crushed tomatoes and the salt.  Heat the sauce until it starts to bubble. Stir the cheese into the sauce. Let the sauce bubble, allowing the sauce to reduce, until the spaghetti has cooked until it is a little extra al dente.

    Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Drain the spaghetti.

    Stir the spaghetti and the pasta water into the sauce. Let the pasta cook in the sauce for one minute.

    Top with chopped fresh basil and serve.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 283Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 695mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 4gSugar: 8gProtein: 10g

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