This spicy chicken rigatoni has a creamy, comforting spicy tomato sauce loaded with lots of parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper flakes, and fresh basil to finish. And since everything cooks in one pan, that means fewer dishes for you! You're welcome!
Place the chicken breast on the cutting board and pat dry. Holding your knife so the blade is horizontal, butterfly the chicken breast so that you have two thin slices. Season the top side of the chicken breast pieces with salt and pepper.
Preheat high sided skillet over medium heat 30-45 seconds. Add 1-2 tablespoons cooking oil. When the oil has loosened up and coats the bottom of the pan when you swirl it, place the chicken seasoned side down in the pan. Season the top side of the chicken with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the chicken about 3-5 minutes per side until cooked through (at least 160°F* on an instant read thermometer). Then remove it to a plate or clean cutting board to rest.
Without cleaning out the pan, reduce the heat to low and add the remaining tablespoon of cooking oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently about 2-3 minutes until softened. Then add the tomato paste, garlic, and cracked red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute more until things start to caramelize slightly. NOTE: It will start to stick to the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Don't worry about that — that's a good thing! Just don't let it burn.
Add a splash of water to the pan, just enough to cover the bottom. It will immediately sizzle on contact with the pan. Increase the heat to high and use a wooden spoon or spatula with a sturdy edge to stir and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom as the liquid begins to boil.
Add the pasta, tomatoes, salt, and pepper to the pan and give them a quick stir. Then add just enough water to almost cover the pasta. It's okay if some of the pasta noodles are sticking out above the water.
When the water begins to boil, set a timer for the "al dente" time given on the rigatoni box. Keep the heat at high the whole time, stirring constantly as the water boils and the pasta cooks to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add water in very small amounts as needed (some pasta shapes absorb water more quickly than others). The idea is to have very little water left in the pan just as the timer goes off.
When there is about a minute left on the timer, and very little water remains in the pan, check the pasta for doneness, reduce the heat to low, add the parmesan cheese all at once and stir vigorously to melt the cheese into a creamy sauce. If the pasta isn't done yet, keep cooking, adding water as needed until it is cooked through.
Take the pan off the heat. Slice the chicken and add it back to the pan, along with half the thinly sliced basil. Stir to combine. Serve immediately, topped with the remaining sliced basil and additional grated parmesan cheese.
The internal temperature for doneness on chicken breast is 165F, but the chicken will continue cooking as it rests. You can safely pull it off the heat when it hits 160F. If you're particular about cooking chicken until it's done, let it go until it hits 165F and then remove it from the pan to rest.
8 ounces of rigatoni and 1 pound chicken breast is enough for three very hungry people OR or four moderately hungry people who are eating this with side dishes.
Every time you add new water to the skillet, it will cool down the temperature of the pan. This can slow down the cooking time. Add additional water in small amounts, but only as needed!