Recipe: Make Gioia Chef Federico Comacchio’s Favorite Comfort Food — Gioia nei Paccheri Pasta

A key ingredient in the recipe for a happy family is time spent around the dinner table. To help your family prioritize family meals, we’re bringing you Better Family Dinners — a series of stories and recipes shared by chefs, cookbook authors, members of the community, and their families to help you have Better Family Dinners together.

This recipe comes from Chef Federico Comacchio of Gioia Ristorante e Pastificio in the West Loop. Born in Lodi, Italy, Chef Comacchio’s early culinary experience included time in multiple Michelin-starred kitchens in Italy and with the Bice Group in San Juan, Puerto Rico, before beginning the Chicago chapter of his career, first as executive chef of 437 Rush. Following seven years as executive chef at Coco Pazzo, Chef Comacchio opened Gioia Ristorante + Pastificio in 2021. At Gioia, which means “joy” in Italian, Chef Comacchio serves his interpretation of regional Italian cooking, developed over the course of his more-than-30-year career.

As part of our Better Family Dinners series, we asked Chef Comacchio to share his memories of food and family and to pass along a recipe for you to make for your own family — a simple and delicious pasta, Gioia nei Paccheri.

Photo by Will Engleman

What was your family dinner routine growing up?

Every night my mother usually prepared a three-course meal where everyone sat down at the table at the same time. Dinner in an Italian family is a moment to enjoy the food and be together.

Do you have a fond memory that centers around food?

Sunday lunches were traditionally the best meal of the week. I remember waking up and opening my bedroom door, being enveloped by the delicious smell of sauce for the paccheri or the lasagna, or the roasted guinea fowl or pheasant with polenta, or gorgonzola sauce for gnocchi and many other dishes

Do you have any traditions that you have carried on?

I’ve carried on the above traditions with my own family.

Photo by Will Engleman

Recipe: Gioia nei Paccheri


1# Paccheri Pasta Mancini

For the sauce:

28oz Italian peeled tomatoes

14 oz Italian canned Cherry tomatoes

3 fresh San Marzano tomatoes

1 shallot

2 garlic cloves

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and white pepper

Fresh basil

6oz 22 months Parmigiano Reggiano

2oz sweet butter

Calabria chili flakes or paste


  1. The sauce is the key as well as the quality of the paccheri, that’s why at Gioia Ristorante & Pastificio we use Mancini Pasta.
  2. Peel the shallot and the garlic, chop them and sear them in a sauce pot with evoo.
  3. Add the peeled tomatoes, the cherry tomatoes and the San Marzanos cut in pieces, add fresh basil, season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook the sauce for 30 minutes maximum, mix the sauce with an immersion mixer, then strain the sauce in a medium strainer.
  5. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water, then in a large sauté pan add a large amount of sauce, add the butter, then the pasta with all the Parmigiano grated, add a touch of evoo and fresh basil.
  6. Keep stirring the Paccheri until the Parmigiano melts and dissolves in the sauce, then if you like, add the chili flakes or paste, to make the Paccheri even more luscious.

“And as Federico Fellini use to say, ‘LIFE IS A COMBINATION OF MAGIC AND PASTA.'”

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The Family Dinner Project is a nonprofit that champions family dinner as a way for families to connect through food, fun and conversation about things that matter. Based in Boston at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Psychiatry Academy, the Family Dinner Project team works with national and community organizations online and at community events to help families increase the frequency, meaning and long-term benefits of their shared meals. Learn more about their resources and partnership opportunities and donate to support their important work.

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