Better Family Dinners: Make Giuliana Rancic’s Mom’s Famous Pasta Recipe — Mama DePandi’s Bucatini

A key ingredient in the recipe for a happy family is time spent around the dinner table. Making time for family dinners isn’t just a great opportunity to catch up and spend quality time with your loved ones though, extensive research has demonstrated a wealth of physical and mental health benefits associated with regular family dinners.

“There have been more than 20 years of dozens of studies that document that family dinners are great for the body, the physical health, the brain and academic performance, and the spirit or the mental health,” says Anne Fishel, executive director of the Family Dinner Project, a nonprofit committed to helping families reap the benefits of time spent eating together and focusing on food, fun and conversation about things that matter. 

“Kids who grow up having family dinners, when they’re on their own tend to eat more healthily and to have lower rates of obesity, Fishel says. “Regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of depression, and anxiety, and substance abuse, and eating disorders, and tobacco use, and early teenage pregnancy, and higher rates of resilience and higher self esteem.”

To help your family prioritize family dinners, we’re starting 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.

Dinner Time: Make Giuliana Rancic’s Mom’s Famous Pasta Recipe — Mama DePandi’s Bucatini

Mama DePandi’s Bucatini is a longtime favorite dish at RPM Italian, a restaurant collaboration between Giuliana and Bill Rancic and siblings R.J., Jerrod and Molly Melman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, with locations in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and West Palm Beach.

Giuliana Rancic was born in Naples, Italy, and moved to the United States with her family as a child. In an interview with La Cucina Italiana, Rancic explained why the simple pasta dish holds special memories for her.

“My mom makes incredible Neapolitan food – mainly Southern Italian dishes,” she said. “I never realized how lucky I was as a kid, because every day when I would come home from school, my mom would have a big bowl of Mama Depandi’s Bucatini pasta ready for me to eat. To this day, that is one of my all-time favorite dishes.”

This quick, foolproof pasta recipe is perfect for dinner year round. Served with a simple green salad and crusty bread, this just might become a new favorite for your family too.

RPM Bucatini recipe
Photo courtesy of Lettuce Entertain You

Mama DePandi’s Bucatini

Serving Size: 2 people


1 can of cucina alta tomatoes (28 oz.)

8 cloves of garlic, diced

2 medium onions, diced

½ cup olive oil

1 tbsp. basil leaves, finely chopped

¼ cup sugar

pinch of salt

8 oz. bucatini

2 tbsp. garlic oil

Pinch of chili flakes

1 tbsp. parsley, chopped

1 tbsp. basil, torn

2 tbsp. parmesan, grated


1. Empty the can of tomatoes into a strainer to drain the juice into a bowl. Reserve the juice. Crush the tomatoes with your hands and set aside.

2. Cut the onion into a small dice. Set aside.

3. Warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent.

4. Add the diced garlic and crushed tomatoes. Stir to combine.

5. Add the sugar and salt, stir to combine. Cook for 20 minutes until reduced by one-third.

6. Add ½ of the reserved tomato juice. Bring to a boil and cook for an additional 20 minutes.

7. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Set aside.

8. Cook 8 oz. of Bucatini according to the package. Drain and set aside.

9. Heat a pan over medium heat and add 2 tbsp. of garlic oil and a pinch of red chili flakes.

10. Add in ¼ cup of sauce and heat through.

11. Add in pasta and toss to coat.

12. Stir in fresh parsley, torn basil and 1 tbsp. of grated parmesan cheese.

13. Plate and top with 1 tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese.

How to Help:

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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