Baked Rigatoni

My neighbors just welcomed a new baby boy into their home. Poor thing, shes been having serious back issues so the other day I walked over and brought some dinner for them. I decided to make a pan of baked rigatoni, because lets be honest there aren’t many things as comforting as a pan of baked pasta, are there? It takes less time than making a lasagne, without any sacrifice of flavor. I made this version meatless with 3 different cheese, mozzarella, ricotta with spinach and grated romano cheese, I’ve also made a meat version many many times in my life adding tiny meatballs between the layers, a big hit for a party because it all can be put together a day ahead of time and then heated right before serving. A big pan of baked rigatoni would also be a great addition to your Easter dinner, because you always need to have a little pasta, no?

I love the large ridged rigatoni it holds the sauce perfectly and visually it looks so good. The box says to cook the pasta for 14 minutes but you’ll want to under cook it since it will be baking in the oven. I cooked the one pound box for 10 minutes then drained the water and tossed the rigatoni into a bowl and gave it a quick drizzle of olive oil with a couple of ladles of marinara. Be sure to have enough marinara made because you don’t want the pasta to dry out in the baking process. If you’re buying your marinara in a jar I would buy two, but please try and make your own if you don’t normally do so, it’s such a difference!

I make my marinara very quickly using 6-8 cloves of chopped garlic sauteed in about 1/4 cup of olive oil, sometimes I add a small onion, sometimes I don’t, to that I add two 28oz cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes that have been squished beforehand, and my favorite ingredient of all time, fresh basil, lots of it! Let it simmer for 20 minutes or so.

I buttered the inside of a 13 x 9 disposable pan, ( since I was giving this dish away) spread homemade marinara sauce on the bottom and then 1/3 of the rigatoni, then with a make shift piping bag I added dollops of ricotta all around the layer of pasta as well as good sprinkling of shredded mozzarella, next added the grated romano cheese all over. Repeat 2 more times starting all over with the sauce again.

The ricotta mixture was made by folding a good handful of chopped spinach (squeezed and drained of all liquid) into a pound of fresh ricotta along with one egg, a healthy dose of grated cheese, salt and pepper.

I like to keep my baked rigatoni a little lighter by not covering the top with a layer of mozzarella, I think there’s plenty inside, but that’s just my preference.

Ready for the oven, lay a piece of foil on top and bake around 25 minutes at 360F, last 15 minutes remove the foil.

I found this bottle of wine, Rigatoni Red, I sure hope it was good because I strictly bought it for the label which I just loved, it was the perfect compliment to my dish don’t you think?

Have a great weekend, and Buon appetito!