I was craving some baked ziti – super Americanized baked ziti. But I happen to watch Rachel Ray in the mornings while at the office. And she uses rigatoni in a recipe just about every day. So, baked rigatoni.
This recipe is really easy to remember. 1 pound meat, 1 pound pasta, 1 pound shredded cheese, and 1 big can of tomatoes.
1. sauce it: make 1 batch of sauce. This is where the tomatoes and meat come in. Click here for the quick meat sauce recipe I posted yesterday.
2. boil it: cook 1 pound of rigatoni. I pulled it from the water a little earlier than I normally would because the noodles would be spending some time in the oven.
3. mix it: mix the sauce, the noodles, and half the shredded cheese in a big ol 9×13 baking dish. This part gets very messy.
4. bake it: 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Cover with foil during this part, or your baked rigatoni will burn slightly and in a not great way like mine did.
5. cheese it: take the baked rigatoni and top it with the other half of the cheese. This will create a nice cheese layer on top. It’ss a common technique in a lot of Italian American foods and is the culinary equivalent of showing up to a drug buy with a suitcase full of $1 bills but with hundos on the top of each stack.
6. bake it: 400 degrees for another 10 to 15. this time, without the cover.
7. eat it: I served this up with some cheesy bread. My wife loved it. She ate as much as I did for dinner, a comment for which I will likely get in trouble. But it needs to be said, as it was a testament to how wonderful this was.
The noodles had a lot of good chew to them. It was really satisfying to eat on a cold winter day. The flavors are very similar to a lasagna, but sometimes, lasagna gets muddled and starts tasting like a soggy pizza. With the thicker noodles here, you didn’t get that. It was cheesy and tomatoey and meaty, but definitely a pasta casserole – in a good way.
There was a ton left over, which was nice, as I have begun making large quantities of food with the express intent of freezing leftovers in order to nest and prepare for the arrival of the baby.