Monday, October 6, 2008

Baked Rigatoni

I have always found that the best time to write blog posts is soon after I have eaten the dish I want to write about. In this case, I am currently feeding my face of this stuff. Because it's tasty and I like food. This dish is getting fast tracked into the blog thanks to something my better half said last night, that she would order it in a restaurant. Never has she said that, and I make a big deal out of it because it’s a huge compliment and its not "maybe we should get pizza" (I get that every other month or so when I make something off the wall). Now, on to the cooking!

This recipe makes use of the tomato sauce from the last post. It also takes inspiration from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a fantastic Italian cookbook that I would recommend to anyone. So what is this baked pan of pure love? Pasta, cheese, and two sauces. Traditional Italian dishes such as lasagna call for two sauces, a red and a white, which allows a creamy texture and still lends itself to full flavor. The red sauce is usually a tomato or Bolognese sauce. In this instance I went with tomato. If you do not have home made tomato sauce, try this instead. Take a jar of tomato sauce from wherever you buy it, and taste it. If you are content with it, use as is. If not, adjust seasonings (salt, pepper, basil, and oregano are good places to start) until you are satisfied. People often just take bottled sauces at their word and find them to be flat once used. If I ever use any kind of pre packaged sauce or something, I always taste it first and adjust its seasonings. This will save you a lot of heart ache in the end.

The white sauce that is used is a b├ęchamel, which is equal parts flour and butter combined with milk. It’s the same sauce I used with my ron con con. However, since we want some of the sauce to be absorbed by the pasta, this sauce will be a bit thinner and contain no cheese. This recipe multiplies nicely and is also my new favorite for pot lucks. It can be prepared in under 15 minutes, which is an added plus.

Baked Rigatoni

2 cups red sauce (tomato or Bolognese)
3 T butter
3 T flour
2 cups milk, heated
½ cup shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 pound rigatoni

Preheat oven to 400°F. On stove, heat a large pot of water to boiling with a copious amount of salt and about 1T olive oil.

Meanwhile in a medium sauce pot over medium heat add butter until melted, whisk in flour and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often. Add milk a little bit at a time, whisking to make a sauce (adding the milk hot will allow the sauce to come together quickly and prevent lumps). Cook sauce for a minute or so, it should have a creamy but not extremely thick consistency. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Boil pasta until still chewy, about 3 minutes under recommended time. Drain and place in large bowl. Add the white and red sauce and half of the cheese, toss to combine. Butter a baking dish and add pasta mixture. Top with remaining cheese, bake for about 15-20 minutes until top starts to brown. Let the pasta sit for about 10 minutes after removing from oven to absorb the rest of the sauce.


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