Kelly the Culinarian: Cooking with Kelly: Baked rigatoni

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cooking with Kelly: Baked rigatoni

Sometimes things that are really tasty aren't particularly attractive. Like most entrees at a Mexican restaurant or your favorite blue-plate special. It might not be pretty, but it sure makes up for it.

That's how I'm pitching my baked rigatoni. This Kelly original got high marks from my taste testers, but didn't photograph well. Sometimes you just can get that perfect score, but read on, I have tips to make it more pretty.

Here's what you need:
16 ounces rigatoni pasta
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 28-ounce can of diced or whole tomatoes with juices
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, crushed to release the spices
1 box thawed and drained spinach
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Start a large pot of water to boil and then in a separate sauce pan, start heating the oil, then add the garlic and cook for about one minute to release flavors. Add the canned tomatoes with the juices or you could use four fresh tomatoes, if you're not in the middle of a snowy Midwest winter ... but I'm not bitter.

Anyhoo, add the chili powder, salt, sugar and Italian seasoning. Cook until it starts to thicken, about 20 minutes. During this time, the water should be up to a boil, so add salt liberally to the boiling water and then add the pasta and cook as directed.

Once the sauce has thickened and reduced, add the spinach. Then add the heavy cream and half of the cheeses. Mix the pasta with the sauce and then transfer to a casserole dish. Top with the remaining cheese and put in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

I baked mine a day after I put together the casserole and still had success. It produced a rich, colorful sauce that stood up to the large pasta and offered a few veggies in the process. You could even add some shredded chicken or chopped prosciutto or ham, whatever protein you have on hand, to make a one-dish meal. A great serving companion would be a mixed green salad and focaccia, a recipe that will be featured on Stand Mixer Sunday shortly.

To make this a more attractive dish suited for company, here are a few changes:

- Use a smaller pasta, such as a penne rigate. A whole-wheat pasta would make this healthier too.
- Go about the recipe as normal, but instead of using a casserole dish, opt for ramekins or mini-casserole dishes that you would use for individual mac and cheese or something similar.
- Add breadcrumbs to the cheese mixture and top the individual casseroles. Bake for 15 minutes or until the top is golden.

Serve individually on a nice platter or trivet as it will be very hot. Garnish with julienned basil, a sprig of parsley or chopped chives.

Delicious! Happy eating.


Larramie said...

Kelly, take heart. The best-looking "dishes" are faux. ;)

Anamika:The Sugarcrafter said...

Dear Kelly,interesting recipe. Thanks for sharing.

Gloria Baker said...

Kelly, so nice recipe!!! Gloria