Thursday, April 7, 2011

Makin' Baked Rigatoni

We've been a little fixated on Tyler Florence this week, but since rediscovering that cookbook I just can't put it down. (Although I did get a new edition of America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two in the mail today, and I have a feeling we'll be talking a lot about that next week!)

Everyone loves baked pasta in all it's gooey, cheesey glory. And I figured Tyler's ultimate version would have to be amazing. I've never had super great luck with baked pasta because I haven't been able to get the crisp, golden, bubbly crust that should be on top. I either don't have the patience and just pull it out of the oven when I think it's heated through, or I forget about it and end up charring it a little. Whoops! Despite the fact that I was starving, I mustered all of my patience to pull this one off right!

Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant and Sausage
Olive oil
3 links Italian sausage
1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large can peeled whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 pound rigatoni
1 pound fresh mozzarella
Black pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Get out a 9x13-inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Heat two turns of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and brown on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. They'll be nicely browned on the outside, but still rare inside (don't worry, they'll cook off in the oven later). Remove to the baking dish.

Turn the heat down to medium, add another two turns of olive oil to the skillet, and place eggplant in the skillet in a single layer. Sprinkle well with salt. Cook, turning, 7 to 8 minutes, until the eggplant is browned. Remove to the baking dish.

Heat another two turns of olive oil in the skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent. Dump the entire can of tomatoes with their juices into a bowl and crush the tomatoes with your hands to break them up. Add that to the skillet with the basil and cook until thick and pulpy, about 15 minutes.

By this time your pasta water will be boiling. Add the rigatoni and cook 6 to 7 minutes. It will be firm, but will continue cooking in the oven. Ladle 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water into a separate bowl and reserve, then drain the pasta.

Chop the sausages into bite-sized pieces and return to the baking dish. Add the tomato sauce, rigatoni and reserved pasta water. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella over the mixture, season with salt and pepper, and gently mix with a spatula. Spread the mixture in an even layer in the dish and sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the top. Dust with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

And golden and bubbling it was! I finally pulled it off perfectly and it was dee-licious! This is definitely going on my "make again" list.

1 comment:

  1. Now THAT is a sufficient amount of cheese. No one else agrees with me that there should be a literal crap ton!

    Baked rigatoni and baked ziti I think are my favorite Italian dishes. Followed by lasagna. Actually, anything that involved pasta, sauce, an insane amount of cheese, and the oven. This looks especially up my alley because of the sausage. The rare occasion on which I make ziti, I use the spicy Italian sausage from Trader Joe's.. which is actually QUITE spicy. I think the only vegetable I've attempted including are olives... aren't olives technically fruit though? :p