Thursday, March 18, 2010

Baked Rigatoni

I love pasta. Pasta makes me happy. Pasta in red sauce, pasta in soups, pasta in salads with greens and good cheese. I could go on (but I won't, out of consideration for you and your attention span).

It's not just the pasta, though. I love making tomato sauces and playing with the flavors. I love how different the sauces can taste just by adding different elements or changing the cooking times on a core group of ingredients.
It wasn't that long ago that I made Spaghetti with Bacon and Fennel. This dish, which is also a tomato sauce with fennel, tasted completely different. Brighter, warmer. The vegetables add body and depth of flavor to the sauce. I wanted the sauce to be the highlight, so it's lighter on cheese than most baked pastas, which usually seem to be half cheese.

I used about 2 ounces of goat cheese in this, which made the sauce incredibly rich and creamy without being heavy. It may sound a bit odd, but give it a try, and let me know what you think.

Baked Rigatoni
4 serving
1 lb ground pork
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 bulb fennel, diced
3/4 c shitaki mushrooms, chopped
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 c red wine
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 T dried oregano
1 T Italian seasonings
1 T pesto
8 oz rigatoni
6 oz assorted grated cheese*
2 T grated Parmesan
*I used 2 oz Colby, 2 oz Monterrey jack, and 2 oz goat cheese.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Heat 1 T of the olive oil in a high-sided skillet over medium high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the ground pork and cook until browned, 5-7 minutes. Remove the pork from the pan and set it aside for now.
  3. To the same pan, add an additional 1 T olive oil and allow it to warm. Add the onion, celery, carrot, fennel, salt, and pepper to the pan. Saute until tender and just slightly browned, 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until slightly tender, 5 minutes. Once the mushrooms are slightly tender, pour in the red wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Allow the mixture to simmer gently until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix the crushed tomato, oregano, pesto, and Italian seasoning. Pour the tomato mixture into the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. While the tomato mixture simmers, cook the pasta according to package directions and grate the cheeses. Drain the pasta and add the pasta and all the cheese EXCEPT the Parmesan to the pan and stir to combine.
  7. Move the pasta to an oven-proof dish and sprinkle the Parmesan on top. Bake 20-25 minutes until browned.
  8. Enjoy.

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