Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rigatoni and Ricotta Bake

Pasta is popular all over the world and justly so.  There are literally hundreds of different types to cater to your sauces and recipe profile.  The perfect pasta shape for your specific needs is possible by way of ready to cook, store bought fresh or home made means.  Fresh pasta obviously cooks twice as fast and and would add a fresher flavor to the dish, but I generally go for the 'boxed and ready' for convenience.  There are recipes that call for thin sauces, so you would consider a pasta that has length like spaghetti, capellini, fettucine, linguine etc...and can be coated easily with thinner sauces and have surface area to accommodate.  Some recipes call for thicker, heartier sauces that need pasta it can cling to and has textured surfaces like rigatoni, farfalle, penne, and penne rigate or super absorbent pastas like ziti and macaroni, which allow sauces to coat the insides as well as the outside and hold their shapes well during baking.  Shells and orecchiette are excellent pastas for holding mass amounts of flavor and creamy sauces.
This recipe is mentioned in a previous article, Long Lost Cousins and Buttery Shrimp Bruschetta, which I served as the appetizer to this featured dish!  Generally speaking, I serve dishes like this family style for low maintenance, Friday Nite Cuisine.  This recipe is easy to make and has gobs of flavor and little finesse.
1 lb. rigatoni, cooked according to package instructions, just short of al dente, about 5 minutes
1 lb. good quality ground beef
1 small onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1.75 oz. sliced pepperoni, optional
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp. brown sugar, optional
1/4 c. fresh herbs like oregano, basil and parsley blend
1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
2 c. mozzarella crumbles
Parmigiano Reggiano for serving and garnish (Pecorino Romano if desired
Olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F.
Cook pasta for about 5 minutes, drain, do not rinse, drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat.  Set aside.
Meanwhile brown beef and pepperoni with onion and garlic, until no longer pink and onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Drain off excess fat and discard. Add tomatoes, brown sugar and herbs. SPST.   Simmer for about 10 minutes and turn off heat.  Stir in ricotta.  Place in baking vessel.  Spread mozzarella atop, and drizzle with olive oil and cover tightly with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until pasta has absorbed all the excess juices. Remove foil and continue to bake until golden, about 15 more minutes. Garnish with liberal shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.   Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 10-12.

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