If your Thanksgiving was anything like mine, you might still be feeling stuffed even a few days later. Ryan and I had three Thanksgiving dinners: one with my college friends, one with my family, and one with his family. On Thanksgiving day during dinner with my family, I told them baked rigatoni was my next intended blog post, but then after all the eating I felt wary. Would anyone be interested in such a hearty dish right after Thanksgiving?
But I thought about it and said, why not?! Let’s lean into the holiday season of hearty foods, decadent meals, and rich desserts. Now, don’t get crazy and give up your exercise routine, but let’s wait until January 2nd to worry about our meals. So here’s a great meal that will make you feel cozy on a cold day, that’s great to serve to holiday house guests, and will provide you with workday lunches you’ll eagerly gobble up.
The way I make this recipe, I make the sauce using Marcella Hazan’s recipe, which I first mentioned in my pici post. If you do the whole recipe the way I do, it should take you about an hour. If you’re going to use jar sauce, I think this should take you about 30 minutes.
Now, I know most of the time a recipe like this is called baked ziti. I’m calling it baked rigatoni because it’s my favorite noodle to use. Rigatoni’s large and textured shape makes it perfect for sticking to cheese, sauce, and meat. In my opinion, rigatoni allows you to have the perfect bite. But, if you’re interested in other pasta, I’ve used penne and ziti before and I also think you could use macaroni or fusilli.
Last but not least, I don’t usually measure when I make this. I like a lot of cheese and sauce. Feel free to find your perfect balance of ingredients. I hope you enjoy and can find space in your belly for this great meal.
Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce recipe and the Amateur Gourmet’s baked ziti recipe.
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes
5 tbsp butter
2 medium onions
Pasta, Meat, & Cheese-
1 lb box of rigatoni
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb ground beef
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
8-10 oz ricotta cheese (so a bit more than 1 cup)
8 oz ball of mozzarella (or larger!)
1/4 cup grated mozzarella
1. Put the can of tomatoes in a medium sauce pan. Take a knife and roughly cut up the tomatoes in halves or quarters. This isn’t the serious, it just helps everything break down.
2. Cut (and peel) the onion. Cut the onion in half from end to end, not across the equator. Put the onion halves and butter in the tomato sauce.
3. On medium-high, heat the sauce until it’s simmering. Then turn the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Set your kitchen timer! Over the 45 minutes, stir occasionally and use your spoon to smash and cut up the tomatoes.
4. Preheat your oven to 450°.
5. When the timer says 20 minutes, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they are soft but not yet brown. Then add the garlic and a pinch of salt.
6. Once the onions and garlic are ready, add the ground beef. Add the crush red pepper and paprika, if using. Cook until brown. Break up with your spoon as you cook it.
7. When the timer says 15 minutes, bring large pot of water to a boil.
8. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta. Cook until it is al dente. This means, when it still has a chew to it. Cook it about 2 minutes less than you usually would, when it’s just on the cusp of being ready but is still a bit tough. The pasta will cook more in the oven.
9. Drain the pasta using a colander. Then, put a paper towel on a plate and drain the cooked ground beef on it.
10. The sauce should be done by now. Remove the onion and throw it away. Add the cooked ground beef and the pasta to the pot of sauce. Mix it thoroughly.
11. Add the ricotta to the pot. Mix a little, but try to leave some chunks of ricotta showing.
12. Pour half of the pasta-beef-sauce mix into a 9″x13″ pan. On top of that half, add half of the Parmesan and half of the mozzarella.
13. Pour the other half of the pasta mix and then top that with the rest of the cheese.
14. Cook in the oven for 15. The sauce will be bubbling and the cheese will be a bit brown.
Messy Level I’m giving this three spoons only because the pasta, meat, and sauce, and final product are all cooked in different pans, so that means there’s a lot of dishes. Also, pouring the rigatoni mix can be a little hard and sauce can splatter. I don’t really find this that messy, but my dishwasher might disagree.