This dish is “Gangsteray.” V’hamvin yavin.
Anyway, vacation is going great, thanks for asking…So I was sitting on my couch, watching the food network (ie – vacation mode), and Tyler Florence was on, and he started the show by saying “if baked ziti and lasagna are the only 2 baked Italian dishes you make, you have to try baked rigatoni.” I knew he was talking to me, because it’s true if I want to make a baked Italian dish, it’s either baked ziti, or lasagna. Now I have no problem making different pastas, but we’re talking baked here.
What exactly is baked rigatoni? Well, rigatoni is a type of noodle, like a ziti, but a little broader and longer. Ok, so what’s the difference between baked ziti, and baked rigatoni? No idea, but great question. Both of them are cooked noodles with tomato sauce and cheese, baked together. I’m open to suggestions what the exact difference is, but I was bored, and Mr. Florence gave me a challenge (read: something to do).
The recipe can be found on the Food Network website. He made it with sausage, which obviously I left out, but I pretty much kept to the rest of it.
It was a really simple recipe, and just a few twists from a regular noodle-tomato sauce-cheese combo.
First the sauce. Normally when making baked ziti, I’d throw in a jar of marinara sauce. Instead however, he suggested taking a can of whole unpeeled tomatoes, and dumping it out, and smushing the tomatoes with your hand, until its some sort of sauce, but with some pieces of whole tomatoes. Now, I’m no purist, well maybe a little, and I always hear that when buying canned tomatoes, the best ones are the “San Marzano” canned stuff. I really couldn’t tell you why, or how, or even if they’re so much more spectacular, but being that I was following the recipe, and it called for it, and supposedly they are better, I went with them.
I dumped the tomatoes into a bowl, and crushed them with my hands, because I’m inconceivably strong.
I then took a bunch of basil leaves,
shredded them up, and put them into the tomatoes.
They’re swimming around there trying to get out…no can do guys, sorry, your time is up.
I took one eggplant, cubed them up, and sauteed them. Making sure to keep one even layer at a time, so they can all brown evenly. After they were done, I put them on a baking dish with paper towels to lap up some of that extra fatty goodness.
While the eggplant were doing their thing, I chopped up one onion, and three cloves of garlic, and sauteed them.
It was the same pot that I used for the eggplant, hence the pieces of eggplant in there. I first put the onion in and let it sautee for like 3 minutes, and then threw in the garlic for another minute. Then I threw in the tomatoes with basil into the pot, and let it cook on low until it thickens up, about 15-20 minutes.
This whole time boil up some water, and throw in the pasta.
Do you think it counts as whole grain if I stick a box of fiber one in the picture?
Drain the pasta. And combine the pasta with the thickened tomato sauce.
Then take a whole block of mozzarella, and cut up half of it into cubes. and throw it together with the noodle-tomato mixture…Put it into a baking dish, and spread some Parmesan cheese on top.
Bake in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Then take it out, and then take the other half of mozzarella and cut it slices and spread on top.
Bake for another 10 minutes.
And Bada-Bing (sopranos joke)
The dish was spot on…everything about it was great, the sauce, the cheese, the eggplant…it was awesome. You should definitely try it out.
Here, I saved you some.
Baked Rigatoni Soprano
- Kosher Salt
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 large can (28 ounces) peeled whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- Leaves from 1 small bunch basil
- 1 pound rigatoni
- 1 block of mozzarella
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat for the pasta. Get yourself a 9 by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
Add a generous 1/3 cup of oil to the skillet and get it hot over medium heat. Add as many eggplant pieces as you can comfortably fit in a single layer and sprinkle well with salt. Cook, turning, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the eggplant is nice and browned, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Use a spatula to put the eggplant into the baking dish. Cook the rest of the eggplant pieces, adding more oil to the pan, as needed, and putting the finished eggplant into the baking dish.
Add another 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet, then your onion and garlic, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent. Dump the whole can of tomatoes and their juices into a bowl and crush the tomatoes with your hands to break them up; add that to the pan with the basil and cook it down until pulpy and relatively thick. This will take about 15 minutes.
By this time your pasta water will be boiling. Add the rigatoni, give it a stir, and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, it should be slightly firm as it will cook further in the oven. Ladle out 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and reserve; the drain the rigatoni.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Add the tomato sauce, rigatoni, and if needed the reserved pasta water. Break up half the mozzarella over the mixture, season with salt and pepper, and gently mix with your hands or a spatula. Dust with the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. Spread the remaining mozzarella in an even layer over the top and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.