Saturday, December 4, 2010

Baked Rigatoni Cake

Baked Rigatoni Cake

You'll need a pound of ground meat to get the sauce started - be it beef, pork, chicken or turkey... even a mix of those would be good. Because this is going to be fairly heavy with the pasta and cheeses, I went the lighter route by using turkey, but I decided on a combo of ground turkey and hot Italian turkey sausage to juice up the mix. Browned in a slick of oil, we tossed in a couple cloves of garlic and a mess of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes. Brought up to boil to get the process started, the heat was then lowered to a bare simmer and we let the pot bubble away until the sauce had thickened.

While that was happening, I used the downtime to drizzle a pound of rigatoni, that we cooked and cooled down, with olive oil, then tossed it around with a generous shower of fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Those coated tubes were then packed into the mentioned springform as tightly as possible, standing each on their flat side, taking care not to collapse any of them.

You want the tubes open and waiting because we're about to take a couple cups worth of the meat sauce we prepared and slather it all over the top, using lots of pressure to fill up the centers of the rigatoni! You don't need to try and push all of sauce in, just use the amount called for - yes, you'll have some leftover, but don't worry, we'll be using it later! About halfway through the total time needed to bake this pasta cake, we took out the springform pan and concealed the sauce on top by scattering over coarse shreds of mozzarella cheese. Bake again to melt and brown the cheese. Plan on giving this at least 15 minutes to cool down before you try and serve - this will give the dish time to set, allowing you to remove the sides of the pan and pull out tidy pieces that don't fall apart.

Besides the fact that this won us over on taste alone, taking the entire piece to the table and having the "wow" factor of cutting it to serve, with that layer of gooey cheese on top, was worth making this dish by itself! I do have a couple notes on the sauce - it is fairly mild and did end up being fine as the hot Italian turkey sausage did wonders for the background. However, I do think it could easily be tinkered with - crushed red pepper, a little red wine and throwing in basil, oregano or your favorite marinara seasonings would help to add a little pizazz. I didn't forget about that leftover sauce either... warm that sucker right back up and serve it over the top!

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