Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Man Food: Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Meatballs

A giant pan of baked pasta is a crowd-pleaser at any gathering--dress it up or dress it down, serve it with bread and a salad, or all by itself to a hungry crowd and you'll hear them all sighing before too long.

I made baked rigatoni for our recent Man-Sunday, when Mr.W's friends all come over to game in the basement. It's a man-only zone, except for when I venture down to deliver whatever food I've prepared that day.

Most of you have probably heard of the standard "Baked Ziti," which is the same basic meal; I like to use rigatoni because it has ridges that cling to the sauce just so. See how the sauce just sticks?

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Meatballs
serves 20 regular people, or 10 large man-size servings

- 3 1-pound boxes dry pasta (I like Rigatoni)
- One entire recipe Overnight Spaghetti Sauce, or your own favorite spaghetti sauce (about 5 jars of sauce, plus cooked meat of your choice; I separate my cooked meat from my cooked sauce so I can place the meat on top, or portion it out as needed.)
- 4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Grease a large oven-proof pan.

Note: Because my largest pan only cooks one pound of pasta at a time, I had to assemble this in stages, and that's how I've written these instructions; if you have a larger pot that can accommodate three pounds, by all means, do so. You should have two quarts of water (plus one teaspoon salt in the water, optional) per pound of pasta you want to cook.

Bring salted water to a boil.

Pour in dry pasta.

Stir immediately to prevent from sticking.

5. Return to a boil, then start timer according to directions on the pasta box. My boxes said 12-14 minutes, and because we like pasta a little firmer AND it was going into the oven, I set my timer for 10 minutes. Be sure to stir that pasta occasionally while it's boiling. If it's bubbling away and starts to look like this, stir or that stuff is going to cook into one giant mass! You can't wreck the pasta by stirring it.

3. When the timer goes off, carefully drain pasta using a large colander placed in a clean sink. Do not rinse pasta. Pour that first cooked box into your prepared pan. Top with 2/3 of the sauce (or three jars) and stir.

Top with parmesan cheese and start your water for the next box of pasta.

When second box of pasta is cooked and drained, spoon it over the parmesan cheese and stir entire mixture. Top with 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella.
Start your water for the last box of pasta and preheat oven to 350*F. When pasta is cooked and drained, spoon that on top and top with remaining sauce, any meat you are including, and mozzarella. Pop it all into your preheated oven and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Here it is after 30 minutes in the oven, all hot and gooey. Mmm.

Serve, along with any desired condiments (hot sauce, hot pepper flakes, additional parmesan cheese, cherry peppers, etc.) to your hungry crowd.

Here's what happened. I delivered the food downstairs and immediately returned upstairs to let them have their fun. It got real quiet. I heard the pan lid banging around a little bit, but otherwise nothing--oh, probably for a good fifteen minutes.

They ate it all.

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