Sunday, December 1, 2013

Baked Rigatoni with Roasted Cauliflower

Baked pasta sounded good, sort of like lasagna but slightly easier. I'll admit it, lasagna looks a lot prettier when it's plated. The rigatoni looks like heart valves, which isn't exactly appetizing. If you can get past that, you'll find this pasta dish actually tastes pretty good. I really like the cauliflower and had a hard time stopping myself from eating all of it before it went into the dish.

Baked Rigatoni with Roasted Cauliflower
from Cooking Club
click to print

4 c cauliflower florets (1 inch) (1 medium head)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. rigatoni (tube-shaped pasta)
4 c slightly packed spinach, coarsely chopped
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 (28-oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 c shredded Romano cheese (4 oz.)
2 c finely shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz.)

Heat oven to 425ºF.

Toss cauliflower and oil in large bowl to coat; place on large rimmed baking sheet.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; reduce oven temperature to 350ºF.

This cauliflower is delicious - make extra to snack on.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; cool under running water. Drain well. Place in large bowl; toss with spinach.
Tossing the drained pasta with the spinach just meant the heavy pasta tended to settle to the bottom of the bowl while the fluffy spinach gradually migrated to the top.

Heat large deep skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Crumble sausage into skillet; cook 6 to 8 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Add rosemary and garlic; cook over medium heat 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring constantly.

After 5 minutes, the sausage is nearly completely browned.

Stir in tomatoes, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 12 to 15 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat as necessary.

My sauce was only slightly reduced after 30 minutes; I made the mistake of reducing the heat to a simmer once it reached boiling.

Coat 13x9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon in enough of the tomato sauce mixture to lightly coat bottom of dish.

Layer with half each of the pasta, cauliflower, tomato sauce and Romano cheese.

Sprinkle with generous 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese.

Repeat layers, ending with remaining mozzarella cheese. (Rigatoni can be made to this point 12 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate. Uncover; adding an extra 5 to 10 minutes to baking time.)

Bake at 350ºF. 40 to 45 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Remove from oven; cover loosely with foil. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Having forgotten that the spinach would leak moisture as the dish baked, I really wish I'd reduced my sauce further. You can see in the plated image that it was watery. If you try this, be sure to boil the sauce for 15 minutes and avoid the tendency to to reduce the heat once it reached a boil like I did. With all that extra moisture, the rigatoni on the bottom of the dish was quite flaccid. The texture of the rigatoni on top was certainly the opposite; some of them poking out of the sauce and cheese were crunchy. I kind of liked it.

I'm not sure what the point is of combining the rigatoni and spinach in a bowl. As said above, the heavy rigatoni sort of rolled to the bottom of the bowl while the fluffy spinach floated to the top. Otherwise, prep made sense, the dish came out to be tasty; the cauliflower alone is reason to do it again. For all the time and cost though, you may as well do lasagna!

  • cauliflower: $4.83
  • extra-virgin olive oil: $0.09
  • rigatoni: $2
  • spinach: $1.69
  • Italian sausage: $3.99
  • fresh rosemary: $1
  • garlic: $0.15
  • diced tomatoes: $1.92
  • Romano cheese: $3.59
  • mozzarella cheese: $2
Total: $21.26 or about $2.66 for each of 8 servings.