(A literal translation: Baked Standing Rigatoni Pie with Bolognese Sauce.)
I figured I'd give it a try for a post-holiday dinner for some friends that were coming for a visit. I was a bit intimidated about the techniques used in this dish. Would the rigatoni stand up? Would enough of the Bolognese get inside the rigatoni? Would it fall apart as I popped it out of the spring-form pan?
I set out to research this recipe in Italian. I often do this when I want to find authentic recipes... I use Google Translate to help translate the recipe name I am looking for, and then use the Italian name with the word "ricetta" (recipe) after it. In this way, I often find a myriad of authentic, traditional recipes and methods--often from home cooks or Nonnas. I did find many variations of this dish, and different methods of preparation. For instance, some put the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the rigatoni and press it into the holes. I didn't want an overly cheesy version, but instead opted to press the bolognese into the holes. The funny thing is, I actually came across one particularly fussy recipe where the cook actually used a pastry bag to pipe the cheese mixture into each and every piece of rigatoni! If I want that much cheese, I'll make manicotti anyway.
I'm not going to get into my recipe for Bolognese Sauce here, but I'll write a separate post with that recipe since it can be used in other dishes. I'll concentrate more on the techniques to put this whole thing together. I will say that you should use the largest diameter rigatoni that you can find. I actually tested a few pieces each of two brands of rigatoni by cooking them beforehand to be sure I had the correct cook on them and to see if the holes were large enough. I wanted to be sure they would maintain their round shape and be able to stand up. I also didn't want them too long (tall in the pan) or there wouldn't be enough room for the Bolognese and cheese toppings. In the end, Colavita had a rigatoni that worked well.
I discovered that you have to boil the rigatoni about a minute or two less than you would for a well cooked al dente pasta. This is very important! If the pasta is overcooked, each rigatoni will collapse with flattened holes that won't be able to accept any filling.
You will need a spring form pan with to make this recipe.
1 pound large rigatoni pasta
Bolognese sauce (allow extra for serving on the side)
8 ounces Italian style Fontina cheese, shredded
1 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
light olive oil (for coating the inside of the spring for pan)
For the filling:
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1/4 cup (a handful) of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 whole egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
20 cracks of fresh black pepper (from a pepper mill - alt., 1/4 tsp ground pepper)
dash of nutmeg
- You can make your Bolognese sauce ahead of time.
- Drain the ricotta cheese by placing it in a mesh sieve over a small bowl for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator before using. No soggy ricotta!
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and place a baking/pizza pan on the bottom rack of the oven to prevent spillover. Then place a small metal pan on a rack just above the middle rack to prevent burning the cheese.
- Place the ricotta in a mixing bowl and the 1 egg, nutmeg, salt, pepper and Parmigiano Reggiano. Mix well and then set aside.
- Shred the Fontina cheese with the 1/4" size holes of a box grater. Set aside.
- Coat the spring form pan with the olive oil lightly on the bottom and sides. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil for the pasta. When at a full boil, place the rigatoni in the water and cook until each pasta feels a little under-done.
- Drain the pasta completely, then toss gently in a large bowl to coat the pasta with 1 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano. This becomes the glue that helps the pasta stick to each other.
- Cool for five minutes or until you can handle the pasta.
- Take a balled-up kitchen towel and place it under the rear of your spring form pan to prop it up at an angle toward you.
- Begin by standing each rigatoni next to each other, starting in the front of the pan and working your way uphill in rows. If you have small children, this would be a fun activity for them, but if they are anything like my son, make them wash their hands first!
- Once finished, your pan should look like the first photo above.
14. Then spoon a layer of the ricotta mixture over the top of the sauce.
15. Top off the ricotta with half the Fontina cheese. (You will add the rest at the end).
16. Place the pan it into the oven on the middle rack (in between the two baking pans, as described above), and bake for 40 minutes on a center rack.
17. When done, remove the pan and spread the rest of the Fontina on top. Set the oven to broil, place the pan back into the oven, and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese is a bit browned and bubbling.
18. When done, remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes before serving!
19. When cooled, you can take a knife or thin spatula and slide it around the edges to release the pasta from the sides of the pan. Release the lock and gently lift the sides of the pan away. After removing the pan sides, rest for another 5 minutes. You should now be able to slice and serve. Use a pie server to plate each slice.
One more note: If you'd like, you can place the ricotta cheese mixture onto the rigatoni first, forcing it down into the holes, and then the Bolognese followed by the ricotta mixture on top. Personally, I liked getting bits of meat down into the pasta. If you're more of a cheese person, they by all means, prepare it the other way around. For a variation, try making one with an Alfredo sauce rather than the Bolognese.
Trust me, this meal is well worth the effort, especially when trying to impress some friends.
Leave a comment if you make this recipe. I'd love to hear how it came out!