There are basically three different ways to achieve the flavors in this dish. The most common form, of which we are all familiar, is called Lasagna. A layered pasta dish with meat, cheese and sauce that I find laborious. Not my favorite way to achieve this flavor profile.
Next up I give you Baked Rigatoni. Again...pasta, meat, cheese and sauce. This is a favorite of mine as you just toss all of the cooked ingredients in a bowl. Then mix thoroughly, slap it in a baking dish and heaven emerges from the oven 45 minutes later. It will score 100 points for taste and about 70 points for aesthetics. Matters to some, but I'll take taste over aesthetics any day of the week (just look at my friends).
Last up is Rigatoni Pie. Exact same flavor profile...pasta, meat, cheese and sauce. So you may expect similar scores to the two aforementioned dishes....but just you wait. This is the dish that would be prepared if you put Prince, Lady Gaga, Liberace and James Brown in the kitchen at the same time. It's flashy, unique and your guests will be blinded by the beauty of the presentation...so much so that they will give you 100 points for aesthetics and a 183 points for taste.
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
One 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound rigatoni
1 pound part-skim mozzarella, grated
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
- Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once it begins to sizzle, cook the sausage and shallot, stirring occasionally, until there is no pink left in the sausage and the shallot is soft, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes, then add the tomatoes with their juices and 1/2 cup water. Increase the heat to high and bring the sauce to a boil, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cream, bring back to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce cool for 10 minutes, then puree in a blender until smooth.
- Preheat the oven to 375º. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with 1 tablespoon oil.
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until slightly less than al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil.
- Stand the rigatoni on their ends in the prepared springform pan until it is completely filled (you might have leftover pasta). Put the pan on a foil-lined baking sheet to catch any drips. Pour the sauce over the pasta, spreading it with the back of a spoon (you might have leftover sauce). Sprinkle with the mozzarella and Parmesan.
- Cover the pan with foil, doming it slightly to avoid touching the cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue cooking until the top is golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes more. Let the pasta cool for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the sides of the pan, sprinkle with basil, cut into wedges and serve.