Mix a bunch of cooked rigatoni and spaghetti sauce together, throw that into a baking dish, sprinkle liberally with cheese and then send that to the oven for a few minutes and you’ve got yourself a pretty decent pasta dish that’ll be sure to please the entire family.
But take that same rigatoni and arrange it upright in a springform pan, then fill the pasta with a creamy cheese mixture, top that with a deliciously spicy spaghetti sauce and then cover this whole rig with mounds of grated mozzarella cheese and you’ve just created a masterpiece, otherwise known as Rigatoni Pie, that’s sure to IMPRESS the entire family!
Honestly, though, this is a fairly simple way to turn an otherwise pretty ordinary pasta dish into a memorable feast.
Follow me if you will, I’ll show you exactly how to get this baby on your table…
- 450g (1lb) rigatoni pasta
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 340g (12oz) lean ground beef
- 340g (12oz) extra-lean ground pork
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1-1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp chili pepper flakes
- 1 large (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
- 6 slices bacon, cut into 1" pieces
- 300g (10oz) (1 container) ricotta cheese
- 250g (8oz) (1 package) cream cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- few gratings nutmeg
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
- Preheat your oven to 375°F
- In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crispy; remove to a plate with a slotted spoon but leave fat in pan.
- Add onions, celery, garlic and cook until softened, fragrant and slightly colored, about 5 minutes minutes, then crank up the heat to high and add the ground beef and pork. Break the meat into little pieces with a wooden spoon and sprinkle with the 1-½ teaspoon of salt. Cook until the meat is brown and crispy, and then add the crushed tomatoes, water and spices; lower the heat and simmer slowly, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and the water is completely evaporated. Add the spinach and delicately mix it in until it's completely wilted. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, cook the rigatoni for 6 minutes in salted boiling water, then drain and let cool. Note that you only want to cook the pasta halfway through, it'll finish cooking in the oven later. 6 minutes is all it takes.
- Put the ricotta and cream cheese along with the egg in a large mixing bowl and mix with an electric mixer until creamy; add salt, pepper, nutmeg and reserved cooked bacon and stir delicately.
- Put the cooked and cooled pasta, grated parmesan cheese and olive oil in a large mixing bowl and toss delicately until all the noodles are well coated. Arrange the rigatoni, standing tightly side by side, in 9" springform pan.
- Top with the cheese mixture and force it down the holes and cracks with a rubber spatula. Pour the sauce over the cheese and spread it evenly across the top.
- Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, then remove from the oven and top with the grated mozzarella.
- Return to the oven for 15 more minutes, or until the cheese gets golden and starts to bubble.
- Let the pie rest for at least 20 minutes before unmolding and slicing.
Step-by-step instructions and pictures
Let’s make some Spaghetti Sauce
First, preheat your oven to 375°F. Not that we’re gonna use it now, but at least we’ll know it’ll be nice and hot when we’re ready to use it.
Then, in a large skillet set over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until it’s nice and crispy; remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon but leave the fat in pan.
We won’t be using that bacon right away, but we sure want to take advantage of the drippings; they will make a very tasty foundation for our spaghetti sauce!
Now add some onions, celery and garlic to that bacon fat and cook until softened, fragrant and slightly colored, about 5 minutes minutes.
Then, crank up the heat and add the ground beef and pork.
Break the meat into little pieces with a wooden spoon and sprinkle with 1-½ teaspoon of salt. Cook until the meat becomes really brown and crispy. That beautiful coloring will also contribute to adding tons of flavor to our spaghetti sauce!
Next, add the crushed tomatoes, water and spices; mix well.
Lower the heat and simmer slowly, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and the water is completely evaporated.
Add the spinach and delicately mix it in until it’s completely wilted.
And there we have it, spaghetti sauce is done and ready to go. Set it aside so it has a chance to cool down a bit.
We need some pasta, too!
While working on the sauce, cook the rigatoni in salted boiling water for a total of 6 minutes, then drain and let cool.
Note that you only want to cook the pasta halfway through, as it will finish cooking in the oven later. Trust me, 6 minutes is all it takes.
And for some creamy cheese filling…
Now put the ricotta and cream cheese along with an egg in a large mixing bowl…
Mix with an electric mixer until well combined and super creamy;
Add salt, pepper, grated nutmeg and the bacon we cooked and reserved earlier, then stir delicately.
Let’s assemble this beautiful pie!
Place the par-cooked and cooled pasta, grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil in a large mixing bowl…
Toss delicately until all the noodles are well coated.
Arrange the rigatoni, standing tightly side by side, in 9″ springform pan.
Top with the cheese mixture and force it down all the holes and cracks as best you can with a rubber spatula.
Pour the reserved spaghetti sauce over the cheese…
…and spread it evenly across the top.
Note that you may have a little bit too much sauce, but I’m sure you won’t mind if that happens. Leftover spaghetti sauce is ALWAYS a good thing to have in the fridge, or freezer, for that matter.
Ha! Now we’ll finally use that oven. It should be nice and hot by now.
Throw your Rigatoni Pie in the oven and bake it for 25 minutes; after that time, take it out of the oven and top it with grated mozzarella cheese.
Return the pie to the oven for 15 more minutes, or until the cheese gets golden and starts to bubble.
Garnish with a handful of Parmesan shavings and chopped parsley, if desired.
Let the pie rest for at least 20 minutes before unmolding and slicing.
If you tried to do that while the pie was still piping hot and just fresh out of the oven, it would in all probability collapse on you and you’d be looking at a pile of… well, baked rigatoni. In other words, you could’ve saved yourself the trouble of making the pie in the first place and just dumped everything into a baking dish.
So really, be patient and give it some time to rest. Your patience will be rewarded with beautiful and super neat slices.
After all, this IS a Rigatoni Pie, and pie is probably what you want to see in your plate!