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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Extra-Crusty Baked Rigatoni with Beef Ragu

This is my version of the Williams-Sonoma recipe found on their Web site. I added the wine and tomato paste, a little water, more meat for a heartier sauce and cut some fat. Sometimes I make this with ground turkey.

This is satisfying comfort food that has proven popular at my house. It's also a good dish to take to those busy with newborns or friends who just need a break. You can assemble it in a foil lasagna pan, cover with foil and write the directions (Bake at 350, uncovered, for about 45 minutes) right on the foil.


1 lb. rigatoni
2 Tbs. olive oil, plus more as needed
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 lbs. ground beef round or ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1 large can (28 oz.) peeled and chopped tomatoes plus 1/2 cup water
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup favorite wine
3 tbsp. sugar
1 cup heavy cream of low-fat or fat-free "half and half"
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 lb. low-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup grated Parmesan or aged Asiago cheese


Preheat an oven to 350ºF.

Bring a large pot two-thirds full of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni, stir well and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), about 15 minutes or according to the package instructions. Drain the rigatoni, place in a large bowl and toss with a little olive oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.

In the same pot, heat the 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the beef (or turkey) and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until no pink remains, about 10 minutes. Drain off any fat. Add the parsley, oregano, wine, sugar, tomatoes and tomato paste. Use the 1/2 cup water to rinse out the tomato cans and add it to the pot. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the tomatoes break down and the flavors have melded, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cream, raise the heat and return to a boil (don't boil if you use fat-free "half and half." Just heat) Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Return the rigatoni to the pot with the sauce and toss to coat well.

Oil or spray the bottom of a shallow 3-quart baking dish. Spread half of the pasta mixture in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella. Top with the remaining pasta, the remaining mozzarella and the Parmesan. Bake until the sauce is bubbly and the top is crusty and golden brown, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for about 5 minutes and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

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