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Acadiana Lifestyle

Comfort Food Recipe: Rigatoni al Forno

03/24/2013 01:38PM ● By Curt Guillory

Rigatoni al Forno is creamy, spicy, rich, deliciousness.

Rigatoni al forno is a rich, hearty dish with tons of flavor that goes from pot to table in about 45 minutes.  What more could you ask for?

Who's al forno?

Not so much of a who as a what.  Al forno is the northern Italian word for foods that are baked.  It sounds impressive doesn't it?  “Fill in the blank” al forno.  

Traditionally baked in a wood fired oven, al forno dishes are a favorite of Italy.  Of course the terms isn't used to describe all foods which are baked.  You don't go around saying pizza al forno now do?

So while you're standing around the water cooler impressing your friends saying that you made some rigatoni al forno last night for supper.  You will know that all you really did was to bake some pasta in a delicious meat sauce.  But hey, that's good enough for me.

What, no cannelloni?

I developed this dish one night from wanting to make my cannelloni al forno, but didn't really have the time.  I thought of a way to incorporate the same flavors and textures without all of the time and steps in the cannelloni dish.

A casserole came to mind, which is what this really is when you get down to it.  Essentially the meat sauce in made in one pot, the pasta is cooked just shy of al dente' in another, and the two are combined in a casserole and baked until cheesy, bubbly perfection is reached.  Yeah, that sounds good.

Al forno ingredients

The meat in the sauce is a combination of ground beef and Italian sausage, which is combined with marinara sauce and some heavy cream.  If you haven't made my excellent marinara sauce go ahead and use your favorite jarred sauce instead.  Just be sure to add a medium, chopped onion and about 4 cloves of chopped garlic.  

I use Barilla pasta exclusively.  I find that it is by far the most consistent of the dried, packaged pastas on the market.  The package states, "11 minutes for al dente'", and that is true.  But being that this pasta will be cooked twice, boil that pasta for about 8-9 minutes.

Use whatever cheese you like.  I used a combination of finely shredded colby-jack cheese and a 5 cheese Italian blend.

Note: The sauce will be very thin in the pot, but not to worry.  The pasta will do its starchy job and thicken the sauce for us while it is baking.

Yield: This recipe makes 10-12 servings.  So there will be some for left overs the next day.

Ingredients:

·        2tbsp.  Olive oil

·        1lb.  Ground beef

·        1lb.  Sweet Italian sausage

·        2C  Dry red wine

·        1qt.  Marinara sauce

·        1qt.  Heavy whipping cream

·        2-3tbsp.  Italian blend seasoning

·        2tspn.  Red pepper flakes

·        Salt and all-purpose seasoning to taste

·        1lb.  Barilla rigatoni 

·        2C  Finely shredded cheese (divided)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°

Place a large pot of heavily salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.

Place a large (5qt. or larger) dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the olive oil

Remove the sausage from its casings, add the ground beef and sausage to the pot, and brown well

Add the onions and garlic (if using) and cook until the onions are translucent

Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes

Cook the pasta 8-9 minutes and drain

Add the cream, marinara sauce, all-purpose seasoning, salt, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and bring to a simmer

Taste and adjust seasoning.  This will be your only chance to do so

Turn the heat off and add the pasta, stirring well to combine

Add one cup of shredded cheese

Lightly oil a 10X10 or 9X12 casserole

Note: Do not mix the pasta and sauce in the casserole.  This will remove the oil layer and promote sticking

Add the mixture to the casserole and top with remaining cheese

Bake for 20-30 minutes until bubbling and the cheese is browned.

A pasta dish by any other name

Call it al forno, call a casserole, call it a pasta bake, call whatever you wish, but once you make this simple, comforting dish you will call it delicious.

Stay hungry.

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