This dish has evolved through the years. I used to make it when I lived in a house with 3 other roommates and it became a regular in our kitchen. Since I’ve grown up a bit, I’ve elevated it with a crispy topping, added some REAL (not the pre shredded stuff) cheese into the filling and learned that maybe I should really just eat half my regular portion and have a salad with it. Wisdom.
Heres what you need to know: Yes, you can assemble this beforehand and then bake it when your guests arrive or when you are hungry. It feeds an ARMY. Its satisfying, delicious, and gooey. The leftovers are just as amazing. Rigatoni is like Ziti’s more attractive fancier cousin, plus the ridges on the pasta help it hold more of the sauce and cheese.
As far as the cheese goes. Please buy the real stuff y’all. Yes its more expensive and you have to grate it- but you also have to work, pay taxes, birth children (so this is easy.)
The stuff in the bag is priced by its weight, and its coated in ALL sorts of artificial junk so that it doesn’t stick together. You won’t use all the cheese you purchase for this recipe, but go ahead and grate it all and keep it in your fridge or freezer. Pay more for something natural and not coated in chemicals. It will change your life when you realize what real Parmesan actually tastes like. Try this one anytime you need to feed a crowd, or when you need a little comfort food.
This takes 30 minutes to bake and roughly 15 to assemble. Feeds 6-8.
- 1 pound good quality Rigatoni (I use Barilla)
- 2 jars marinara or pasta sauce.
- 2 Eggs
- 1 15oz container Ricotta Cheese. (I use part skim, whole milk is fine.)
- 1 cup Mozzarella grated
- 1/4 Cup + 3 TBSP Parmesan grated
- 1/4 Cup Fontina grated
- 1/2 c Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Boil a large pot of water and cook your pasta. Shorten the cooking time by 2 minutes from what it says on the box. (ex. mine said 12 minutes so I cooked for 10). This leaves the pasta with some texture so it doesn’t turn to mush when we bake it. Drain your pasta and place it in a large bowl. Open your two jars of sauce and pour in one, then stir to coat the pasta. Add HALF of the second jar and stir again. If your mixture is too dry, then you can add the rest but I typically use 1 1/2 jars. Set aside until you are are ready to assemble.
- Make the filling. In another bowl, add two eggs and beat them with a whisk or fork until the whites and yolks are combined. Add your entire container of ricotta, salt and pepper. Add your parmesan and fontina, then stir really well to combine everything and make sure the egg is blended in. Set aside until you are ready to assemble.
3. Make the topping. In another small bowl, add 1/2 cup of Panko breadcrumbs, 1 TBSP olive oil, and 3 TBSP grated parmesan. Stir to combine really well.
4. To assemble: spray a 9×13 baking pan with nonstick spray. Gather the noodles/sauce, the mozzarella, the filling and the topping and place them by the baking dish for easy assembly.
5. Begin by placing 1/2 of the noodle/sauce mixture in the pan, then sprinkle 1/2c mozzarella.
6. Place large dollops of the filling all over the mozzarella and use a silicone spatula or knife to spread the ricotta filling into an even layer. Then, pour the rest of the pasta/sauce mixture on top and spread into a flat layer.
7. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella, then the Panko breadcrumb topping. Make sure to sprinkle the topping evenly so that each bite has a little crunch. From the side, you can see the different layers in the dish.
8. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and its hot and bubbly. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve. We use a big spoon and dig right in.
*Serve with a big green salad and some warm crusty bread. Add cooked crumbled pancetta or italian sausage to the filling if you want, or even chop up some fresh spinach and stir it into the filling. This recipe is pretty flexible.
As always, pin this one to save it for later, show me you’ve made this on my Facebook page or instagram, and comment on this post to let me know your thoughts!