We decided to have a few friends over for dinner this past week, and I decided it was finally time for me to try this amazing-looking recipe for a baked Italian dish.
Joey was gracious enough to help me out by manning the saute pan. He was busy cooking the sausage and onion and asked, “When do I add the garlic?”
I looked at the recipe and paused.
“Well…um…you don’t,” I said.
“The garlic? What do you mean?”
“I mean, there is no garlic in the recipe.”
He looked at me, appalled, and I laughed and pointed to the large jar of minced garlic I already pulled from the refrigerator.
“Yeah, there’s no garlic in the recipe, but we’re totally adding some in anyway,” I said.
“No garlic. That’s just dumb,” he said.
You have to give the people what they want.
In this case, we ended up with a hearty, cheesy and delicious baked pasta, and it made so much that not only was I not sure it was going to actually fit in my casserole dish, but it barely looked like we even made a dent after enjoying big helpings at dinner.
This recipe comes from the blog “Foodie Crush.” You can find the original post at https://www.foodiecrush.com/baked-sausage-rigatoni/. I added garlic and some other herbs and spices to my version.
Sausage and Cheese Rigatoni
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage ground or removed from casings
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
- 12 ounces roasted red bell peppers drained and diced
- 25 ounces marinara sauce
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 16 ounces rigatoni pasta
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley chopped
- 6 to 8 slices provolone cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and prepare a three-quart baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray, and set it aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, fennel and onion and saute until the sausage is cooked through and the onions are soft. Add in the garlic and saute for another two minutes or so.
- Dump in the diced red peppers, marinara sauce, oregano, basil and paprika to the pan and stir to combine.
- While the sauce is warming through, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the rigatoni for just five minutes. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, stirring to coat it.
- In another bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan and parsley. (At first, you’ll wonder how it’s going to come together with all that parmesan, but just keep stirring. It will.)
- Pour half of the pasta/sauce mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top it with half of the ricotta, and then place a single layer of three to four slices of provolone on top.
- Finish it off with the rest of the sauce, the rest of the ricotta, and another layer of provolone.
- Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbly. Let the bake sit for five minutes before serving with some garlic bread.
Holy moly, you guys, this was delicious. It had great flavor, made a ton of food, and it was almost even better as leftovers the next day. It was also really easy to put together, which was nice for feeding a group. It also reminded me how underrated fennel seeds are as an ingredient. I can’t remember the last time I used fennel in a dish; I’ll have to make sure to do it more often.
I’m still not sure why it didn’t make the cut in the original recipe, but garlic was an excellent addition to the final product. And that was a good thing, considering I’m pretty sure I would have had to tackle Joey to keep him from adding it to the pan.
This piece first appeared in print on March 3, 2022.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.