What’s not to love about pasta filled with creamy ricotta and fresh spinach baked in a spicy marinara sauce and topped with bubbly, gooey mozzarella?
This is a baked pasta dish that only looks fancy. There are three key areas to making a really good baked pasta dish.
You need good quality cheese and enough of it to make things ooey-gooey but not SO much as to weigh down and overwhelm the rest of the ingredients.
The sauce needs to have some flavor. You can’t be shy with seasoning. Additionally, you want the dish to be moist but not drowning in sauce.
Baking Time and Temp
I am a huge fan of the crispy bits around the edges of baked pasta. You need the edges to get crusty but without drying out the rest of the dish.
It’s all about finding a nice balance of pasta to cheese to sauce and then baking just enough but not too much. This recipe gets pretty close to my ideal: crunchy edges with a golden and bubbly mozzarella top and a succulent, flavorful interior.
Spicy Rigatoni Pie
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/4 large onion, minced
• 28 ounces tomato puree
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 2 teaspoons crushed hot pepper flakes
• 1 pound rigatoni No. 7
• 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
• 1–1/3 cup fresh ricotta
• 1 egg
• 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
• 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
• Salt and black pepper, to taste
1. Make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the garlic and onion, until the garlic becomes lightly golden brown and the onion translucent. Add in the tomato puree. Season with dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer. Cover and let simmer until ready to assemble the pie.
2. Make the filling. Place 2 cups of chopped fresh spinach in a small food processor. Pulse until very finely minced. Stir into a bowl with 1–1/3 cups ricotta, 1 egg, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Season with salt and black pepper. Stir until well combined. Set aside.
3. Cook the rigatoni. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta shy of the usual cooking time, approximately 7-8 minutes. Drain.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Assemble the pie. Ladle 1 cup of sauce into the bottom of an 8.5-inch springform pan. Stand the rigatoni on their ends in the pan until it is completely filled. Place the pan on a foil-lined baking sheet to catch drips.
6. Scoop the filling into a piping bag or Ziploc bag and snip the corner. Gently fill each rigatoni with the filling.
7. Pour 1–1/2 cups of the sauce over the top of the filled rigatoni. Shake to evenly distribute the sauce. Lay the thin slices of mozzarella over the top, overlapping if necessary.
8. Cover with foil slightly domed so it does not touch the cheese. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
9. Remove foil and cook for another 15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown.
10. Take out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing the sides of the pan.
11. Cut into wedges and serve with any extra sauce on the side.