My husband and I are usually up by 5:30 am each morning, even on weekends! One morning as I’m having my breakfast, I turned on the television and was channel surfing. On CreateTV, which is a public broadcasting station, they were running an episode of Lidia Bastianich’s cooking show.
As I’m eating my oatmeal, I’m watching Lidia make Baked Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce, Meatballs, and Eggs. Even though it was early morning, this pasta dish looked delicious. I realize eggs (hard boiled) are an unlikely ingredient in a pasta dish, but that did not deter me. The meatballs are made with Italian sausage. Other ingredients include sweet soppressata salami, San Marzano tomatoes and caciocavallo cheese, which is a dried mozzarella cheese
In Lidia’s recipe I substituted Gianelli Italian turkey sausage ($4.99/lb.) that I found at Wegmans, along with their store brand of D.O.P. (Denomination of Origin protected) San Marzano tomatoes ($3.99/can). I was able to track down the caciocavallo cheese (350g or .77 lbs. for $6.99) at Antonio Gourmet Salumeria in Ocean Township.
Lidia’s recipe calls for making a pestata (paste) of onion, carrot, celery, parsley and garlic that you make in a food processor. My daughter commented that this blend of vegetables and herb gave the sauce a more intense flavor. It does take a bit of time to prepare this meal. I made the hard boil eggs earlier in the day. While I had the sauce and pasta water going, I readied the meatballs which were poached in the simmering sauce.
Once the sauce and pasta were done, it was time to begin making the casserole. The casserole needs to bake 20-25 minutes until it’s hot and bubbly. As I made mine ahead of time, I brought it to room temperature for approximately 10-15 minutes, I preheated the oven to 350° and covered the pan with plastic wrap and foil. This was done to prevent the pasta from drying out and to ensure the center would get hot. I anticipated baking time of approximately 25 minutes. Once it was close to time, I removed the plastic/foil wrap and let the dish bake for another 5 minutes or so and tested the center to make sure it was hot.
The baked rigatoni was delicious. A portion of the pestata was used as a seasoning for the meatballs. It was a nice change having meatballs made with turkey sausage meat instead of ground beef. You hardly noticed the sliced hard boiled eggs in the dish as the combination of sauce, meats and cheese really made the dish shine.
Lidia’s recipe for the sauce and meatballs is enough for two meals, so it’s a nice time saver. Next time you want to showcase your pasta cooking talents, give this pasta dish a whirl.
By the way, I used the leftover caciocavallo cheese on a pizza that I topped with pesto instead of sauce; also a nice change.
A former teacher, shop-a-holic, empty-nester redefining quick, family approved dinners.