Sometimes I get a craving for tomato sauce that I just can’t stop. Red sauce is so delicious. The smell, the taste, the flavor . . . it’s so good! I love making my own sauce, and I have a recipe for Simple Tomato Sauce (linked!) and also a recipe for Creamy Basil Tomato Soup (linked!), both are very simple and delicious. If time allows, use either of these recipes for this Sausage Rigatoni recipe. If the tomato crops are good and early this year (go away, rain!), I’ll also enjoy making a few gallons of my red sauce from fresh tomatoes rather than canned. . . for the loooong winter months that lie ahead. I hate when the tomatoes ripen the day after I go back to school.
If schedules do not allow for homemade red sauce, then use a couple jars of good-quality marinara or spaghetti sauce for this recipe. Just tweak it a little using some fresh herbs, sugar and spices to taste.
For the sausage in this recipe, I used sausage from a family that makes it locally, in Grantsville. Their sausage has the perfect flavor – spicy but flavorful, not just hot. I hate sausage that is too greasy and especially sausage that is a fake red color. Ug. If I don’t have any sausage, burger will also work, just add extra spices, herbs and a dash or two of cayenne pepper to the sauce for flavor.
For the cheeses, I love using fresh mozzarella, shredded fontina and smoked gouda along with some freshly shredded parmesan for a little extra kick. A few tips about the cheese. The fresh mozzarella melts better in the middle of the pasta, rather than on top. So, layer the dish in this order: sauce on the bottom, half of the drained, cooked pasta, a layer of sauce, then the fresh mozzarella. Complete the dish with: the rest of the pasta, sauce and top with the other shredded cheeses. Finally, do not buy bags of pre-shredded cheese. It’s too waxy and melts very strangely. Looks almost like plastic. I take the extra time to shred my own cheese. I never regret it.
It’s also great to throw in some spinach and make half the pan Spinach and Sausage Rigatoni. Make a big pan on a Sunday, cook it on Monday night for dinner and eat it all week for lunch. If there’s too much, share with your friendly neighborhood librarian/blogger on #fourmileridge! (Hint: that would be me.)
I have discovered the cure for Tomato Sauce Craving.
A huge pan of Sausage Rigatoni will cure the Tomato Sauce Craving. Cheesy, saucy and spicy, this dish is flavorful and makes a perfect dinner with a big salad and warm bread.
- Allergens : gluten
- rigatoni or pasta of preference - 1 - 12 oz box, cooked and drained following the directions on the box
- spicy or hot sausage, loose - 1 lb - browned and drained
- marinara or homemade tomato sauce - about 5 - 6 cups or 2 jars
- fresh herbs - oregano, thyme, rosemary - to taste, diced and added to sauce
- spices (cayenne pepper, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder) - to taste, added to sauce
- fresh mozzarella - about 12 slices, cut in half
- assorted cheeses, shredded - fontina, smoked gouda, parmesan - about 2 cups total
- fresh spinach (optional) - chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a large rectangular pan (lasagna pan) with nonstick cooking spray. If no lasagna pan is available, use two 9 x 13 pans. A large foil pan on a half sheet baking pan works great for transporting this dish.
First, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, following the directions on the box. Drain and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, brown the sausage in a large cast iron skillet and drain. Add the marinara to the skillet and warm til heated through.
Spread one cup to 1 1/2 cups of sauce in the bottom of the pan, top with half of the cooked and drained pasta. Spread with half of the remaining sauce and lay the fresh mozzarella on top of the sauce. Top with another layer of pasta, the remaining sauce and the shredded cheeses.
Spray a piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover the pasta dish. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, then uncover and continue cooking for an additional 5 - 10 minutes until the cheese on top is melted and the sauce is bubbly.
Pull the Sausage Rigatoni from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 - 15 minutes before serving. This gives the pasta time to absorb any water, so the bottom of the dish or plate doesn't fill up with water.
Serve with warm bread or rolls and a salad!