Do you ever make something for dinner and then realize, halfway through, that it's going to take much longer than you anticipated? But as you are midway through preparation, it would probably take just as long to finish what you are making than to start over with something quicker. This was the case for me with Pasta pie from Noble Pig.
I had seen the recipe several years ago, but never got around to it. Probably because I thought it was too fussy. I mean I could just toss the same ingredients into a casserole dish and have a no fuss meal. Well that was definitely true, but this version is fun.
It's the poking of the noodles that is the fussy part. It's fussy, but it's fun. The sauce makes a cool little squooshy sound when you poke your finger inside the noodle. SQUOOSH!
I was convinced there was no way all the sauce the recipe calls for would fit into all the noodles. I just kept poking and squooshing, and once all the noodles were filled, there was only a tiny bit of sauce left sitting on the top. I just left it there. Scooping the sauce from the top of the dish seemed unnecessary. The extra sauce wasn't hurting anything, and I was done fussing with the dish.
The meat filled noodles are what makes this dish so different from a casserole with all the different ingredients just tossed together. With the Pasta Pie, you are insured to get meat in every noodle-y bite. And this my friends is a very good thing.
I did change things up a bit from the original recipe. I thought that the meat sauce, as is, would be on the bland side. Adding one finely diced onion, a half a finely diced roasted red pepper, and a few shakes of Italian spice blend solved that problem quite nicely. I also swapped out the ground beef for bulk Italian sausage. That added some extra deliciousness as well.
Overall, even though this dish was extra work, it was really tasty. I would make this dish again when I was in one of those moods to be in the kitchen for a while. They do happen every now and then.
Pasta Pie adapted from Noble Pig
1 pound rigatoni
1T olive oil
1 pound bulk Italian Sausage
2 garlic cloves, crushed
a few shakes of Italian seasoning
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 onion, diced fine
1/2 roasted red pepper, diced fine
Butter, for pan
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8oz coarsely grated mozzarella (I used a pre-shredded Italian Cheese blend)
Cook pasta until slightly underdone. When done, rinse in cold water and drain again. Toss pasta with olive oil to coat. Set aside.
Cook Italian sausage until no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, roasted red pepper, and onion. Cook until sausage is brown and onions begin to caramelize. Add crushed tomatoes and a few shakes of Italian seasoning; simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Toss pasta with Parmesan cheese. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Tightly pack pasta into pan, standing each piece on end. Spread meat sauce on top of pasta. Push the meat sauce into the pasta holes filling each one up.
Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips, and bake at 400F for 15 minutes. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top and bake another 10-15 minutes until cheese is golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen and then unmold.