It always makes me happy when I can think of a new way to present the classic Italian flavors that I grew up with. I have had the idea to try and stuff rigatoni and make a baked dish that almost resembled mini cannelloni or manicotti for a very long time. The reason I haven't made it was because I knew I needed to have the right person to help out and make this dish perfect. We finally got together this week, and the pasta came out great!
A meatball mixture with a little extra liquid and egg.
The extra liquid made it easier to pipe into the pasta tubes.
This task didn't feel nearly as tedious or annoying as I expected it to be. With 2 people working, it went pretty quick.
I initially imagined pan frying these one by one on each end to seal the meat inside the pasta. Instead, we realized that broiling them was the way to go.
We made a little border of foil to protect the sides from overcooking.
The pasta is pressed up close together in order to protect each other from the elements, just like penguins on the Antarctic tundra. Anyone else been watching Frozen Planet?
The broiling really sealed the meat into the pasta.
The noodles were slightly stuck together, nothing a fork couldn't quickly handle.
Layer it up with sauce and cheese.
The pasta came out better than I had imagined, with the meat really securely held in each noodle.
A fun twist on classic flavors.
These guys weren't ideal for reheating though. The flavors were still there but the pasta fell apart.
Make your favorite meatball mixture. Mine is beef, turkey, garlic, parsley, and stale/dried bread that has been soaked with milk. I normally add anywhere from zero to one egg for 2 lbs of meat. Today, I added 3 eggs, along with a little more milk than usual. This was first of all to make the meat mixture looser and easier to pipe into the pasta. The second reason was so the extra egg could help bind the meat to the pasta as it cooked.
Boil the rigatoni for about 5 minutes, only half cooking it. Strain. Put a few spoonfuls of your meat mixture into a piping bag, and carefully pipe into the pasta tubes one by one. Be sure to fill the pasta because a. the meat will slightly shrink while cooking, and b. the meat at the ends of the pasta tubes is what really binds to the pasta when it is broiled.
On a lightly greased piece of foil on a baking sheet, line up your stuffed rigatoni, standing on their ends, very close together. When you are done, wrap the pasta with a strip of foil to keep everything tight, but also prevent the edges of the outside pasta from burning. Broil for about 5 minutes until the meat and tips of pasta are browned well. You will also notice that the meat has fused to the pasta. This is the hard part - cover your rigatoni with another piece of foil (no need to grease this time) and a baking pan. Carefully flip the entire thing. Remove the top baking sheet to expose the un-broiled, un-fused side of the rigatoni. Broil this side until nicely browned as well.
Some of your rigatoni will be stuck together. Using a fork, lightly separate the pasta on the baking sheet, just making sure nothing is stuck too bad. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with some (homemade) tomato sauce, and toss in some of your rigatoni. Top with mozzarella and parm, add more sauce, and repeat until all of your pasta is in the dish. Top with more cheese and bake at 400 for about 30-40 minutes until the pasta is tender, the meat is cooked, and the cheese on top is browned. Let it sit about 10 minutes before serving.