If you want to wow guests can I suggest this three cheese stuffed rigatoi pasta cake? It serves like a dream with the rigatoni standing straight up. Each rigatoni tube is filled with a gooey melted cheese filling. Underneath is a tomato base and on top is a crunchy cheesy breadcrumb topping. Winter comfort has never tasted so good. Serves 4 or 1 hibernating person.
I first saw something like this in the Buon Ricordo cookbook and marvelled at the way that it looked thinking that it would take way too much time and effort. You do place the pasta tubes individually so it does take time but it really takes about 5 minutes to do it. Piping the filling inside is also straightforward with the aid of a piping bag and then you've got the perfect dish to serve guests. You can also make this in a bigger tin to feed six or eight depending on how many you have.
I ended up serving this when Miss America and Queen Viv came over for dinner. Miss America arrived first and he handed me a bag of goodies that he had picked up from the local shop. Having lived in Potts Point for over 20 years he recently moved to Ashfield for a change of scene and he has rapidly fallen in love with the suburb. He likes the slightly grungy and unpretentious atmosphere of Ashfield, sort of like what Potts Point used to be like when he first moved there.
Along with eating copious amounts of dumplings he likes the shops. "There are so random and odd bits in the bag," he said handing a bag to me. "I LOVE random and odd things!" I said delightedly. I pulled out a jar of pickles, a bottle of orange blossom water, a Czech cherry jam and a bottle of Chinese wine tonic.
"Let's have this with dessert," I said eyeing the packaging with its unusual ingredients like "Radix Paeoniae Alba", "Poria" and "Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae". It came with a single shot glass and a recommendation to have 4 shots of it daily. We sniffed, the first aroma was like shiitake mushrooms and then came a coffee aroma. It was quite sweet and not bad at all although I don't know how close I'll get to having 4 shot glasses of it a day! Maybe four serves of this rigatoni instead?
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like odd and random things? Do you ever eat or drink something without completely understanding what is in it? What are your favourite three cheeses?
How to make three cheese stuffed rigatoni pasta cake
Three Cheese Stuffed Rigatoni Pasta Cake
This bake is best made a few hours ahead of time for easy serving.
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
- 500g/1.1lbs Rigatoni
- 3.5 cups three cheese mix, grated (I used 1/2 cup ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan)
- 2 eggs
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 cup pasta sauce plus 2 tablespoons extra
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup cream
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat parsley
Step 1 - Line a 20cm/8inch springform tin on the base and sides and preheat oven to 180C/350F.
Step 2 - Cook the rigatoni in a very large pot of salted boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain and separate on a large tray lined with parchment paper. Remove the broken ones - about a third of mine were broken so I put those aside to make a pasta salad.
Step 3 - Process the cheeses reserving 1/2 cup for sprinkling afterwards. Add eggs and garlic and process until very smooth. You don't want any big lumps in this as you'll be piping the filling into the rigatoni. Place in a large piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle that fits inside a rigatoni tube-I used a #9 plain nozzle.
Step 4 - Spread a layer of pasta sauce on the base of the tin and then place the rigatoni standing vertically. Start on the edge and build it across. Then pipe the three cheese filling into the rigatoni. Fill in any gaps with extra rigatoni or a squirt of cheese filling. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and the reserved 1/2 cup of cheese and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Brush with the extra pasta sauce and bake at 200C/400F for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.
NB: This bake is best done a few hours ahead of time, and then reheated in the oven and that way the pasta cuts like a cake slice.