So, it’s Lent now, and that means no meat on Fridays. Sidebar: In my head, I hear “no meat on Fridays” to the tune of No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn. NO! MEAT! ON FRIDAY! You can hear it too, right? Oh, Mike D, why you gotta be like that?
Sunday past was my turn to host Soup Night, and that was the closest I was going to get to Pi Day for La Famiglia. On previous Pi Day celebrations I served pasta pie, and it’s good for my self-esteem when I make Good Things for La Fam. And, oh serendipitous day, I can offer it to you, friends, as an option for Meatless Foodie Friday in Lent, and in lots of time for you to prep for Pi Day (next Thursday!) celebrations of your very own. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you again in another post. As if a nerd could avoid the Nerd High Holidays.
Pasta Pie is a dish that is impressive to look at, but not really difficult to make. If you have someone you want to impress, do this. You can totally do it – I know you can. I’ve been tinkering with a recipe that I found online a few years ago. I invited my family to participate in Pi Day a few years back, and my Uncle Jack (Ghod rest) was always impressed with me when I came up with fun novel things like this. I’m not sayin’ that I did this *only* to impress him, but it might have totally been part of it. That first one was solidly OK, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, so in the times between then and now, I’ve been adapting the recipe for my culinary purposes. This week, it was for Soup Night, at which my delightful cousin Nikki was joining us, and she just happens to be a vegetarian. A perfect opportunity for me to field test my latest incarnation of the Pasta Pie on my family!
You need a spring form pan for this. You might be able to do it in a flat-sided cake pan, but I don’t know how much success you’ll have getting it out of the pan to serve it. That said, I’m all about experimenting in my kitchen. In the words of my Uncle Jack: “See what happens.”
To the method!
Boil a large bag of rigatoni in salted water until not-quite done. Stir it often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom and the rigatoni don’t stick together. Drain, rinse, and place in a large bowl. Drizzle the pasta generously with oil and toss so that the pasta does not stick in a lump.
Heat your tomato sauce. I make my own, using 2 1-litre jars of passata that I can in the fall, a large can of tomato juice, and two jars of tomato paste (along with the appropriate herbs and spices to our taste). That probably comes to a little less than a gallon of sauce. If you’re using store-bought, I’d say you want 3-4 jars.
Sprinkle the oiled pasta with Romano cheese (or Parm, or Asiago, or Romanello) and freshly cracked black pepper and toss to distribute the cheese throughout the pasta.
Pour a glug of olive oil into the bottom of your spring-form pan and swirl to coat the inside of the spring-form pan. A glug is a Very Scientific measurement meaning one generous pour until the bottle has to take a breath. If you pour olive oil with the bottle upside down, you’ll know what I mean. Could also be a slow counted One-Mississippi of pour, too, if that’s how you measure. In Recipe-following households who don’t like to freestyle, I’d say it’s maybe a tablespoon and a bit. I tend to not measure things… I think all y’all have figured that out.
Add some seasoned breadcrumbs. Tap the pan so that the breadcrumbs stick to the oiled bottom and sides. Start putting the rigatoni in the spring form pan, each rigatoni up on it’s edge, until you fill the pan. I lift one edge of the springform pan up a few inches (resting, say, on the edge of a breadboard and a wooden spoon) so that the rigatoni don’t just fall over. Gravity is your friend.
Note: With the large bag of uncooked rigatoni, I can make a 10-inch spring form pie packed fairly tight, and an 8-inch spring form, loosely packed so that I have to jiggle it to space them out. a little. You don’t want them to be too tight, or none of the sauce will get into the holes. But I also eat torn rigatoni right from the cheesy-oily bowl, so if I didn’t do that, it might be the right amount. Alas, we’ll never know.
Put 5 or 6 ladles full of sauce in a bowl, and add 2 cups (or a medium size tub) of ricotta cheese. If you’ve got some pesto, add that in as well. Stir, stir, stir, and add more sauce if you think it needs to be thinned out more. Pour the ricotta mix over the rigatoni to fill the all holes at least part way. You’ll need a spoon or spatula to spread it over the pasta against the edge of the pan.
Sprinkle with stretchy mozza, and put in the oven to bake at 325 for 45-60 minutes (depending on how tightly you’ve packed the rigatoni). I usually put the spring-form pan on a cookie sheet because my spring-form pans can’t be trusted to hold a seal. Your mileage may vary.
To serve, pop open and remove the sides of the spring-form pan. Chiffonade some basil (if you have it) and sprinkle that on top right before you serve it. I put the pasta pie on a wooden cutting board so that I can carry it to the table, and we can pass it around if we need to. Serve it with the rest of the tomato sauce. I put the sauce in gravy boats on the table so that my family can have it as saucy as they want.
I grilled some portobello caps and Italian sausage to supplement the pie, depending on whether you lean vegetarian or carnivorous, and a salad. We drank a lovely Baco Noir from Sandbanks with it. Mostly because that’s my favourite, and that’s the Casa DeSwears House Red.
And that’s it! Done and done! May your fast and abstinence efforts all be so delicious.