Thursday, February 04, 2010

Two-Pepper Rigatoni and Cheese...

If you took a look in our pantry, you may think "just how many people live here with all that pasta on the shelf?". I tend to keep a variety in stock, with various sizes, shapes and kinds on hand, be it regular, whole-wheat or multi-grain. It takes any stress away on those busy days knowing we can pull a meal together with pantry staples in a snap, but it's also nice to not have to shop when plans change and you have a little extra time to get dinner together. Which, conveniently enough, was the case when I decided almost last minute to make this Two-Pepper Rigatoni and Cheese tonight.

After cooking a pot of holey rigatoni, draining the liquid away when it was just short of al dente, I used the same pan to start softening a chopped sweet pepper in a slick of butter. Adding the bits of red pepper to the pasta, we made use of the pot again by throwing in another pat of butter and few spoonfuls of flour, followed with a steady stream of milk. When the milk came to a boil, activating the flour, I noticed that it wasn't as thick as I was expecting - however, as soon as we took the milk off the heat and whisked in the cheeses, it started to tighten up more. Even then, the sauce was still thin, but leave it be and you'll see why in a minute.

For a nutty, mild creaminess, fontina was the first cheese of choice, along with slightly lesser amount of white cheddar for a jolt of sharpness. Just before conjoining the sauce and tubes together, a shot of pickled jalapeƱo and green onions were stirred in as a bonus complexity. As a side note, since this was a last minute deal, I was short on the onion amount - I managed to scrape together a bare quarter cup and thought the full half cup would have lent a more noticeable bite.

Scooped into our baking dish, this needed one more element before it was ready to be baked - buttered breadcrumbs! All this takes is taking a couple slices of bread, blitzing them to coarse crumbs in the food processor and drizzling the nubbins with melted butter. I like to add a pinch of salt too for good measure, but that isn't a deal breaker. Baked until the sauce was bubbly and the breadcrumbs had turned from pale to an inviting golden brown, you can serve this right out of the oven if you like (though it may be fairly messy!), but I let it rest for about ten minutes to pull out somewhat tidy squares. Remember the thinness of the sauce? Because the pasta still had room to move being slightly undercooked, it absorbed some of the excess, thereby thickening the remaining, which was just enough to coat the rigatoni well and keep the dish moist.

If a meal isn't complete to you without meat, I wouldn't hesitate to toss in a crumbled and browned link or two of hot (or sweet) Italian turkey sausage. Saying that, neither of us felt the dish was lacking without meat and were both pleasantly full (without being stuffed) by the time our plates were clear. We made the recipe as a giant casserole, but if you'd like to serve this with a more personal touch behind it, portion the pasta out into individual gratin dishes first, then top and bake as directed.


  1. Awesome! I've just been craving pasta, and I happened to see your post. Can't wait for dinner tomorrow :)

  2. Looks good. THe breadcrumbs give it a little crunch.

  3. I love ideas for vegetarian pasta dishes! It looks so tasty too!