Baked Rigatoni with Mascarpone Recipe

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Baked Rigatoni. © Image 2014 Jennifer Meier
    105 min
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This creamy and cheesy baked rigatoni always turns out better, and it's easier to make than any lasagna I've cooked. The secret ingredients are mascarpone and, surprisingly, cottage cheese (instead of ricotta).

The idea of using cottage cheese came from my mom, who use to make lasagna with cottage cheese because she couldn't find good ricotta. Although high-quality ricotta is easier to find these days, cottage cheese is still perfect for this baked pasta. The result is a creamy, moist, cheesy and really flavorful dish.

This baked rigatoni recipe also calls for fontina, instead of the typical mozzarella. Fontina tends to have more flavor, especially the high-quality Fontina D'Aosta sold in cheese shops, and is a little less gooey and stringy than mozzarella.

What You'll Need

  • 1 pound ziti or rigatoni pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces Italian sausage links, fully cooked or raw, cut into 1/2-inch slices (optional - this dish can also be vegetarian)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 14 to 15 ounces tomato sauce
  • 26 to 28 ounces finely chopped tomatoes (such as the brand Pomi)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 pound whole milk cottage cheese (ideally, small curd)
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
  • 8 ounces mascarpone
  • 8 ounces Fontina cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

How to Make It

    1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
    2. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta. Cook, stirring a few ​times, until the pasta begins to soften but is not cooked all the way through, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain pasta.
    3. Heat the oil in a 12-inch deep skillet or better yet a pot (less splattering of sauce). Add sausage and cook until nicely browned. Add garlic and saute less than a minute before adding tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano. Simmer rapidly for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in basil.
    4. In a medium bowl whisk together cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup of the Parmigiano.
    5. In a 13x9-inch baking dish, combine the pasta with the cottage cheese mixture. Stir well to combine. Add the mascarpone and 3/4 of the fontina cubes, again stirring well to coat all the noodles evenly.
    6. Add 3 cups of the tomato sauce, stirring well to blend the sauce in.
    7. Spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top of the pasta. Sprinkle the remaining fontina and remaining 1/2 cup Parmigiano over the top.
    8. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
    9. Remove foil and bake for another 40 minutes, until cheese is bubbling.
    10. Cool for 25 minutes before serving.