A large dish of baked pasta is a comforting and economical way to feed a family—particularly when you have large appetites in the group. It can easily be made vegetarian, if you like, by omitting the sausage and adding more veggies (try peppers, onions, eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini), and if your family is carnivorous, it’s a great way to stretch a small quantity of meat a long way.
-Julie Van Rosendaal
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Boil the rigatoni according to the package directions, or until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large shallow baking dish.
Drizzle some oil into a large skillet set over medium-high heat and saute the onion for a few minutes, until soft.
Add the sausage, squeezed out of its casing, and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink.
Add the mushrooms and zucchini (if you’re using it) and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until the veggies are soft and any excess liquid has cooked off.
Add the sauce to the pan and stir to warm through.
Pour the chunky sauce over the pasta and top with mozzarella and Parmesan.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is golden.
Tip: This is one of those pasta dishes that looks impressive, but is really a snap to make. It’s fun to stand each noodle upright in a springform pan—and it gives little people something to do as they anxiously await trick or treating time. If you like, whisk an egg into a container of soft ricotta and spread it over the rigatoni, pressing it into the holes, before topping with tomato sauce and cheese.
Serve it with a simple tossed green salad or slaw, with some ice cream or sorbet for dessert.