Direct from Ina Garten’s newest book, ‘Modern Comfort Food’, the original full title is Baked Rigatoni with Lamb Ragù – DIVINE is all I can say. Below is for one nicely full 9 x 13 lasagna pan, but I wisely chose to double the sauce (whole bottle of red wine, whole can of tomato paste, a bottle of passata instead of a second can of crushed tomatoes), so that I’m now mere moments away from another fabulous dinner on another day. The only other change I made was to actually cut down on the salt…below is what I did, and it’s a new family favorite – enjoy!
For the sauce – for one 9 x 13 pan;
olive oil for cooking
1 large onion AND 3 carrots AND 1 medium fennel – all cleaned and diced
1 lb. ground lamb
1 T. EACH minced garlic AND whole fennel seeds (roughly chopped)
2 T. tomato paste AND 1 can (796 mL/28 oz) crushed tomatoes
2 1/2 c. dry red wine
1 t. dried oregano, crushed with your hands AND a good pinch of red pepper flakes
1 T. kosher salt AND 1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. rigatoni
3 eggs AND 2/3 c. heavy cream
~1 lb. fresh mozzarella – half cubed or grated to add to the casserole and half sliced to top the casserole
freshly grated Parmesan – if you wish
To make the sauce, heat a good glug of olive oil in a large Dutch oven pot and sauté the onions, carrots and fennel for several minutes until softened. Crumble in the lamb and sprinkle in the garlic and fennel seeds and continue to cook and stir and break up the meat until the lamb is no longer pink.
Stir in the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, 2 cups of the wine, the oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and bring the mix to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and leave the sauce to lightly bubble for a good half hour while you prep the rest of the casserole. Once the sauce has cooked and come together, remove it from the heat and stir in the remaining half cup of wine.
Bring a second large pot of well salted water to a boil and cook the rigatoni according to package directions until just barely al dente and then drain well. While the pasta is draining, quickly whisk together the eggs and cream in the pasta pot and then add in the drained pasta and toss well to combine. Try to time this step with a finished sauce – and it’s pretty easy to have the sauce done ahead of time (or to take it out of the fridge or freezer, just make sure the sauce is at least warmed before you add it).
Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly spray a deep 9 x 13 lasagna pan or a larger casserole dish. To the egg/cream/rigatoni mix, add the cubed or grated mozzarella and all of your glorious sauce. Give it a good stir and then scrape it all into your prepared pan and top with the remaining slices of mozzarella. Sprinkle liberally with Parmesan as well if you wish.
Bake for about 45 minutes until all is bubbling and the top is browned and lovely. We fought over the leftovers for this dish and I’m thankful I have more sauce tucked in the freezer!