I know January is supposed to be salad month, but who really wants to eat cold salad during the most frigid month of the year? What do you cook to warm up? I crave anything warm and bubbly, hot from the oven, with preferably a hint of chili. I’m sharing my favorite baked rigatoni with you that answers all my winter prayers and will hopefully answer yours too.
Vegetarian Baked Rigatoni
Best news yet? This cheesy baked pasta is vegetarian! So we can indulge when we’re feeling ravenously hungry but still feel good about it. This baked rigatoni is a combo of six different veggies, with everything from sweet bell peppers to kale, giving it tons of flavor and texture. All of them get chopped up nice and small and cooked until meltingly tender so hopefully your veggie-sensitive kids will dive right in too!
Pasta? Yes! Mexican-touches? Yes! Yes!
As we do, our favorite flavors are combined here; a Midwest meets Mexican combo with all the cozy casserole vibes and a wee spicy kick too. The inspiration for this snuggly dish is based on the baked cavatelli my mom used to make when we were kids. Her cheesy-topped pasta bake was in true midwest-style; pasta, tomato sauce, sausage, lots of cheese, hard-boiled eggs?! Yes, and it was so good. I seriously considered continuing on in the hard-boiled-egg-in-baked-pasta tradition but then went in a different direction by braising the vegetables in a rich ancho chile-tomato sauce and adding my favorite Mexican cheeses: creamy requesón and Cotija.
How To Make Baked Rigatoni
The nicest thing about this dish is it is easy enough to make on any given weeknight. The most time-consuming part is chopping the veggies but after that it just takes a quick sauté to pull the sauce together and then a short stint in a hot oven to get that beautiful brown and bubbly crust. One key tip however, is to make sure to not over cook the pasta when you initially boil it. Only boil it for about 5 minutes, it will cook the rest of the way in the oven and won’t become mushy.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, (diced)
- 1 red bell pepper, (diced)
- 1 small zucchini, (diced)
- 1 small bunch kale, (chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic, (minced)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 cup water
- 1 pound rigatoni
- 16 ounces requesón or whole-milk ricotta
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup grated Cotija cheese
- Heat oven to 425°F and put a large pot of heavily-salted water on to boil for the pasta.
- Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add onions and red bell peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.
- Add zucchini, kale, garlic, ancho chile, and salt, and continue cooking 5 more minutes.
- Add tomatoes, oregano, and water and bring to a boil. Taste and add more salt as needed. Remove from heat while you cook the pasta.
- Once the pasta water is boiling add rigatoni and cook for only 5 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Add tomato sauce and toss to coat. Transfer to a 9 x 13in baking dish.
- Dot with requesón, cover with mozzarella and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Remove, sprinkle with Cotija and serve.
One More Thing
Did you love this recipe? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.
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