I love a good Baked Rigatoni and as much as I love baked cheese, I find that when cooked in the oven the meal turns out dry and I wanted to make a Rigatoni that wasn't dry and the cheese was melted throughout. I also don't like too much sauce and prefer a nice balance, so I make this version. I did this by starting the meal on the stove and finishing in the crockpot and it tasted so good. The smell made everyone hungry. It was a big hit. See end of the recipe for more ideas using the basic easy tasty sauce. I found that Newman's Own sausage and pepper sauce was the perfect compliment to this dish. Serve with a salad and garlic bread if you wish. If you choose to use organic grass fed ground beef 1 lb. is plenty. Nice lean bulk Italian sausage and you getting all meat and barely any juices from the meat so your saving money by not having to buy extra meat. The flavor is incredible.
- 1 medium yellow onions or 1 medium white onion, diced
- 1 lb lean ground beef (I use grass fed)
- 1 1⁄2 lbs bulk Italian sausage (mild or spicy)
- 1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper (adjust to taste)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon onion powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder (adjust to taste)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or preference)
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic cloves or 3 tablespoons minced garlic, from jar
- 1 red pepper (cored, cleaned, diced)
- 8 ounces white button mushrooms (sliced to preference)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste) (optional)
- 2 (24 ounce) jars sausage and green pepper spaghetti sauce (Newman's Own)
- 1 tablespoon dried basil (if you prefer you can use dry Italian seasoning)
- 2 1⁄2 cups mozzarella cheese (shredded, best if using real whole Mozzarella)
- 1⁄2 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
- 1 (16 ounce) box rigatoni pasta
- Dice your onion. (if you have a gadget that dices veggies it comes in handy, use small grater option to chop onions. If you don't have such a gadget, then hand dice onions).
- In a large skillet on medium heat start cooking all the meat, as it starts to cook, break up the meat into bite size pieces. Add 1 T. of olive oil. You don't want to totally break the meat down. (Using grass fed beef it's easy to keep meat in bite size pieces) After some of the meat has been broken up (a wooden spoon does a great job), lower heat a little and add onions to the meat mixture. Add 1/2 of your salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder. Cook until no more pink is seen. You want the meat chunky but not too big. No need to drain. Turn stove to low and let the seasonings marinate together while you move to next step.
- Dice your red pepper and slice your mushrooms. (I use more mushrooms at times). Mince your garlic.
- Add 1 T. olive oil into the skillet, turn heat to medium and as it's warming up add your garlic. Cook for just a minute or 2 when the temp reaches medium, stirring often. (don't let garlic burn) Add red pepper, mushrooms and chilli flakes. Stir often and saute until pepper and mushrooms are al dente.
- Add meat mixture to your crock pot. (6 quart) and add remaining salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, basil (or Italian seasoning). Add 2 jars of Paul Newman's sauce, stir well and cook on high for 1 1/2 hours. (check sauce after 1 hour and taste it, adjust seasoning and cover and cook for remaining 1/2 hour).
- Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed but cook to Al Dente only about 8-9 minutes. Drain and put pasta back in pan and drizzle the remainder of olive oil (or to taste) on pasta and mix well. Pasta will cook a little more in crock. (do not rinse pasta or it won't grab the sauce) (you can add a bit more olive oil if needed so pasta isn't sticking).
- After sauce has cooked 1 1/2 hours in the crock, taste your sauce make any adjustments if needed. Add 3/4 of the cooked pasta and stir well. The pasta will soak up some of the sauce so use your judgement. If you like your pasta a little saucy then you won't need to add the full box. (I like a balance and used 3/4 of the cooked pasta).
- Cook for 1/2 hour on high. (If you don't use all the pasta you can freeze it in a freezer bag and use it to add to soups, stews or whenever you find a need for some pasta).
- Add 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/4 Celsius parmesan cheese and mix well. Cover and let the cheese melt into the mixture. It should be nicely melted in 15 minutes on high.
- Top it all off with remaining cheeses. On high still, let the cheese on top melt. Once cheese is melted, take lid off crock pot, turn it off and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes to set. Serve. (You can serve with a salad and garlic bread).
- Tips: If you prefer a more saucy mixture, only cook 3/4 of the box of Rigatoni or 12 oz. and make adjustments as needed to your preference.(as I mentioned I cook entire box and make adjustments when I add pasta to sauce) In addition, if you don't want your pasta to soak up as much of the sauce mixture then drizzle a bit more olive oil to cooked pasta and stir before adding to the sauce mixture. This dish is great for company, a game day or just to feed your family. I hope you enjoy.
- VARIATIONS: Once you make this recipe you can make several adjustments to change it up using the basic sauce mix. You can use Penne pasta, shell pasta, any pasta that will mix well with the sauce and cheeses. I love all kinds of cheese but in this dish I prefer the cheeses mentioned. If you wish to add more cheeses then you can use any that melt like the Mozzarella cheese does. Mild to medium Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Provolone etc. It will change it's flavor. Also you can even use filled firm pastas. You can use tortellini, ravioli or any frozen pasta of your choice. Don't pre-cook it. Move frozen pasta from freezer to fridge. Follow recipe and add the pasta without pre-cooking. Be gentle stirring.and adjust cooking time accordingly. When Al Dente mix the cheese in stirring gently. Taste your pasta and if the pasta is cooked to desired consistency then finish off with the cheese on top as the recipe states.