A Righteous Rapid Rustic Rigatoni Recipe
There are hundreds of different Italian pasta (we used to call them “macaroni”) shapes. Of them all, one shape I have always particularly liked is rigatoni.
Years ago in New York City, there used to be these Horn and Hardhart Automats. They were restaurants where everything was in individual compartments behind glass doors. You inserted a coin and opened a small door to obtain your selection. One of their most popular items was macaroni and cheese made with rigatoni. It was a best seller. In that succulent cheese sauce were little specks of red, which were tiny flecks of tomato, and the relatively large macaroni tubes were flush with luscious, molten, cheese goodness. Once tasted, you couldn't forget that luscious rigatoni.
Nowadays, a lot of folks' macaroni and cheese is rapidly made from a blue cardboard box with elbow macaroni and an envelope of orange-coloured “cheese” powder, which requires quite a bit of butter to prepare. But yes, that crafty boxed food is quick to make. Some people “doctor the dish” by adding grated cheese and maybe some breadcrumbs and then slide it under the broiler for a minute or two. Yes, it is swiftly prepared. However, a profoundly more substantial and delectable rigatoni can be rigged up, Italian style, almost as casually, by tossing in a can of beans, some Italian sausage and a few other items.
Quick to prepare and vastly more toothsome than that boxed mac 'n cheese, this Italian sausage and beans and rigatoni dish is something to keep in your kitchen repertoire for those days when you want a tasty, full-flavoured meal but lack extra time to create it. You can doubly savor this meal because its lovely taste belies its ease of preparation. If you have some Italian sausage, spinach and a can of beans you are almost ready already.
ITALIAN SAUSAGE, BEANS AND RIGATONI serves 4
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 pound Italian sausage (hot or mild), put in the freezer for ten minutes, sliced lengthwise and then crosswise into half moons
½ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional but nice)
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
8-10 ounces chicken stock or broth
10 ounce box of frozen spinach, partially thawed, or a 5 oz. bag of fresh baby spinach (so tender you can include the stalks)
1 can (10-15oz) great northern, cannelloni or pinto beans, rinsed and drained (I used pinto)
½ cup or more grated asiago, provolone or parmesan cheese
Parmesan cheese for individual diners to sprinkle on their dish
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon oregano
Heaping ¼- teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or black pepper
1 pound rigatoni
- Heat the oil in a big skillet or large saucepan
- Put in the sausage slices and fennel ( if using) and fry, stirring until sausage is browned
- Add the broth and garlic, bring to boiling and then lower heat
- Stir in the spinach, beans, cheese and seasonings
- Stir in the rigatoni
- Cover and gently cook the rigatoni (about ten minutes) stir intermittingly
- If spinach and bean mixture appears dry, add some water to the saucepan
- Test rigatoni for doneness; taste for salt and adjust accordingly
There it is: Italian beans, sausage and rigatoni; a grand, pleasing, nourishing meal that is quick and easy to put together. We hope you will enjoy it soon.