BAKED RIGATONI IN MEAT SAUCE

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For me, this is the ultimate comfort food that takes me right back to my childhood. Although my mom didn’t make this for us kids, she would often take us to a wonderful Italian family style restaurant in our neighbourhood and I would often order this dish. There were tons of other tantalizing options on the menu but I would almost always pick this baked pasta dish. The oozy and crispy baked on cheese, and the thick chunky meat sauce always got my lips smacking. Although there are a thousand different ways to make this I find this recipe works wonders for me. This is my version of my childhood favourite.

Serves 5-6

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Baking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg (450 g) dry rigatoni
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 8-10 mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can (28 0z.) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup low sodium beef stock
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp each: dried basil and dried thyme
  • fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (or more as needed)
  • handful of grated Parmesan cheese

1. Put on a large pot of boiling water, salt the water, then cook the rigatoni as per package directions. Drain then set aside for now. In a large deep shallow pan, drizzle in the olive oil, then saute the onion and garlic for 2 minutes. Add in the ground beef and break it up using a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the beef mixture until all the ground meat is brown.

2. Add in the sliced mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes. The mushrooms should let out it’s natural juices. Throw in the diced tomatoes, saute for a minute or so, then pour in the canned crushed tomatoes and the low sodium beef stock. Stir to combine and bring it up to a gentle bubble.

3. Add in the chopped kale and the dried herbs. When the kale cooks down and all of the ingredients come together, take the sauce off the heat. Taste and season if needs be. Toss both the cooked pasta and the sauce together to combine. Then pour the pasta and sauce mixture into a lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the chopped parsley, mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan cheese on top. Bake it in the oven for a good 30 minutes or until the top of the cheese has melted and lightly browned. Serve hot.

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