This recipe was inspired by a dish my ex-mother-in-law used to make, and by a recipe in Marcella Hazan's "The Classic Italian Cookbook", which I'm using a lot lately.
Nadia, my ex-m-i-l, was/is an excellent cook. We'd go to dinner once a week and get two courses and dessert - lovely. The only problem was the speed at which the family ate, very fast. Nadia's version of Baked Rigatoni with Meat Sauce aka Rigatoni al forno col ragu was absolutely delicious and I'd always make a pig of myself eating as much as I could as fast as I could, then struggle to fit in the next course. Then dessert.
This week given that Tim's away I decided to treat myself to some Rigatoni. Doesn't sound like much of a treat does it, but Tim doesn't like hollow pasta so all we ever eat in the pasta shape way is long flat or long round stuff ... also I've decided to have a meat free week. Why? I don't know, call it a whim.
So I decide to convert Marcella's perfectly good meat filled recipe to a vegetarian friendly one. I could've gone purely with a tomato sauce but thought adding mashed beans would up the protein quotient. Somebody told me once that combining a legume and a grain makes a perfectly acceptable protein, so I work to that theory.
Baked Rigatoni with Bean Sauce
for the Bean Sauce
4 rosemary sprigs
2 garlic cloves
1 small onion
2 sticks of celery
1/2 a 425g tin of butter beans (kidney beans might be better ...)
1 425g tin of tomatoes
for the White Sauce
butter - approx 30g
2 tbspns of plain flour
milk - approx 250ml
cheese - approx 4 tblspns grated - I used a combination of parmesan and cheddar
rigatoni - approx 150g
extra butter - approx 20g
Put the rosemary sprigs, olive oil and peeled garlic in a heavy pot and cook over a very low heat. The idea is to get the oil tasting of the garlic and rosemary. It takes about 45 minutes, the rosemary shrivels up and goes brittle when it's done. Remove it and throw it away. You could always skip this step and just fry some rosemary and garlic in the oil for 5 minutes but it's not as good.
Chop the onion and the celery. When the oil is ready and you've removed the rosemary add the onion, up the heat, and cook for about 5 minutes, add the celery and fry for a little longer. Add the drained beans and stir about. As the beans combine with the celery and onion mash them up a bit. Add the tin of tomatoes and stir, cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes or longer.
To make the white sauce melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. When it's foaming, add the flour and stir thoroughly to combine, cook the mixture a little, it shouldn't be too soft ... add a splash of milk, enough to cover the bottom of the pan by about 4mm, stir rapidly with a wooden spoon to incorporate the milk into the flour and butter. You'll have a fairly thick paste. Add more milk, and stir again. Each time the milk gets incorporated add some more until you've got a nice thickish sauce. Stir while it comes to the boil. Once it's done you can turn the heat off and just leave it.
Heat your oven to 200C/400F.
Bring a pot of water to the boil, add the rigatoni and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and tip into a bowl with the bean & tomato sauce, the white sauce and the two thirds of the cheese, mix it all together, then put it into an oven dish, smooth the top over, sprinkle on the remaining one third of cheese and dot with the extra butter.
Put into the top of the oven and cook for 10 minutes. When it's done you can leave it for about 5 minutes before serving.
I ate this with a very simple salad of lettuce and capers. It was good.