I get excited about pasta. I can't help myself. So I was pretty well over the moon when Botticelli sent me a box of goodies to try. And even more excited at the prospect of a vegetarian bolognese sauce made with little flecks of soy. It's hard to get the hearty flavor of a bolognese without meat, but it can be done, and it just got a little easier.
I gathered my troops...
I love to take sauce from a bottle and improvise. I quickly scanned through recipes on rigatoni casseroles, and as it is the start of September, I thought something hearty sounded right. First step, I popped a head of garlic in the toaster oven, wrapped in tinfoil. It really does not take much longer than half an hour to roast a small head of garlic, and I find that it gives instant depth of flavor in pasta dishes, without being bitter or overwhelming. While that was roasting, I went to town with the fruity, rich olive oil, onions, shallots, mushrooms, and a little extra oregano and thyme.
As they were looking a little thirsty in the pan, I did the generous thing and poured in a cup of shiraz. When all that cooked down, I added fresh basil, black olives, and the jar of veggie bolognese, which was fragrant with basil, mellow, and rich. Just right for an autumn pasta bake!
I mixed in al dente cooked rigatoni with a little pasta water, and stirred it all together. Next step, a casserole pan...and....wait for it...the very very best part...an entire bag of shredded mozarella! That is really the only reason it needs to go in the oven for 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, to get that cheese oozy good on the bottom and browned and blistered on the top.
You know you've done something right when every single member of the household manages to amble by the kitchen and poke their head in as dinner is cooling. And I have to say, the rigatoni was toothy without being heavy, a cross between macaroni and penne, with lots of grooves for the cheese and sauce to cling to.
I really enjoyed this little food adventure in my own kitchen, and I hope you did too!