White Bean and Tomato Baked Rigatoni
January 29, 2012 § 1 Comment
There are a few recipes in my archives that I took my sweet time to post. I must have made these cookies five times before I remembered to take pictures. I worked on this pizza dough all summer before I felt confident hitting publish. It took me months to remember I should make this gnocchi during the day so that I could actually take pictures. And now this, a baked pasta that has become an almost bi-weekly dinner since September. Well-tested to say the least.
Matt tasked me with making a ricotta-less lasagna sometime this past summer because it is one of his favorite foods, but ricotta is a dairy product that his body can’t tolerate. I put a simple bechamel (as most of these recipes may suggest, he deals with butter okay) between layers of tomato sauce, sheets of pasta and grilled summer squash. We enjoyed this version, but I decided to come up with something a bit more healthful because after years of not having lasagna, I knew Matt would be wanting to eat this pretty frequently. In place of a ricotta OR bechamel layer, I came up with a white bean sauce which is basically a Tuscan-style white bean dip (canellinni beans pureed with garlic oil and fresh herbs) which is thinned with stock. It is rich, creamy and flavorful, the perfect stand-in for saturated fat.
While most baked pasta dishes are full of ricotta and mozzarella, this one is completely vegan until you garnish it with cheese and full of the fiber and protein of canellinni beans. So, yeah this is a healthy alternative to a traditional baked ziti or lasagna since it lacks the saturated fat you find in dairy AND it is a cheaper alternative since beans are dirt cheap compared to cheese. However, this rigatoni is rich with flavor and I hate to think of it as an alternative or in terms of a traditional baked ziti. It is perfectly wholesome and delicious so it is needless to make comparisons. If you want some cheese, add some cheese. Instead of broccoli, you could try some lightly sauteed greens. Fresh tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplants would also be great when seasonally appropriate. I almost always par-cook the broccoli by blanching it when the pasta is almost done just for the sake of ease, but roasting the broccoli is also a terrific option.
What makes this pasta dish so delicious is the aromatics. The fresh herbs are important, but the rosemary and oregano can certainly be substituted with other herbs depending on the season or your preferences. The garlic oil really makes the dish. To make garlic oil, cover some garlic with olive oil and place in a 400 degree F. oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden. Both the garlic and the oil reach new heights and become crazy rich and flavorful. The garlic is like candy and I tend to eat about a bulb’s worth straight out of the oven, but you can use it in any number of applications. I have made this dish without the garlic oil and just pureed one or two cloves of garlic into the sauce, but it is definitely much better with the garlic-infused oil.
1 year ago, today: Espresso Brownies
White Bean and Tomato Baked Rigatoni:
This dish has the creamy richness of a baked ziti, but it doesn’t have the same chewy, stickiness that you would expect. This particular quality doesn’t bother me in the least, but you should be aware of this because if you keep it in the oven too long, hoping for that thick, stringy quality, the beans will dry out. The finished product is best baked for just 15 minutes, slightly browned on top, but still very saucy within.
- 1 lb dried rigatoni
- 1 1/2 lb broccoli, chopped into florets
- 4″x4″ piece of day-old bread
- 3 cups cooked canellinni beans
- 3/4 cup garlic-infused olive oil*
- approx. 1/2 cup stock
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- salt & pepper
- 1 sprig rosemary, minced
- 1 sprig oregano, minced
- 18 fl oz prepared tomato sauce (homemade, or your favorite brand)
- asiago cheese for serving
- parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for one minute less than directed, adding the broccoli to the pot in the last two minute of the cooking time. Strain and rinse with cold water and allow to cool. Run the bread through a food processor to create bread crumbs and place on a greased baking sheet, bake for 5-10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until well toasted. Pour canellinni beans into the bowl of a food processor and begin blending. Slowly add olive oil while blending. Add broth very slowly while blending to thin until the proper consistency; it should be spreadable and pourable more like a bechamel than ricotta. Season with crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and blend. Mix in the minced herbs and combine with the tomato sauce, pasta and broccoli in a mixing bowl. Taste for seasoning and pour into a greased 9×13 baking dish. Cover with toasted bread crumbs. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Garnish servings with grated asiago and parsley.
* to infuse garlic with oil, cover a few bulbs of peeled garlic cloves with olive and roast in a 400 degree F. oven until golden. Use garlic however you like; I like to throw it on pizza when it is coming out of the oven or use it in this barley.