Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pasta, Please

My training schedule for the San Francisco Marathon called for a 20 mile run this morning, so last night was pasta night.  And not just any pasta, but Brad's super delicious baked rigatoni.  I can (and did!) eat bowls and bowls of it.

Now Brad doesn't follow a recipe for this pasta, he just sort of whips it up on the fly.  And I'm pretty sure each time he makes it it's a little bit different.  But in the interest of our dear readers being able to replicate this in their very own kitchens, I annoyingly peered over his shoulder and took notes while he cooked.  So, I guess I should say this is but one version of Brad's super delicious baked rigatoni.  A darn good one, though.

All measurements and times are approximate.  Reading that in a recipe would make me go "um, next."  Hopefully I've included enough precision to adequately convey the essential components to others who are like me and, thankfully, the dish is itself pretty basic.  Any mistakes in the recipe are mine.

Wine the night before a 20 mile run, you ask?  Heck yeah, I say.

A good friend, and fellow marathoner, has a rule:  No wine the night before speedwork or long runs.  I tried it.  It's not for me.  She's a faster runner, so maybe there's something to it, but I'm ok with running a little slower and enjoying myself.  I do restrain myself somewhat, having only one glass.  Or maybe two.

We drank a wine from Montepulciano, a word I love almost as much as the wine itself.  Say it with me:  Montepulciano.  Doesn't it sound . . . I don't know, so very Italian?  There's just something about that word for me.

Anyway, ours was a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva from the Fanetti winery in Toscana-Montepulciano, Italy.  It's primarily Sangiovese, blended with Canaiolo and Cabernet.

Tuscany is the heart and soul of Sangiovese and in Montepulciano, Sangiovese is known as Prunolo Gentile.  The grapes are picked by hand and aged in large traditional wild chestnut oak casks called Botti for a minimum of two years (three for Riserva).  Finetti ages its Vino Nobile in the oak casks five years before bottling.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was reportedly a favorite of Farnese Pope Paolo III, and was once considered the "king of all wines," meant only for royalty to drink.

Sounds about right for us.

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Mushrooms

28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 links Italian sausage (we use spicy, but sweet would also work)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/4 c. sliced cremini mushrooms
1 fresh tomato, roughly chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup torn fresh basil
1/2 pound dry rigatoni, cooked according to package directions
1/2 an 8 oz container of ciliegine (little cherry size) fresh mozarella
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425.

With your hands, break up canned tomatoes in a medium bowl.  Add chopped fresh tomatoes and set aside.

Begin water boiling for the rigatoni; you'll cook the rigatoni until just under al dente, a few minutes less than indicated on the package.

Heat a large saute pan with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat; add olive oil and swirl to coat pan.  Remove sausage from casings and brown in pan, stirring often to crumble.  Add mushrooms and thyme, and cook until mushrooms have softened.  Remove sausage mixture from the pan and set aside.

Add garlic to the pan used to cook the sausage mixture and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes, bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer approximately 5 minutes.  Add basil and simmer for about 5 minutes; add sausage mixture back to pan and continue to simmer until rigatoni is done.

Drain pasta and put in a casserole or au gratin pan.  Spoon sauce over the top, then stir to combine.  Sprinkle grated Parmesan on top, and then scatter fresh mozarella balls on top of that.

Bake, uncovered, until done (cheese has melted and browned), about 15-20 minutes.


  1. Montepulciano was our favorite town in Tuscany. We had a fabulous day there, and visited several wineries--some that were underground (hundreds of years old), and one very modern one. We also had an olive oil tasting, and a wonderful lunch on a patio with a view of the Val d'Orcia. I haven't yet found a Montepulciano wine here that matches those, but I'll try your suggestion. (not doing marathons--can't justify the rigatoni).

  2. I'm curious to hear what you think if you try this wine. I love it, but have heard they don't export their best wines. Stingy Italians. :)

    I'm dying to go to Tuscany, and just reading your comment makes me long to be there. Brad and I are talking about taking a cycling trip to Tuscany next year for our anniversary. Isn't Montepulicano at the top of a hill? He would love riding up to that.