Mister Husband started making this dish sometime back in the fall semester, when I came home after a particularly difficult day on campus to find him pulling these out of the oven for dinner. They’re festive and tasty and while they’re a little fiddly to make, they’re not all that hard. We’ve had them several times since and decided that they were just the right thing for Christmas Eve dinner for two. We usually halve this recipe and bake it in two smaller spring-form pans. I use my personal ragu recipe rather than what’s indicated here, which includes a mix of ground pork or sausage and ground beef and sometimes finely diced mushroom along with heartier spices, tomato sauce, and wine. We’ve also occasionally added an initial later of ricotta-based filling as a bottom layer in the tubes.
1 lb rigatoni pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 lb ground beef (I used ground sirloin)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 (28 ounce) can good quality crushed tomatoes
butter, for pan
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
8 ounces coarsely grated mozzarella cheese
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until slightly underdone (I cooked mine for 12 minutes when the box indicated 14 minutes). One pound of pasta should be cooked in 6 quarts of water, make sure you are using a big enough pot so the pasta doesn’t stick together. When done, rinse in cold water and drain again. Toss pasta with 1 Tablespoon olive oil to coat. Set aside.
Heat remaining 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef. Cook, stirring occasionally until browned. Add garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes more.
Add crushed tomatoes; simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Toss pasta with Parmesan cheese. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Tightly pack pasta into pan, standing each piece on end. Spread meat sauce on top of pasta.
Push the meat sauce into the pasta holes filling each one up. Stuffing the meat into the holes is a weirdly satisfying task. Enough said. [Edited: Personally, I find it tedious, but to each their own. The most efficient way to do this is to spread the filling around on top of the tubes and then gently bang the pan against the counter to get it to settle down into the holes.]
Pace in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top and bake another 10-15 minutes until cheese is golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen and then unmold.
Cut into wedges and serve with any remaining meat sauce you might have.