Baked Rigati with Mozzarella and Heirloom Tomatoes
|Small chunky pasta shapes, lined with ridges for catching sauce, are the ideal choice for this baked casserole. Other options are ziti, macaroni or miniature shells.|
|As this recipe is all about saving time and energy, go with a good jarred pasta sauce. The variety above is all-natural and shockingly low in sodium and sugar.|
|Boiled and drained rigati|
|The pasta is tossed with warmed sauce and packed in a lightly oiled casserole dish.|
|Sliced red and yellow tomatoes are layered over the pasta before being dotted with mozzarella.|
|Allow the casserole to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. The liquid released from the tomatoes will be absorbed by the pasta so you won't end up with a watery gratin.|
|We used a vegan mozzarella purchased at local natural foods store but there are many dairy-free recipes for homemade available online. Non-vegans can of course go with regular fresh mozzarella.|
Begin by cooking 1 12-16 oz. package of rigati (or a similar pasta shape) in boiling salted water until just al dente, or lightly cooked. This could be anywhere from 6-10 minutes but remove the pasta from heat and drain in a colander when the the noodles still have a slightly chewy, firm bite.
In the same saucepan used for cooking the pasta, heat 1 jar of good marinara sauce or any type you prefer, as long as it's tomato-based. Toss the pasta into the saucepan with the sauce and stir to combine over low heat.
Transfer the sauced pasta to a lightly oiled large casserole dish. Pat the pasta down as evenly as possible and the top with 2-3 tomatoes, thinly sliced in rounds. Scatter across the top 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese (dairy or vegan) broken into small pieces. Lightly sprinkle a bit of ground nutmeg and cayenne pepper over the entire surface. Cover with foil or a lid and back for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown and the casserole is hot throughout.
Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving with a salad or a green vegetable such as broccoli, kale or chard.