That damn pasta! That is what I call it because damn it's so good! I saw Alan Alda make this recipe on The Martha Stewart Show. He said he learned it at cooking school in Tuscany. It seemed intriguing and easy enough so I gave it a shot. Oh my, it is absolutely delicious! I'll include the full recipe at the end as I always do, but I will include my tweaks as I describe the deliciousness of that damn pasta!
Start with a pound of rigatoni. I have tried other pastas, but rigatoni works the best. The bigger the pasta the better. Put the dry uncooked pasta in a large bowl and add 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil to it (the recipe calls for more, but 1/2 cup is enough). Mix and let sit for about 20 minutes to half an hour (give it a little stir every now and again).
After that time, add one 28 oz. can of tomato puree and one 14 or 15 oz can of diced tomatoes in juice (and then add half a can - from the diced tomatoes - of water). Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and then place in a baking dish. Cover and bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.
You will need to stir this mixture every 10 minutes or so. The recipe says every 5 minutes, but I found that unnecessary and excessive. As it cooks you will see the tomatoes get absorbed into the pasta.
When it's done (you can feel the consistency change when you're stirring and you should be able to tell that it's done by feel and sight), remove from the oven and stir once more.
Serve with some Parmesan cheese on top. I have a nice little garlic bread with mine and usually a salad. It's incredibly delicious. The texture of the pasta is very different. The taste is so rich. I highly recommend this dish. Martha really wanted to add basil or something to it. But Alan was adamant that nothing else be added and that it be enjoyed as is. Now I'm not saying you can't add to it if you want. But enjoy it once as is and maybe you won't want to! Although a little melted provolone on top would be lovely!
Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Parmesan
3/4 cup olive oil
1 pound rigatoni, or penne pasta
2 (28-ounce) cans, whole tomatoes, crushed, or 4 pounds very ripe summer tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/2 inch thick
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place oil in a large bowl. Add dry pasta and stir until well coated; let stand for 20 minutes.
Add tomatoes to pasta mixture; season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Transfer to a 2 1/2-quart baking dish. Cover with a parchment-lined aluminum foil. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes with a wooden spoon, for 45 minutes to 60 minutes. (If using fresh tomatoes, layer, alternating with the pasta mixture, beginning and ending with the tomatoes. And be sure to bake without stirring.)
Remove from oven, sprinkle with cheese, and stir to incorporate. Serve immediately.