Traditional lasagna is dead. My baked rigatoni with white sauce mixes original ideas with the flavors of three amazing cheeses and mushrooms.
I love to make hearty, flavorful meals that are quick and easy in the wintertime, but they are just as wonderful in the spring and summer months. New England offers harsh winters, rainy springs, and long summer nights. Quick meals are always appreciated, no matter the weather. That’s why my Baked Rigatoni with white sauce is such a wonderful dish!
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The changing seasons send me into my pantry looking for pasta. But instead of traditional lasagna noodles, I prefer rigatoni to make this easy and cheesy casserole. My baked rigatoni is filled with mushrooms, three cheeses, and topped with a Bechamel sauce. This is a basic white sauce that anyone can make, so don’t let the French name fool you.
To complete the meal, make a large salad full of colors and complementary flavors. I arrange tomatoes and cucumbers on endive lettuce, then top with feta cheese. Finally, I pour a light balsamic vinaigrette over the salad and serve with fresh bread. Don’t forget a glass of wine!
Baked Rigatoni with White Sauce
- 1 pound box of DeCecco Rigatoni no.24
- 2 1/2 cups milk or non-dairy milk
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 8 ounces Portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 3 leeks, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1 carton (8 ounce) whole milk ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, divided in half
- 1/2 cup freshly ground Parmesan, plus 1 tablespoon
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan. When the butter melts, add the mushrooms and sprinkle with salt. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and they release some of their juices.
- Add sliced leeks and thyme to your pan. If the mushrooms are dry, then add another tablespoon of oil. Saute for an additional 5 minutes to make sure the leeks and mushrooms cook evenly. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, and half of your mozzarella cheese, chopped. Set aside until assembly.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the rigatoni and cook for 14 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.
- To prepare the white sauce, first bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Set aside.
- Melt 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of your butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
- Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture all at once. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes until thick, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk. Set aside off of the heat.
- To assemble the baked rigatoni, spread some of your sauce in the bottom of a 8 x 10 baking dish. I used a Le Creuset dutch oven. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then 1/2 of your cheese mixture, followed by 1/2 of the mushrooms, then more sauce. Repeat one more time, layering noodles, cheese, mushrooms and sauce.
- Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce, followed by the remaining mozzarella cheese, sliced. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and add a touch of nutmeg on top.
- Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly and hot.
- Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot.
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