Before I start, I must warn you: Do not plan on making this dish on a day that:
a- you are tired
b- your family is hungry and anxiously waiting for dinner
c- you want a quick meal
d- all of the above
This dish is quite nice, and it is something different too. It is kind of unexpected to find cheese and sun-dried-tomatoes inside your rigatoni. The catch here is that it is quite labor-intensive to prepare the noodles. First they are par boiled, then cooled, then stuffed and then placed in a baking dish. But if you are like me ( a little coo coo), you might find that spending time cutting cheese into matchsticks or slicing sun-dried-tomatoes can be some what relaxing. I call it kitchen therapy...
The dishes pictures here were topped with breadcrumbs and sliced fresh mozzarella, but that is not really relevant. What is important is what is inside the pasta, not on top. I have made this pasta using only cheese for stuffing, other times I divided half cheese and half sun-dried-tomatoes. Keep in mind that not everyone likes sun-dried-tomatoes, so if that is the case, just go with cheese. Any sturdy cheese is fine, mozzarella, cheddar, gruyere.
The basics of the dish:
Cheese (Mozzarella, Cheddar, Gruyere)
Tomato sauce (homemade or store bough)
Parmesan cheese, grated
Bread crumbs (optional)
Cook the rigatoni for half the time asked on the package. Drain well and run under cold water. Set aside.
If using sun-dried-tomatoes, slice them so they will fit inside the rigatoni pieces (or use already julienne-sliced ones sold in jars). Set aside.
Cut the cheese into matchsticks that are small enough to fit inside the rigatoni.
Stuff the cooled pasta with the pieces of cheese and tomatoes (if using).
Place the stuffed pasta in a baking dish, toss it with the marinara sauce ad top it with grated parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake it for about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 minutes longer until the cheese is melted.
You can top everything with breadcrumbs and parmesan for a crispy texture.
Stuffing tiny rigatoni with cheese: my kitchen therapy