WHOA!….right?! But before you say, “That looks great, but I’ll never make it”, trust me, it’s easy. Not only is it super easy, but if you sub out whole wheat pasta, use low fat cheese and greek yogurt instead of sour cream, it can be pretty low-fat and healthy, too! But I didn’t do that. Noooo, I went for it all the way, knock it out of the park, full blown to die for, kill me now goodness!! Ha! My only excuse is, that, it was for a special day and I didn’t want to skimp on a thing. And it was AH-MAZING. Unbelievably good! The only thing I was worried about when I was coming up with this recipe, was, how well was taco meat going to pair with rigatoni pasta? I was a little, just a little mind you, worried that it might be confusing to the palate and “weird”. But it wasn’t at all! Just the opposite! They acted like they knew each other all along and were just waiting for me to see for myself! Really opens a lot of doors to new ideas! I really don’t know why I didn’t think of it a long time ago anyways, I mean, I’ve been making a Mexican Lasagna for more than 20 years that’s also to die for that I use regular lasagna noodles for, unlike most recipes that use tortilla shells. (Face-palm!) Ok, so, this is easy, but it of course takes longer than just whipping up a pan of tacos, I mean, let’s get real here. The only time-consuming thing was breaking up the sausage into tiny pieces. I ended up doing it with my fingers, so if you have a better way of doing this, please let me know! But, if you cook the sausage and break it up the day before, it will go really fast. Just a tip. Would I personally make this again? IN. A. HEARTBEAT.
So, here we go with a pictorial so you can see each step clearly. Lots of pics, but again, trust me, it’s really, really easy!!
Snip sausage casings with scissors all the way down, remove sausage and break up into SMALL pieces as you go adding into the pan:
Sauté and break up as much as possible. The more you break it up as you cook, the less you’ll have to do after.
Now, you may think that this is good to go, but it isn’t. Take it further and break it up into TINY pieces. Remember, the whole idea is for it to be able to fit down into the pasta. See the comparison here?
That’s really the only time-consuming part. Next, add my seasoning mix.
Add the tomatoes and green chilies…
…then the rest of the meat ingredients, simmer and thicken. Set aside.
Next, cook the noodles and toss with cheese.
Stand up, close together but not closing the noodles, into a greased springform pan. (No parchment needed.) *I had a few noodles left over. They did not go to waste. 😉
Pour and spoon meat over top, lightly pressing down into noodles with back of spoon, smoothing with spoon going back and forth across. Don’t worry, it all fits.
Bake and remove from oven. Top with cheese and bake again.
Prepare toppings while pasta pie rests and decorate top however you choose.
Go plain and pile in the center, or make a nice design on top!
Now for the big “tah-dah!” Release ring, and slowly start to spin it to make sure none of the noodles have stuck. None of mine did. (*I had run a knife all the way around just in case, but it wasn’t necessary and I wrecked a few noodles just a little. But no biggie.) So, just see if any stuck, then use a knife to release it from the springform ring.
And that’s really all there is to it! See, I told you it was easy! Get in closer…doesn’t it smell good?!!!
Ok, ok, I won’t tease you anymore. But I do hope that you make this, it’s truly company-worthy and makes quite a presentation! It’s so very good that my hubby and I were sad to eat the last of it! You could easily pre-make this for company the day before, too. Cover and refrigerate right in the springform, and just bake the day of the event! Put extra toppings out for guests to choose from, serve with refried beans, salsa and guacamole with tortilla chips to dip, fresh summer fruit and melon, and some frozen margaritas and Mexican beers with fresh lime and it’s a fiesta! Have fun and hope you enjoy! Have a great day all!
MEXICAN RIGATONI PASTA PIE
1 tsp. seasoning salt, I like to use “Johnny’s”
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbl. dried minced onions
REST OF INGREDIENTS:
1 pkg. Johnsonville Sweet Italian Sausages, casings removed, crumbled into pan
1 tsp. Superior Touch Better Than Bouillon Beef Base, or your favorite beef bouillon
1 cup water
2 (10 oz.) cans Rotel Mild or Hot Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies, undrained
1 Tbl. cornstarch + 1 Tbl. cold water, mixed well into a “slurry”
1 (16 oz.) box Barilla Rigatoni Noodles, or your own brand preference
1/2 cup finely grated fresh parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Sargento 5-Blend mexican Cheese, shredded
+ 2 cups more Mexican Blend cheese
SOME TOPPING SUGGESTIONS TO CHOOSE FROM:
roma tomato slices
sour cream or greek yogurt
thinly slices green onions or chives
pickled jalapeño slices
salsa or *pico de gallo (*see my recipe under “Appetizers”)
sliced black olives
In small bowl, mix up spice mix and set aside. Slit open sausage casings with kitchen scissors from one end to the other, unpeel casing and add meat to large frying pan with a tight fitting lid, breaking up into very small pieces as you go. Sauté sausage, breaking up as you go, until done and no longer pink inside. *Break up as small as you can while cooking for ease later. Once sausage is done, remove from pan with slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Rinse and wipe out pan clean. With fingers, break up and crumble sausage back into pan into very tiny pieces. *You must crumble the sausage so that it will fit down inside the rigatoni noodles later.
Sprinkle spice mix over sausage evenly. Stir in well. Add both cans, undrained, of diced tomatoes and green chilies. I used mild, but you can use the original hot if preferred.
In mug, add 1 cup water and 1 tsp. beef bouillon base and nuke just until boiling. Stir well to dissolve, add to frying pan, stir in well. Bring to a boil over high heat, place on tight-fitting lid, reduce to med-low, and high simmer/low boil for 30 minutes. Remove lid, mix cornstarch and cold water until a slurry. Pour into mixture, stirring, and cook 1-2 minutes longer. Remove from heat and mash tomatoes with a fork pressing to break up. Set aside, covered.
While meat and tomato mixture is cooking, bring a pot of water to boil, and boil rigatoni noodles to al dente. I used Barilla and cooked them for 12 minutes. Drain extremely well and dump into large bowl. Mix the parmesan and 1/2 cup mexi-blend cheese and add to pasta. Toss immediately to mix and coat.
Preheat oven to 400.
Oil a 9″ springform pan very well, bottom and sides, with butter-flavored cooking spray. Place noodles into pan standing up. Close together, but not so tight that it closes the noodles. I had about 5-6 noodles left over. They did not go to waste. 😉 (I had used parchment paper on the bottom, but realized it was not necessary and made it difficult to get a slice out and won’t use any next time.) Just make sure you oil the pan well is all.
Give the meat sauce a good stir and ladle over noodles, smoothing and pressing down into noodles lightly with the back of a spoon. Don’t worry, it all fits. Place onto sheet of foil and wrap outside of pan if yours leaks like mine does. I hate my springform pan. I also put it on a foil-lined pizza pan for good measure. Mine didn’t leak at all, but will always use foil anyways as my pan is very unpredictable and I hate it when things spill and burn in my oven. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove, top with the 2 cups mexican blend cheese and bake 15 minutes longer. Let rest 20-30 minutes.
Top with favorite toppings of choice. Set out any others that you, your family or guests might like to add to their piece. Carefully release springform, spin a little to make sure no noodles are stuck. (None of mine did.) Slowly lift up and remove. With a very sharp knife, cut into pie wedges and serve using a pie server. Enjoy!!