This past week we had our first blizzard. Yes, I know, it’s the last day of January. We have been truly spoiled in terms of winter weather. It’s been fairly dry and mostly mild, which is not generally what anyone thinks of when they think of Canada. The lack of snow has been good for the state of my winter boots and has saved my shovel of some wear and tear, but it has also wreaked havoc with my winter cooking plans. You see, there are a few things that I curiously never crave unless it resembles Siberia outside my window. Baked pasta is one of those things. So when those flakes started to fall, you best believe I got to work on this ‘Nduja Baked Rigatoni with Mushrooms & Kale.
For those of you who haven’t crossed paths with ‘nduja before, allow me to introduce you to your new obsession. ‘Nduja is a spicy pork sausage that hails from Calabria, Italy. It’s soft, spreadable, and lightly fermented. And yes, I did say spreadable. You can spread this sausage directly from its casing onto a crostini or any bread product you desire.
As amazing as spreading sausage onto toast sounds, it’s not my favorite way to enjoy ‘nduja. I prefer to add it to sauces because it pretty much melts right into them, dispersing smoky, spicy, porky goodness throughout. If you can’t find ‘nduja in a store near you, that’s okay. Swap the ‘nduja for some Calabrian chili paste and add the pork product of your choice. Or if you’re vegetarian, just stick to the chili paste.
The rest of this ‘Nduja Baked Rigatoni is very straight forward. Essentially all we’re doing is making a simple tomato sauce with mushrooms, black olives, and kale. When it comes to baked pasta, the only real trick is how long you cook your pasta. This might be one of the only times I’ll say this, but don’t cook your pasta to your taste. Aim for something more than al dente. You want it almost cooked but not something you’d put onto your plate.
From there it’s as simple as stirring everything together, popping it into a casserole dish, and covering it with a thick blanket of shredded cheese. I used scamorza but mozzarella will do. Basically, you can add any cheese you like as long as it melts well and is capable of giving you the cheese pull of your dreams.
So that’s everything you need to know about this ‘Nduja Baked Rigatoni with Mushrooms and Kale. Peep the video below to see just how easy it is to make. And if you like the video, consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. I post a new video every two weeks.
‘Nduja Baked Rigatoni with Mushrooms and Kale
- 9×13 casserole dish
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ large red onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 227g (8oz) cremini mushrooms sliced
- ⅓ cup 'nduja sausage
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes optional
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 (796ml, 28 fl oz) can whole tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 cup pitted black olives
- 1 bunch kale stalks removed and torn into bite-size pieces
- 450g (1lb) dried rigatoni
- 170g (6oz) scamorza or mozzarella cheese shredded
- additional crushed red pepper flakes for sprinkling
- Pour the olive oil into a large, deep skillet and place over medium heat until simmering. Add the onion and reduce the heat slightly. Add a sprinkle of salt and reduce the heat to low.
- Once the onion is translucent, add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Add the mushrooms and saute until browned. Then stir in the 'nduja and saute until it melts into the vegetables. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, if using, the tomato paste. Sauté briefly.
- Deglaze the pan with the wine and add the can of whole tomatoes with their juices. Crush the tomatoes with the back of your spoon and bring the mixture up to a boil. Add the bay leaves, dried oregano, and dried basil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for 20-25 minutes uncovered or until reduced by half.
- When the sauce is halfway through its cook time, preheat the oven to 375°F and place a large pot of water on to boil.
- Stir the pitted black olives into the sauce and start adding the kale in batches. Waiting for each addition to wilt into the sauce before adding more. Once the kale is integrated, take the sauce off of the heat and set it aside.
- Pour the rigatoni into salted boiling water. Cook until very al dente. Using a large slotted spoon transfer the pasta from the pot to the sauce.** Mix the pasta into the sauce before transferring it to the greased casserole dish. Cover the pasta with the shredded scamorza or mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 25 minutes before turning on the broiler. Broil for 5 minutes or until the cheese is golden. Keep a close eye on it, as dishes can easily get away from you while under the broiler. Sprinkle the baked rigatoni with a few more crushed red pepper flakes and let stand for 10 minutes prior to serving.