This is a really pretty simple, yet delicious pasta dish. We always called it “Pizza Macaroni” because that’s what our mother and grandmother called it, and they called it that because the spices used in its creation are the spices we use in pizza. There is no better pasta for this than Rigatoni, although Ziti is a good alternative if need be.
The recipe here calls for 2 pounds of pasta. This is a great dish for a crowd. It’s easy to adjust the quantities to meet your needs. And besides, it’s even better heated over.
The first thing will be to mix the seasonings together. The rest, as they say, is a breeze.
4 tbsp granulated garlic
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp granulated onion powder
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried rosemary
4 tsp fennel seed (roughly crushed with mortar and pestle)
2 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp Sicilian sea salt
1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper
For the Pasta
2 lbs Rigatoni
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes (I use the garlic, olive oil seasoned)
12 RIPE plum tomatoes, sliced
4 cups three cheese blend (Romano, Parmesan, Asiago)
Reggiano Parmesan (for serving)
Crushed red pepper (for serving)
Preheat your oven to 350º.
While you’re mixing your spices bring a large pan of water to boil. Just before you add the pasta, salt the water. Don’t be shy about this. (If you add the salt at the beginning, it will take longer to boil.) Add your pasta to the boiling water. Return to the boil, and allow it to cook for about 9 minutes. The pasta should be al dente. Drain.
Pour both cans of diced tomatoes into the bottom of a large pan. Add half of the pasta to the pan (do not mix with the tomatoes on the bottom). Then add a layer of sliced tomatoes, the spice (to you taste; I’m heavy on the spice), and a liberal dose of the three cheese blend. Sprinkle this layer with olive oil.
Add the second layer of pasta and repeat this process.
Don’t be shy with any of the ingredients, and definitely do not be shy with the olive oil.
Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake, UNCOVERED, for 30-35 minutes.
Serve with freshly ground Reggiano Parmesan and crushed red pepper.
Notes: Do not worry if some of the pieces are a bit crispy. This is part of the plan. These are actually delicious.