My eldest son graduated from high school last spring, and like many families, we hosted his graduation party at our house. As his was scheduled for the first weekend after graduation, we really had no idea how many people would show. Our friends and relatives were easy to figure out as they were sent reservations and most properly RSVP’d. The problem came in with the kids.
Per the culture, the invite was posted on my son’s Facebook page and spread via word of mouth. Come if you want. No RSVP needed. That is great for keeping things causal, but for the parent trying to plan for enough food, it drove me crazy. What’s a Ranting Chef to do except over-prepare?
Our menu included a variety of items including the low cost/low prep rigatoni with red sauce (and melted cheese on the top). Meatballs were on the side. How much to buy, though? I decided to take a trip to a local place that sells exclusively to restaurants (I obtained a membership years ago as part of a non-profit) and purchased many bulk items there. One purchase, 20lbs of rigatoni.
There is no way we would use 20lbs of rigatoni.
I figured it would easily keep and we’d use 10-15 pounds at least. I thought I could make five pounds and throw it in a tray or two and then relatively quickly make more as it gets eaten. The party came and while most plates had some rigatoni, it was generally a scoop. Maybe two. The first tray slowly was being used but the second was completely full. We ended the night with a whole 2 1/2 foot tray of cooked rigatoni and 15 pounds of the uncooked stuff. Ugh. It soon became my mission to look for opportunities to use it up.
The first chance was to take 10lbs of it to a family trip to Yellowstone. During the week there with my family and my brother’s family we had rigatoni as a main dish once and several times as a side and I still came home with seven pounds of uncooked pasta. Time to look for recipes that need it.
I liked this one because it didn’t have the ever-present tomato sauce.
I normally like to cook with fresh jalapeños, but this recipe calls for the jar kind.
Getting the red pepper soft.
Making the cheese sauce.
Mixing it together.
In the baking dish.
Out of the oven.
A cheesy, tasty way to use up some of the mountain of rigatoni.
Two-Pepper Rigatoni and Cheese
Makes: 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)
- 5 cups uncooked rigatoni (16 ounces uncooked pasta)
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups fat-free milk
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped pickled jalapeño pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sliced green onions
- Cooking spray
- 2 (1-ounce) slices white bread
1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well; place in a large bowl.
3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add to pasta.
4. Add flour to pan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add cheeses, stirring until cheeses melt and mixture is smooth. Stir in jalapeño and salt. Add cheese mixture to pasta, tossing well to coat. Stir in green onions. Spoon pasta mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
5. Place bread slices in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure about 1 cup. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Combine butter and breadcrumbs in a small bowl; toss until blended. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over pasta mixture. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until browned.
12.8 g fat
7.8 g satfat
3.3 g monofat
0.6 g polyfat
19.2 g protein
54.5 g carbohydrate
2.4 g fiber
40 mg cholesterol
2.5 mg iron
550 mg sodium
293 mg calcium