As my father had to remind me constantly when my middle school comrades would copy my outfits and try to perfect my pant-pinning ways, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Tonight I’m going to prove that idiom and keep dinner simple by making myself a big dish of baked pasta that I can munch on throughout the entire workweek. It’s heavy, hearty, and absolutely inspired by my favorite restaurant in Buffalo:Chef’s. In downtown Buffalo, Chef’s is THE landmark restaurant and almost everyone who visits orders Spaghetti Parmesan. I don’t know what the other fools are thinking as the rest of menu is a bit lack luster and fairly typically Southern Italian, but there is nothing like Chef’s Spaghetti Parmesan, and though I have tried to duplicate it on countless occasions the chefs have continued to dupe my palate and keep me coming back for more.
Tonight’s attempt at replication is made all the easier since the restaurant now produces its own line of tomato sauces and my Mamma brought one in tow as a belated birthday surprise. Generally, I am anti-jarred sauce since homemade sauce is easy and exceptional; however, for this one dish I do make the concession. This means that all I have to do is boil the pasta (and though the original uses spaghetti my preference always bends toward tubes of rigatoni that miraculously fill with cheese and sausage without prodding), toss it in the sauce with a smidgen of extra virgin olive oil, mix in browned sausage rounds or crumble bits of sausage according to preference, and finish the whole thing off under the broiler with a duet of Italian cheeses: mozzarella and provolone. This dish actually gets better with age, and one of my all-time favorite pastimes is to have another helping for breakfast the following day.
Rigatoni Parmigiano (serves 4 or 1 all week)
• 1 lb Rigatoni
• 2 TB Kosher Salt
• 3 Italian Sausages (sweet or hot)
• 2 TB Olive Oil (plus a drizzle for sausages)
• 2 cups Chef’s meat flavored Pasta Sauce
• ¼ lb sliced Mozzarella
• ¼ lb sliced Provolone
Bring water to a boil with salt and add pasta. Cook till al dente and then drain. Stir in olive oil.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a small sauce pan on medium and then add a drizzle of olive oil. Allow oil to heat until almost smoking and then add crumbled sausages removed from their casings or sausage slices, depending on your preference. Once browned, add Chef’s sauce, or any tomato sauce, and heat through. Combine pasta and sauce and mix thoroughly; I take Batali’s view and think of pasta sauce as a condiment, careful to use it sparingly and allow the pasta itself to shine through the taste of tomatoes. Spread pasta in an even layer in a broiler safe dish. Top with a layer of sliced cheese and broil till golden, about 3 minutes. Buon Appetito!