This rich, delicious, full flavored Rigatoni IS the first entrée that people head for at ANY potluck or gathering. It will feed 5 or 6 people depending on their appetite. The recipe doubles (even triples) well.
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced
14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14 ounce can water
6 ounce can tomato paste
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon sugar (don’t leave out)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (don’t leave out)
2 teaspoons dry basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (don’t leave out)
1 teaspoon dry oregano leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese grated (as much as you like)
Rigatoni noodles (eyeball this amount – about 8 ounces)
Cook the chopped onion in a tablespoon of vegetable oil for about 5 minutes or until it starts to smell a little sweet. Add the garlic and cook/stir for another minute or so, but watch it so it doesn’t burn.
Stir the ground beef into the onion-garlic and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Drain well and addthe crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, water, sugar and spices.
Stir well and simmer SLOWLY for an hour and a half (stirring once in a while). After an hour and a half, most of the liquid should have cooked away and it will look like this (not too dry). If it looks overly dry, add a cup of water.
Stir in the Parmesan and Mozzarella (but save a little mozzarella to sprinkle over the top before you bake it).
Now a word about the noodles: You can use ANY noodle you want, but we really like the hardy (thick walled) rigatoni noodles. Boil them in salted water until they are ALMOST done (about 2-3 minutes before they are totally cooked). They will cook the rest of the way in the sauce.
I use half a package of rigatoni noodles in this recipe. If you are using another kind of noodle, just eyeball the amount.
Drain the noodles well and Stir them into the meat and cheese mixture. Top with a little extra mozzarella and bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or till bubbly.
NOTE: I often make this in the Crockpot. I follow the above directions until it says “simmer for 1 1/2 hours). Instead, I put it in the slow cooker and let it “cook” for 3-4 hours on low. Then I add the partially cooked noodles and let it all “cook” for another 1/2 hour….works great.