Then my friend Julie sent me this recipe, and man: I screwed it up six ways from Sunday. First time I made it, I baked the pasta for 15 minutes uncovered it, stirred it, put it back in the oven--
--and promptly turned off the heat.
Needless to say, when I checked on the oven thirty minutes later, the pasta was kind of, uh, raw.
The second time I cooked the dish, I missed the part where, after baking for 15 minutes, uncovering and stirring, I was supposed to RECOVER the pasta. So that time my pasta was cooked to a crisp. Even Lucy, my culinary adventurer, said, "It taste good daddy. Except for the crunchy parts."
Third time, though, I got it right, and had no regrets. This is a tasty dish, and very kid friendly: the feta and tomatoes add just enough zest to give it some kick, and the thyme makes sure you know you're not eating frozen pizza.
Two notes: First, notice that the dish has to bake for 45 minutes (covered the whole time--have I mentioned that?). So this isn't one of those things you can throw together between soccer practice and piano lessons. That said, what prep is there is pretty quick.
Second, when Julie gave me the recipe, it called for four tomatoes and no onions. I cut back on the tomatoes because one of my kids isn't crazy about cooked tomatoes. I added the onions (in teeny-tiny, minced little bits) because I wanted a bit more kick. And if you chop 'em small, kids won't even know they're there.
Ham Feta Rigatoni12 ounces rigatoni (or other medium-sized pasta)
1 1/2 cups diced ham (about 8 ounces; don't go cheap here: get black forest or smoked ham, at the very least)
3 large plum tomatoes, chopped
3 Tablespoons micro-minced red onion
1 cup (or slightly more) crumbled feta cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 cup whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Butter 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish.
- Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Place in prepared baking dish.
- Mix in ham, tomatoes, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese and thyme.
- Pour cream over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to blend.
- Cover with foil.
- Bake pasta 15 minutes. Uncover and stir to coat pasta evenly with melted cheeses.
- Cover again. Have I mentioned this? You should cover again. And leave the oven ON.
- Bake another 15 minutes. Uncover and mix again.
- Bake another 15 minutes or less, until cooked through.
Will, who likes ham: 10
Jamie, who for some bizarre reason won't eat the ham but likes everything else: 7
Lucy, who picks out most of the tomatoes until we yell at her: 9
Paul, who's pretty much going to love anything that has two different kinds of cheese plus butter in it: 10