A week ago or so, I was reminded of a pasta pie that I had at an Italian restaurant in Chicago many, many years ago! I looked at the recipe for the one I saw recently posted on Pinterest, but was very disappointed. So, I decided to just make one up myself! I also decided to go Mexican and it was a HUGE hit with my hubby and I! And though it may look intimidating, it's actually very easy! Just a wee little bit time consuming, so plan ahead or cook and crumble the sausage the day before! :D Hope you give this a try, it's truly company-worthy and quite a presentation!
~All photos by me~
1In small bowl, mix up spice mix and set aside. Slit open sausage casings with kitchen scissors from one end to the other, unpeel casing and add meat to large frying pan with a tight fitting lid, breaking up into very small pieces as you go.
2Sauté sausage, breaking up as you go, until done and no longer pink inside. *Break up as small as you can while cooking for ease later.
3Once sausage is done, remove from pan with slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Rinse and wipe out pan clean. With fingers, break up and crumble sausage back into pan into very tiny pieces. *You must crumble the sausage so that it will fit down inside the rigatoni noodles later.
4Sprinkle spice mix over sausage evenly. Stir in well.
5Add both cans, undrained, of diced tomatoes and green chilies. I used mild, but you can use the original hot if preferred.
6In mug, add 1 cup water and 1 tsp. beef bouillon base and nuke just until boiling. Stir well to dissolve, add to frying pan, stir in well. Bring to a boil over high heat, place on tight-fitting lid, reduce to med-low, and high simmer/low boil for 30 minutes. Remove lid, mix cornstarch and cold water until a slurry. Pour into mixture, stirring, and cook 1-2 minutes longer. Remove from heat and mash tomatoes with a fork pressing to break up. Set aside, covered.
7While meat and tomato mixture is cooking, bring a pot of water to boil, and boil rigatoni noodles to al dente. I used Barilla and cooked them for 12 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water, drain extremely well. Dump into large bowl. Mix the parmesan and 1/2 cup mexi-blend cheese and add to pasta. Toss to mix and coat.
8Preheat oven to 400.
Oil a 9" springform pan very well, bottom and sides, with butter-flavored cooking spray. Place noodles into pan standing up. Close together, but not so tight that it closes the noodles. I had about 5-6 noodles left over. They did not go to waste. ;) (I had used parchment paper on the bottom, but realized it was not necessary and made it difficult to get a slice out and won't use any next time.) Just make sure you oil the pan well.
9Give the meat sauce a good stir and ladle over noodles, smoothing and pressing down into noodles lightly. Don't worry, it all fits.
10Place onto sheet of foil and wrap outside of pan if yours leaks like mine does. I hate my springform pan. I also put it on a foil-lined pizza pan for good measure. Mine didn't leak at all, but will always use foil anyways as my pan is very unpredictable and I hate it when things spill and burn in my oven. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove, top with the 2 cups mexican blend cheese and bake 15 minutes longer.
11Let rest 20-30 minutes. After about 15-20 minutes, poke a butter knife around edges to make sure no noodles stuck. None of mine did. Do this carefully, I kinda wrecked a few noodles doing this.
12Top with favorite toppings of choice. Set out any others that you, your family or guests might like to add to their piece.
13Carefully release springform, spin a little to make sure no noodles are stuck. (None were for mine.) Slowly lift up and remove.
14With a very sharp knife, cut into pie wedges and serve. Enjoy!!