CLASSIC pasta baked rigatoni with spinach and fontina








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Here is a wonderful and colorful baked dish using spinach. The key to this dish will be using the true Italian Fontina Val d'Aosta cheese from the northwest corner of the country.

>> Following the basic recipe without spinach is an option.

for the sauce:

  • three cups of béchamel sauce
  • one pound of fresh spinach or one 10-ounce package of frozen spinach
  • one tablespoon butter
  • one and one-half cups of Fontina Val d'Aosta, grated
  • one half cup freshly grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

for the pasta:

  • one pound rigatoni

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the béchamel sauce.

Fresh spinach: clean and wash the spinach. Discard stems so only fresh spinach leaves are left. Put the leaves into a skillet with one tablespoon of butter, cover and cook at medium heat for about three minutes. Toss the spinach leaves several times while cooking so they wilt evenly. Put the leaves in a sieve and run under cold water. Drain and squeeze the leaves dry. Chop the spinach fairly well (better than just rough).

If using frozen spinach, which is already chopped, just cook it according to the directions. Let it cool.

Put the spinach in the béchamel sauce. Add the Fontina and a quarter teaspoon of salt and several grinds of fresh pepper.

Get four to five quarts of water boiling vigorously. Add two teaspoons of salt. Put in the pasta and cook short of al dente. Drain the pasta and combine it with the béchamel-spinach mixture.

Put the pasta and mixture evenly in a 9 inch by 13 inch baking dish. Bake for fifteen to twenty minutes. As a test, as in all baked pastas, the edges should be bubbling a little.

>>option without spinach

  • added ingredient: one-half pound of prosciutto, thinly sliced.

Make the béchamel sauce as above.

Add the Fontina and the prosciutto to the sauce.

Cook the pasta as above, drain and mix it well with the sauce, making sure all the pasta is coated.

Use one tablespoon of butter on the bottom of a  9 inch by 13 inch baking dish. Put the drained pasta and sauce mixture into the dish. Sprinkle with the parmesan.

Bake in the 350 degree oven for fifteen to twenty minutes, until the edges bubble. Serve hot.





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