This Baked Rigatoni with Bechamel Sauce has been a family favorite for many years now. My mom first made this dish after watching an episode of Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis. Now we’ve made it many a times and absolutely love the rich, creamy, cheesy pasta. Though the recipe seems a bit intimidating [bechamel sauce… what?], it’s really quite simple.
Though we don’t make it exactly like Giada all of the time, our substitutions are few and equally tasty, usually adding a bit of health and cost benefits. We use turkey smoked sausage for the prosciutto, fat free half and half for the whole milk, and less butter than suggested. One area that I would not recommend a substitution is with the cheese. Yes, fontina is a little expensive… but it is without a doubt worth it. I’ve tried using mozzarella and the rich taste of the dish is lost with a milder cheese.
However you try this pasta, like Giada, like me, or in a new way, you’re sure to enjoy the rich, smooth, luscious taste of this fabulous baked pasta. But as a warning… it is highly addictive. Especially cold out of the fridge at odd hours of the day or night. Not that I know or anything though…
Baked Rigatoni with Bechamel Sauce
from Giada De Laurentiis
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 quart half and half, at room temperature [really important to be at room temperature, it makes the sauce stellar!]
- pinch of nutmeg
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup grated fontina, divided
- 1/2 pound smoked turkey sausage, julienned
- 1 pound dried rigatoni
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
First, make the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in the saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until smooth, approximately 2 minutes. Gradually add the half and half and stir constantly until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. This should take about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in nutmeg, 1/2 cup fontina, and smoked sausage. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the rigatoni and cook for about 5 minutes. The pasta will be cooking further in the oven so it’s important to make sure the inside is still slightly hard. Drain pasta and return to pot. Stir in bechamel sauce and mix well to coat. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Top with remaining fontina. Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.
Can be made up to a day ahead, refrigerated, and then baked right before serving—just leave out at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes before baking or add a few minutes on to the baking time.
Question of the Day: What food do you sneak out of the fridge at odd hours?