Coral Rigatoni: A Twist on a Traditional Dish

It has been a fun week of socializing and celebrating. I made it down to Louisiana in the midst of the storm before Christmas. Dashing through the snow it was not. Traveling was a long day of waits and multiple connections, but as anyone that travels during the holidays knows- that’s pretty much par for the course.
Once I finally arrived here I hit the ground running- or rather eating. I have already overindulged in some incredibly delicious ham, gumbo and jambalaya. I just love me some Southern cooking! Ettouffe, sweet Gulf Shrimp, Red Beans and Rice!
I’m starting to think I may need to put some devoted time into becoming a respectable Southern cook. I may be able to discuss long and hard the best NYC pizza, or where to get the quintessential bagel- but I can’t even begin to compete in a discussion on roux making! {not yet that is…} There will be no complaints as this will be no hardship in our newly renovated kitchen.
As many of you know, my fiancee and I have been remodeling our kitchen this Fall. I did the planning when I was here over the summer. We hired an amazing contractor, and with the aid of FaceTime on Pam’s iPad, she managed the job while here and kept me updated, while I was in NYC frustrated and antsy. This week was the first time I got to see my new playground- and it is giggle deliciously wonderful! I give Pam a boatload of appreciation for doing such a beautiful job and making sure that my vision was maintained. It turned out better than I had imagined it!!
The final details, such as painting, are the project of the week. When it’s done I promise a reveal. {Can NOT wait to show you!}
But now back to this dish. I call it Coral Rigatoni because the tubes remind me of some exotic sea creature. The tubes bend and yawn with with open mouths, revealing deep pockets of goodness. There is an organic wave to the up-righted pasta, which I find so much more appealing than laid down straight soldiers. It’s a bit more work, but guaranteed to garner you oohs and ahhs at the buffet table.
The rigatoni are stuffed with kale and mustard greens in low fat cheese, and then baked in a lightened bechemel sauce. The result is a super tasty, much lower in saturated fat, much lower in overall calories, and a good daily dose of healthy greens. For a big flavor punch while keeping things on the lights side, I topped off the dish with some grated asiago. A pungent and tasty hard cheese that goes a long way when using just a little.
Coral Rigatoni Stuffed with Winter Greens
 If you are not a fan of kale and mustard greens you may swap for equal amounts of spinach.
serves a generous 8, or modest 10
1# dried large rigatoni
1-16oz container, fat free ricotta- best quality
1-16oz container, part skim ricotta- best quality
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1# frozen greens- kale/mustard greens etc., defrosted
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 good sized shallots, minced
.75c all purpose flour
4c skim milk, room temp or warmed
2c grated asiago for the topping
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the rigatoni and gently stir.
Boil for 5 minutes- only half way- they should be undone in the middle. Drain, rinse and set aside.
In a sautee pan add a tablespoon of olive oil and on medium heat sautee the onion and the garlic for 3 minutes until softened and fragrant.
Drain the greens and give them a hearty squeeze to release as much water as your hands can muster. Chop finely. Add them to the pan and gently sautee for a minute as you stir and combine the onions and garlic. No need to cook the greens, just warm them through and thoroughly mix.
In a large bowl dump the greens along with the two ricotta cheeses and the eggs, S&P. If you like your filling cheesier you can some parmesan. 
Prepare the Bechemel: In a medium sized heavy saucepan, gently melt the butter over medium low heat, add the garlic and the shallots and gently sautee for 2 mins.
Dump in the flour and continuously stir for 3-4 minutes on low. You want to cook the flour taste out while taking care not to scorch the roux.
While stirring with a whisk, add the milk a third at a time to get a smooth creamy sauce. Continue to cook on medium low for 10 minutes until thick and bubbly. Again- you may make your dish more cheesy here- Honestly, I found it didn’t need it.
In a 9×13 inch pan, place a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom before filling the rigatoni.
Either in a large pastry bag or a large plastic bag with the corner cut in a .5″ slash, add the filling and use to pipe the cheese into the rigatoni. Twist off at the top of the cheese so the filling doesn’t ooze out the top, pinch the twist with your thumb and first finger and use the rest of your hand to squeeze out the mixture.
Fill a couple of tubes about 3/4’s full. When you have a small batch you can start to stand them up next to each other. Leave a little space between for the sauce to reach.
When all the tubes are filled and the pan is completely full, carefully spoon the bechemel over the top and especially between the tubes.
Top the whole thing off with the asiago.
Place into a 375˚ oven and bake until the tops of the pasta are crispy and golden and the sauce is bubbly.


  1. LOVE CORAL RIGATONI! Brilliant!
    And, can’t wait to see the kitchen!
    Happy New Year to you, Gail!


  2. Thanks Gail! Glad to see you made it back from the frozen tundra. The fact that you were running low on chocolate really had me worried! I’m sorely going to miss your diary- we may have to ship you back. xo

  3. Oh my! This looks phenomenal.

  4. That looks absolutely delicious, and so different looking! Happy New Year!