Cheese and I go way back. I like its creamy texture. It likes my thighs. It’s a rather symbiotic relationship we’ve got going.
But lately, we’ve been on the outs. It’s not that cheese has wronged me or anything. I don’t know if anyone can really get angry with cheese. It’s just that I haven’t been eating it very often. Kind of like a cheese drought in my stomach, if cheese was rain and I was a field or something.
But the strike I’ve been on has come to an end with this recipe for baked rigatoni. I’ve never made it before, but savory recipes always seem so easy to just make up yourself, so that’s what I did. Three pounds* of cheese later, this is what happened.
*Okay, it’s not really three pounds. But it kind of looks like it.
In prepping for my pasta fest, I decided I wanted to try something new for this photo shoot. A wood backdrop always looks so rustic, so that’s what I set my sights on. I looked up Hobby Lobby in my phone, hoping to pick up something cheap, but then saw that it was further than a half mile, which was about as much distance as I was willing to devote to this endeavor. Home Depot was even further.
There has got to be some plywood by a dumpster somewhere, I think. People are always discarding plywood in dumpsters. After they finish plying with it. I’m not really sure what needs to be plied,or how you ply something with wood. But why else would you call it plywood?
Had I known beforehand that plywood is generally nailed to other pieces of plywood, I may not have thought this idea was so great.
There has got to be a plywood dumpster nearby, I muse. And I shall find it.
So I get to a dumpster, and there’s all this wood, and I’m thinking fuck yeah, I’m a genius. I park my car and look at the wood, but it isn’t what I’m looking for. It’s heavy and large, there are nails coming out of it, and it may or may not be attached to the dumpster. I try to carry it to my car, but I can’t make it budge more than three inches. People are starting to watch, and I don’t want them to think I’m weak, so I play it off like I dropped my phone in there or something and leave.
I get to the next dumpster and it’s pretty short, which is great, because – duh – so am I. So I’m standing on the ledge, which I assume is made for dumpster divers, and then this man walks up.
Fuck, this has got to be illegal, I think in panic. He’s definitely going to call the cops. Look at him and his little dog, they are totally judging me right now. I bet they think I stole that car. And these clothes. Probably from a dumpster. I am so fucked.
So I smile and wave, because waving makes people like you. Even when you’re in their dumpster.
I fail to secure any wood, and return home defeated.
What will I ever do to make these pictures look rustic, I think. How will I do it without pretty wood?
I lay my head down on the kitchen table in shame of my failure.
And that’s when I realize that my table is made of wood.
Baked Rigatoni, by me.
1 lb rigatoni pasta
6 oz Gruyère
6 oz sharp cheddar
8 oz fresh mozzarella
8 oz cremini mushrooms (buttons or baby bellas will work fine, too), sliced.
6 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c flour
2c milk (I used 2%)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
pinch of nutmeg
Basil for garnish
Preheat oven to 375. Grate Gruyère and sharp cheddar, then grate or dice fresh mozzarella. Set aside. Boil water and prepare pasta according to directions on package, but undercooking by 3-4 mins.
While the pasta cooks, melt 1 Tbsp butter in an oven-safe skillet. Add 1 clove’s worth of the garlic and stir until very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in sliced mushrooms and saute until they begin to release water and shrink, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
Melt 5 tbsp of butter in the same skillet. Add remaining garlic, stir for 30 seconds. Add flour and whisk constantly for 2-3 minutes to create a roux. When golden brown, add milk and continue to whisk for 1-2 minutes. Set aside ½ c of grated cheese and half of the fresh mozzarella. Dump remaining cheese into the sauce and stir for 3-4 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce has thickened. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Add cooked pasta and mushrooms and toss thoroughly to coat. Top with remaining cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes until top is bubbling and golden brown.
Serve immediately. Or if you’re me, serve years later, after all the photos have been taken.
This recipe will also be entered in this month’s shine supper club contest, so be sure to check it out there as well!