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Spicy Baked Pasta with Cheddar and Broccoli

Spicy Baked Pasta with Cheddar and Broccoli
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 All that pasta you just bought put to very good use indeed.

In New York City where I live, the supermarkets have been stripped bare of many items. But I have to say the complete absence of pasta is quite stunning.  That may well be because I have far too much pasta on hand at any given moment, virus or no virus.  I have half used boxes and boxes of every shape you can imagine.  But for all those pasta hoarders out there, I want to recommend a recipe that not only puts pasta to good use. It’s one of those comfort food dishes that does more than nourish the body. It’s Alison Roman’s recipe. And she is one phenomenal recipe developer for both Bon Appetit and The New York Times. This recipe is from Bon Appetit.

A take on Baked Pasta from someone who ordinarily doesn’t like Baked Pasta.

Oddly, Alison has never been a fan of baked pasta.  Give her a bowl of spaghetti anytime. But she concedes when she’s making a dish for a crowd (and in New York, that’s four people, she likes something assembled ahead of time. Enter this recipe for baked pasta. Ms. Roman didn’t want to go the tomato route. And she apparently has some hate on for bechamel so instead, she loaded this recipe with leeks and broccoli rabe, lots of cream and cheese. Red chili flakes are the spice.  The chives are mostly for esthetics. If you have them, lucky you. But if not, you’re still good to go.

Adaptable to any kind of tubular pasta, but need I tell you, Ms. Roman has a pasta hierarchy.

I have switched in broccoli for broccoli rabe simply because I am hoping you “stocked up” on frozen broccoli.  And I also hope that you can find a chunk of cheddar or a bag of grated cheese to use here. As to the pasta, go tubular. Ms. Roman says ‘there is an unspoken hierarchy with…rigatoni at the top and penne at the bottom’. Although she allowed using Casarecce ‘if I’m feeling fancy’. The pasta should emphatically be al dente because it will soften and cook in the oven. The breadcrumbs are essential to give the dish a crunchy topping. The recipe follows links to some other very popular Roman recipes you can use to whittle your pantry down to size. One of them has been viewed over 2000 times. Can you guess which one?

Spicy Lamb and Lentils with Herbs

Fennel-Crusted Pork Chops with Shallots and Fingerling Potatoes

Braised Chickpeas with Spinach and Haloumi with Crisp Onions and Mojo Verde

Spicy Baked Pasta with Cheddar and Broccoli

March 19, 2020
: 4 to 6
: 15 min
: 35 min
: 50 min
: Easy

A great pasta bake without a hint of tomato sauce and no bechamel in sight.


  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. rigatoni, ziti, or fusilli
  • 8 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced into half-moons
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. (or more) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe or 3 bunches baby broccolini or 8 oz. package of broccoli florets trimmed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 12 oz. sharp white cheddar, coarsely grated (about 3 cups), divided
  • 1 cup chopped chives, divided
  • 1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs or panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • Step 1 Preheat oven to 425°. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a generous amount of salt. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking together, until just barely al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
  • Step 2 While you are cooking the pasta, get the broccoli rabe going. Heat 5 Tbsp. oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high. Add leeks and season with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened (but not so much that they don’t have any texture left) and starting to brown, 8–10 minutes.
  • Step 3 Add red pepper flakes to leeks and stir to incorporate. Add broccoli rabe by the handful, stirring to combine and allowing each addition to wilt before adding more. Season with salt and black pepper. Once all of the broccoli rabe has been added, cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside.
  • Step 4 Add pasta to reserved broccoli rabe mixture along with cream, three-quarters of the cheese, ½ cup chives, and reserved pasta cooking liquid
  • Step 5 mix well. Season with salt and black pepper and add more red pepper flakes if you prefer more heat (keep in mind that the saltiness and spiciness will increase as the pasta bakes).
  • Step 6 Transfer pasta to a 3-qt. baking dish (or, if your Dutch oven is ovenproof, just leave it in there). Toss breadcrumbs and remaining 3 Tbsp. oil in a medium bowl until coated
  • Step 7 season with salt and black pepper. Scatter over pasta, then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese. Bake, until pasta is bubbling across the entire surface and breadcrumbs, are deep golden brown, 30–35 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  • Step 8 Scatter remaining chives over pasta just before serving.

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