I’ve seen the recipe for this Honeycomb Pasta cake go viral, so I decided to give it a little upgrade. First up, I’m swapping the sad mozzarella cheese sticks used in many of the recipes for a creamy spinach and ricotta filling. Once filled, the pasta is topped with an easy homemade tomato sauce before being covered in a blanket of fresh mozzarella and Parmigiano. Once baked, it emerges from the oven beautiful and bubbly, just like you are.
For the Tomato Sauce:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced or smashed
6 basil leaves, torn
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
For the Ricotta Filling:
½ pound spinach
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
A pinch of salt
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 pound rigatoni, cooked very al dente (about ½ the cooking time)
1 (8-ounce) ball of fresh mozzarella, torn by hand
Preheat the oven to 390˚F and line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the basil and sizzle in the oil until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Next, add the tomatoes, season with a heavy pinch of salt, and cook until the bubbling tomato has lost its raw flavor but still tastes bright and tangy, and the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.
While the sauce cooks, make the filling. In a medium pan, cook spinach over medium heat with a dash of water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch of salt for about 6-7 minutes or until bright green and tender. Once the spinach is cooked, cool it slightly, then wrap it in a tea towel or cheesecloth and squeeze out all the excess moisture.
Mince the spinach with a knife, place the ricotta in a bowl, and add the spinach, followed by a pinch of salt. Mix to combine. Transfer the filling to a piping bag.
To assemble, arrange the al dente rigatoni in the prepared pan to stand upright. Fill each noodle with a generous amount of ricotta filling. Once all of the pasta is filled, cover the whole thing with tomato sauce (you might not need to use all of the sauce, you just want to ensure the pasta is covered with an even layer of sauce). Top the tomato sauce with mozzarella and Parmigiano. Place the spring form pan on a rimmed sheet pan (to catch any drips) and bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
Let cool and firm up for about 20 minutes before opening the springform pan and serving in wedges.