"We’re all a little cranky these days because it’s cold, it gets dark early, and we’ve been dealing with the stress of the virus for nearly a year. Fortunately, because I have been stuck at home, I’ve had more time to cook than ever, and that never fails to make me feel better. Plus, I end up with a good homemade dinner, and so does everyone (Jeffrey!) around me. When people ask me about my favorite comfort food, I have a hard time deciding between a big bowl of satisfying stew and a pan of cheesy baked pasta. With this Baked Rigatoni with Lamb Ragù, I don’t have to choose! First, I make a rich lamb ragù, which is just like a stew: I sauté onions, carrots and fennel, then add ground lamb, tomatoes, lots of garlic and almost an entire bottle of earthy red wine. As it simmers away on the stove for 40 minutes, the whole house smells amazing and everything starts to look up! Then I cook the rigatoni until it’s al dente, drain it and toss it with the lamb ragù, lots of fresh mozzarella and some eggs and cream to hold it together. I top it with Parmesan and mozzarella and bake it until it’s hot and bubbly, and the top is browned and crusty. I dare anyone to still be cranky after having this for dinner!" says Ina.
Heat the olive oil in a medium (10- to 11-inch) heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and fennel and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown. Add the lamb, garlic and fennel seeds and cook for 8 minutes, breaking up the lamb with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, 2 cups of the wine, the oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, partly covered, for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Off the heat, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of red wine.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 2 tablespoons salt and the rigatoni and cook according to the directions on the package, until barely al dente. Drain.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream. Add the rigatoni and toss well. Grate half of the mozzarella on a box grater and add it to the rigatoni mixture. Add the lamb mixture, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper and toss well.
Transfer to a 10-by-14-by-2-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Slice the remaining mozzarella and arrange it on top. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is hot and bubbling and some of the pasta is crusty on top. Serve hot.
This dish can be completely assembled a day in advance and refrigerated. Bake just before serving.