Rigatoni gratin with cabbage and fontina

I don’t know how it was in your part of the world last week, but here in Canada, we thought summer was done and over with.

Below normal temperatures for almost the entire week. There was even a bit of frost on my car in the morning. If this is not depressing, I don’t know what is.

I just knew I needed a bit of comfort and this dish certainly did the job.

Italian fontina is a bit tricky to find sometimes. For a long time, the only fontina we could get here was so old, mildewy and stinky that it was impossible to cook with. It was like the only fontina the Italians exported was the past due one that nobody over there cared for. I was able to find a decent quality fontina at la Bottega, here in Ottawa. The young fontina we had in Italy was semi-hard, fruity, nutty and simply delectable. It is reminiscent of a good gruyère so don’t hesitate to substitute if you can’t find the real thing.

Adapted from a recipe by Loukie Werle.


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
300 g (2/3 pound) rigatoni
250 g (1/2 pound) potatoes, peeled and diced
450 g (1 pound) Savoy cabbage, chopped in 1 inch squares
150 g (1/3 pound) fontina (or substitue a good gruyère or a local semi-firm cheese)
75 g (2.5 oz) parmesan, grated


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. In a small skillet over medium heat, cook the onion in the olive oil until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the garlic and sage and cook for another minute or so. Add the butter and let it melt. Turn the heat off and set aside.

4. Add enough water to a large pot and bring to boil. Add plenty of salt and cook the pasta for one or two minutes less than the instructions on the package. Transfer the pasta to a colander, reserving the cooking water.

5. To the same pot, add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 5 or 10 minutes.

6. Add the cabbage and cook until the cabbage is soft, another 5 or 7 minutes. 

7. Drain the potato and cabbage mixture, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

8. Mix the rigatoni, potatoes and cabbage in a large bowl. Add the cooked onion, garlic and sage mixture. Then, add the parmesan and the fontina and mix well, reserving some cheese to put on top of the casserole. Taste and season well with salt and pepper.

9. Transfer the mixture to an oiled, oven-proof dish, add about 1/2 cup reserved cooking water along the sides, cover tightly with aluminum foil and put in the hot oven for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

10. Take the foil off and put under the broiler for a few minutes, until the top starts to brown. Let rest for a few minutes before devouring. 

Rigatoni gratin


Categories: Pasta, Vegetarian

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