Sausage and Tomato Rigatoni is a hearty dish for a group

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When you’re having people over for a meal, there are a couple ways you can go about it. There’s the interactive meal, where you put your guests to work (in a fun way) helping prepare the food. There’s the meal that cooks for a bit after your guests arrive, then comes fresh from the oven just before you’re ready to eat.

And then there is this kind of meal. The table is fully set. The fridge is stocked with a completed dish you can easily heat up, or something that doesn’t need to be served hot, like ceviche or a hearty salad or a giant antipasto platter. (Think a medley of meats, cheese, olives, artichoke hearts, pickled veggies.)

Something like build-it-yourself tacos or a pasta bake work well, because you can spend time before the party cooking the different parts then assemble the whole thing and heat it up right before guests arrive. This is also a good strategy when you’re dealing with guests who won’t commit to an exact time of arrival, or are in town for the weekend and may surprise you.

This Sausage and Tomato Rigatoni is one such dish. You cannot possibly add too much cheese here, so feel free to add more than the recipe calls for, especially if you’ll be reheating it from the fridge.

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Sausage and Tomato Rigatoni

8 ounces pasta, preferably rigatoni but any large shaped noodle works

Olive oil

2 links Italian sausage (or chicken sausage)

½ medium red onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

2 cups roughly chopped kale

2 small tomatoes

1 tablespoon butter

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

8 ounces (about 1 cup) mozzarella cheese, grated

Fresh thyme, chopped, for serving

Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook for 8 minutes, or until al dente. Strain and pour pasta into an oven-safe baking dish. Reserve pasta water for later use.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cut sausage into chunks, then add to skillet. Add onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook until onion is soft, about 7 minutes.

Add kale, tomatoes and ½ cup pasta water. Stir and lower heat to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes until kale starts to wilt. Add butter and Parmesan cheese and stir. If pan is becoming dry, add a bit more pasta water.

Add sausage mixture to pasta in dish and stir gently to combine everything. Top with mozzarella cheese. Just before serving, broil dish for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve with Parmesan cheese and thyme.

Serves 4.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times