Monday, October 3, 2011

Pasta al Forno (2 recipes)

Yes, I am a week late on these. Hope these two wonderful recipes will sort of make up for the wait. The second one is dead easy while this first one demands a little more effort. Nonetheless, I hope you will put forth the effort as I know you will be greatly rewarded not only by the wonderful taste and texture of this but also my the nods from your guests who are lucky enough to taste it.

Baked Zita with Eggplant

1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/3 inch rounds
Olive oil
Ground black pepper
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound Italian-style sausage (hot or sweet)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
One 28-ounce can tomatoes passed through a food mill. (about the same amount of passata)
1/2 cup chopped black olives
Pepper flakes to taste or 1 Calabrian dried hot pepper, chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
Grating of fresh nutmeg
8 ounces cooked ziti or penne
1 cup fresh mozzarella, diced
1/3 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Salt, pepper and fry eggplant slices in olive oil and drain on paper towels. (Alternatively, you may cook the eggplant on the grill in which case only add pepper after they are done grilling.)
Saute onion and sausage in a little olive oil until onions are tender.
Move onion and sausage mixture to one side of pan and brown the tomato paste.
Add tomatoes, olives, red pepper and cook until thick.
Make a béchamel from the flour, butter, milk and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a casserole, place 1/2 eggplant, 1/2 pasta and 1/2 of sauce.
Top with the béchamel, mozarella and grated cheese.
Bake for 1 hour. Let cool some before serving.

This next one is an easier version of the first in a way as it does not require nearly as much work and can be made even quicker if you happen to have some meat sauce tucked away in the freezer or leftover from an earlier recipe.

1.5 pounds rigatoni
2 cups veal ragu (see recipe below)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
Salt to taste
1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
Butter for baking dish

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Choose a baking dish that can accommodate all the
Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water until just al
dente. (It will undergo further cooking so you want it a
little underdone, not much.)
Drain well and place in a large bowl.]
Make the béchamel and add to the pasta along with the ragu
and 1/3 cup of the cheese. Mix well.
Butter the baking dish and add contents of the bowl.
Even out and add remaining grated cheese plus several pieces
of butter scattered here and there.
Bake uncovered in the uppermost part of oven for 10 minutes
or until a brown crust forms. Let set to cool some
before serving.

Veal Ragu

Olive oil
1 pound ground veal
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup onion, finely minced
1 cup celery, finely minced
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt to taste
Sprinkling of ground cinnamon

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