PASTA - Baked Pasta
The local grocery chain had a sale on Rustichella d'Abruzzo pasta and I bought a boat load. Now I need to find recipes. I made a pleasing Shrimp, Feta, Dill bake from Epicurious this afternoon and am looking for more.
For whatever reason, I associate baking [or casseroles] with leisurely cooking and dining.
Do you have a favorite meat, poultry, seafood or vegetable baked pasta creation that I can add to my repertoire?
It ain't fancy, but Martha Stewart's Everyday Foods has a terrific no-bake lasagna that my son (who is very picky) loves. They found that if you just soaked the lasagna noodles in hot water (in the lasagna pan) while you prepared the sauce and meat, you didn't need to cook them.
I hate no-bake lasagna noodles. Their texture is creepy. Also, you need the frilly sides to catch the sauce!
I'm going to show my Midwestern side and say my favorite baked pasta is... leftover! Some of you may recall my saying that to a Midwesterner "al dente" is an Italian phrase meaning "noodles ain't done yet". Well, I have come to appreciate, even love, al dente pasta, but I still have a weakness for the flabby, sauce-infused "pisgetti" of my childhood. Yeah, canned Franco-American is like that too, but it just doesn't taste right. I love the way the sauce sharpens and concentrates, the fat from the sausage or meatballs blends in, the flavors of the herbs both blurs and intensifies. That's why I always make too much...
Next to that, though, is Tetrazzini. YESSS!
Turkey originally, I think. J. Beard has one of the best recipes, not to mention a good capsule history. It is and should be a very rich dish, and the correct wine to use in it is sherry. Here's the recipe I got from a guy who brought it to a gathering at my house:
The original recipe first appeared in the Boston Cooking School cookbook and was published later in Gourmet, Sunset and other magazines.
The recipe is best enjoyed undoctored by additional vegetables and spices; let the key players of poultry, mushroom, cream, parmesan cheese, and sherry speak for themselves.
3 TB butter
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 TB flour
1 c. chicken stock
salt, to taste
1/4 c. cream
1/4 c. dry sherry
8 oz spaghetti pasta, broken in half and cooked
2 c. turkey or chicken meat, cooked and diced
1/2 c. parmesan cheese, shredded
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and sweat the mushrooms until soft.
Sprinkle the flour in and cook for a few minutes to remove the raw taste.
Add the chicken stock and cream slowly, stirring constantly until the sauce starts to thicken; add salt to taste.
Remove from the heat, add the sherry, pasta, poultry, half the cheese and stir until mixed.
Turn into a greased baking dish, top with the remaining cheese and bake in a 375 degree F oven for 30 minutes or until browned.
If you're up for a bit of a challenge, I found a recipe I love in one of Giada DeLaurentiis's cookbooks. It for an eggplant timbale. You line a springform pan with grilled eggplant slices, then fill it with a mixture of pasta, meat, smoked mozzarella, sauce, peas and more. Then you bake it. It delicious! The recipe is on the food network website (I can't remember which of ehr cookbooks it's in).
Orzo is better treated as a soup noodle or used instead of or in addition to rice in a pilaf recipe. In the latter instance, it's nice to pan-toast the orzo in a little butter or oil before adding the liquid.
Baked orecchiete dishes are nice if they include some peas, as they will settle into the cup-shape of the pasta. This works even better with Pipette shaped pasta.