Category Archives: Food

Cooking with an Italiennium: Pasta al forno con animale

A recipe.

Why? Because my Nonna doesn’t cook anymore and my parents don’t understand the internet. So, I decided to take what I learned on Sundays and make it my own/bring it into the 21st (but pre-millennial) century.

The ingredients.

~1 can diced tomato
Favorite pasta sauce (store bought or home made)
~1 pound ricotta cheese
a few pounds of assorted cheeses (mozzarella, and similar)
as much hard cheese as you can afford (parmasean, reggiano, asiago, or similar – to taste)
a lot of ground animal meats (beef, veal, and similar)
(Spicy) Italian sausages
Cubed stewing meats (optional)
Eggs (optional)
1-2 pounds elicodali, rigatoni, pennoni, or other large cylindrical pasta
olives/sundried tomato (optional – to taste)
oil/spices to taste (black pepper, various “Italian” herbs)
onion/garlic/zucchini or similar vegetable (optional – to taste)

The scientific method (the recipe).

In a very large saucepan or stock pot, heat oil and lightly brown and spice onion/garlic/zucchini, ground meats, sausage, and cubed meats, optionally draining excess water/fats if not lean.
Add favorite pasta sauce and diced tomato (and optionally eggs, olives/sundried tomato), simmering for many hours uncovered until the cubed meat is tender and sauce is cooked down to optimal flavor and texture.
Remove sausages and cut into ~1 inch slices, adding back into sauce.
Preheat oven to ~400F and begin boiling water.
While waiting for the oven to preheat and water to boil, grate all but the hard cheese into a multi-cheese blend.
Lightly salt boiling water (or heavily if you are not using olives), adding chosen pasta.
Add ricotta cheese to the sauce mix and stir until the chunks are at a desired size, distributed evenly throughout, you may turn off the heat at this time.
Coat a very large/deep ‘metal oval oven roaster’ or casserole dish with some oil to prevent pasta from sticking to the sides.

IMPORTANT: Deliberately undercook pasta, draining before it has reached al dente, you will need to work quickly to perform the next step so that the pasta does not dry out/stick. Optionally, you could drain approximately 1/n of the pasta at a time (where n is equal to the number of layers of alternating pasta/cheese/sauce you choose dependent on how deep your oven container is) 2-4 is an acceptable range for n.

For each layer n:
Distribute 1/n pasta in container, covering with approximately 1/n of the sauce mixture, followed by approximately 1/(n+1) of the multi-cheese blend, then grate a small amount of hard cheeses for additional flavor. Ensure the pasta is fully covered with sauce. Repeat for the remaining layers.

Add the remaining ~1/n cheese so that there is approximately double the amount of cheese on the top compared to each of the layers, then grate some more of the remaining hard cheese before placing uncovered in the oven.

Bake for at least 20 minutes, until cheese begins to brown, optionally changing to broil during the last few minutes of cooking.

Remove from oven and use a metal serving utensil to cut through the layers without disturbing the baked cheese and serve. This dish can be very flavorful (see salty) so you may want to serve with only a small amount of fresh ground pepper and additional grated hard cheese.

Serves many meat lovers.