Pasta al forno… can you guess who’s back in the kitchen? No? Let me help you: the boyfriend 🙂
For those who missed my previous explanations, when there’s pasta involved I step out of the kitchen. This is what happens when you have an Italian boyfriend that also likes to cook. I’m a lucky girl… if I want a rest from the kitchen (which doesn’t happen very often!) I handed it over to my other half. And I’m never disappointed… Although his specialty is pasta dishes, he can cook other recipes very well. But we are very different cooks. I like to search for a recipe that has the ingredients I have around and then give it my touch. Or I find a recipe I like, buy the ingredients and follow the steps. He’s not like this, he’s more inventive. He looks at the fridge/pantry and invents something. Or he remembers a dish he likes and just tries to make it but without recipes. The only think is that he’s never happy with the result. I always like it but if you ask him he’ll say “It could be better” 🙂
This time he decided to make Pasta al Forno, a very typical dish from Italy that he makes really well.
Oven-baked pasta in general has a long history that goes back to the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, when baked pasta dishes were often served at the large banquets in the palaces of nobles. Pasta al forno was an opportunity for the chef to show off his creativity and inventiveness. Eventually, the dish was adopted all over Italy—and it was a success due to its infinite versatility.
Today, it’s still a staple dish of southern Italy, where it is usually prepared on Sundays, religious holidays, and special occasions. Sicily and Campania are the regions where pasta al forno is most popular. It’s often called a piatto unico as it is a complete meal in itself.
In Italy, there’s several ways to make pasta al forno and mostly depends on what you have in your fridge or pantry. But regional traditions also have their influence. In Northern Italy, butter, pork fat, or even bone marrow are used for sautéing ingredients or in preparing the ragù (meat sauce); in the southern regions, olive oil is predominantly used and baked pasta dishes are often based on vegetables such as roasted aubergine, peppers or spinach. Often local cured meats, such as prosciutto or sausages, are added. Sometimes even sliced hard-boiled eggs are used. Cheeses (such as scamorza, provola, and mozzarella) are layered inside to melt and bake into a delicious crust on top.
The dish arrived to Malta from Sicily and with a few touches it became a very popular dish even here
Pasta Al Forno
- 500 g minced beef/pork
- 500 g rigatoni pasta
- 2 onions diced finely
- 3 garlic cloves finely diced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 courgette diced
- 1 red green or yellow pepper, diced
- 100 ml beef stock
- 4 eggs lightly beaten
- 4 tbsp grated cheese plus another 2 tbsp for the top
- Small bunch of oregano chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil as needed
- Preheat the oven - 180C
- In a large pan, fry the onion and garlic until soft and it starts to brown.
- Add the minced meat and oregano and fry for 10 min.
- Add the tomato paste and let it cook for 1 min. Then add the courgette and the peppers. Cook for a another 10 min.
- Add the beef stock and chopped tomatoes. Bring to the boil and let it simmer for 30 min.
- While the meat is cooking, boil the pasta for about 10 min until al dente. Drain immediately and set aside.
- Once the meat has finished simmering add the pasta, the beaten eggs and 4tbsp of grated cheese.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Gently mix so as to not break the pasta and place it in a baking dish previously greased with butter
- Sprinkle grated cheese on top and place in the oven for 45 min to an hour.