Here is an easy sexy healthy perfect baked pasta recipe that is ideal to share with others.
Pasta al forno x World Pasta day recipe
II’s World pasta day, (25th October 2021) and what a great opportunity to celebrate our favourite carb. Italians have a pasta dish for every occasion, and I still don’t think I’ve eaten every variation yet. However, what I love is how that for every key celebration, whether that’s a birthday, Christmas or even just because it’s Sunday, Italians love cooking and feeding others a Pasta Al Forno – a perfect baked pasta dish.
In the UK, we are all very familiar with the beloved lasagna. However, it appears that the pasta bake is a dish we don’t look at as fondly. However, that all changes today with this easy recipe inspired by my own family’s creations.
Usually predominantly made up of a meat-based ragu, what fascinates me are all the other ingredients you may find intertwined between the layers. Different sliced charcuterie, other cheeses (not just mozzarella). Plus one ingredient that brings a lovely richness is chopped hard-boiled egg.
Believe it or not, eggs were a luxury in some parts of Italy. So when it comes to Sunday and feeding the whole family, whatever eggs you had were boiled, chopped up and added to your baked pasta dish so that everyone could get at least a nibble. That for me is a true reflection of how Italians cook with love.
For this recipe, I am using Garofalo pasta, my favourite pasta brand. Made with the best quality semolina flour in heart of Gragnano, better known as the ‘city of pasta’, the pasta produced here is of such a high standard that even the European Commission has given it an IGP status (guarantee of origin for foods produced in specific areas; Italy).
Using only the best quality semolina flour, their pasta has a high protein content, which helps retain starch, hold its shape and give that perfect ‘al dente’ texture that we should all be looking for.
Secondly, Garofalo pasta is bronze-died, which gives the pasta a rough, porous surface making it perfect for sauces to bind and cling to. So when it comes to enjoying this easy sexy dish, it absolutely up levels your pasta eating experience.
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 celery stick finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
500g sausage meat, skinned and crumbled
100 ml red wine
700 ml tomato passata
400g Garofalo Penne pasta
200g taleggio cheese, chopped
80g fennel salami, roughly chopped into large pieces.
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
3 tbsp grated Parmesan
Fresh basil (to server)
- The first step is to make the ragu. In a deep frying pan, gently fry the onion, carrot and celery (your soffrito base) in 2 tbsp of olive oil on a low heat. Cook for about 5 minutes until softened.
- Next, stir in the garlic, fennel seeds and chilli flakes and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Now that the base is ready, add in your crumbled sausage meat along with the pancetta until the meat has lightly browned.
- Pour in the red wine, turn the heat up to medium and stir everything together until the majority of the wine has been absorbed.
- Finally, finish off by pouring in the tomato passata, 50ml of water and give everything a good stir. Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. Don’t forget to give it a stir about every 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, you will need to cook your pasta slightly under as it will finish cooking in the oven. So for example, the Garofalo pasta takes 11 minutes to cook, so I will cook it for 8 minutes.
- When the sausage ragu has finished cooking, drain your pasta and add it to the sauce. Mix it all together so that that the pasta is well coated.
- Finally, let’s build our pasta bake. Spoon a layer of pasta into an oven dish, top with salami, taleggio, egg and parmesan. Repeat with another later of pasta and toppings. Finish with a final layer of pasta and top with a good sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven 180c for 30 minutes. Make sure the top of the oven dish is wrapped in aluminium foil to help retain the moisture of the pasta bake
- Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then serve lovely and warm with fresh basil on top.
- Add a pinch of salt to your soffrito, which whill help release the juices and prevent them from burning. Plus it will give you a great flavoured base to start with.
- By adding you herbs and spices at this point will help release their natural oils and add more flavour
- You can replace the sausage meat with either, beef, lamb or pork mince. Also, vegetarian and vegans can also use alterenative plant-based options
- The red wine give the dish another flavour and depth to bring all the ingredients together. Try to avoid cooking it on too high a heat as it can slightly burn
- Make sure you add the water to loosen up the sauce as it’s important the ragu is a little loose and has moisture otherwise it could dry out when finished baking the final dish in the oven.
- Check the pasta packet instructions to check how long it takes to cook the pasta. You will want to undercook it by at least 3 minutes.
- Reserve and add pasta water if the sauce dries out when you add the cooked pasta to help loosen up the texture.
- You can swap out any of those ingredients with others that you deserve. This is a great opportunity to customise your own dish.
- Make sure the oven dish is wrapped in baking foil to help retain some of the moisture and doesnt dry out. Plus it will help finish cook the pasta.
- Letting the pasta bake sit for 5 minutes will help bring the flavours together and give the dish some structure when serving.
If you would love to perfect a pasta bake or another dish, why not join the Sauce club -6-week fun online cooking course to help build your kitchen confidence. Or why not join one of my fun Saucy session cooking classes to cook a new dish that you and others can enjoy.