It is Sunday, so the flat it filled with Sunday flavors! A day where you relax (or recover) and where garlic is swapped for onions (at least when it comes to your homemade tomato sauces!) Our Italian Pasta Bake is great for a slow Sunday as you can prepare the elements in advance and then layer up and bake when you are ready. Here is how it is done:
For the Tomato sauce:
- 250g Passata
- 1 can Cirio baby plum tomatoes
- Half an onion
- 4Tblspoons of extra virgin olive oil
- A small bunch of fresh basil
For the bake:
- 250g minced steak
- 1½ box Garganelli pasta
- 300g Mozzarella
- 250g Parmasan
- 150g Ham (optional)
Prepare the Tomato Sauce:
Sweat the finely chopped onion in olive oil for a few minutes until translucent, add the canned tomatoes and the passata, add half a glass of water, the basil bunch and salt to taste. Bring to the boil and then leave to simmer for half an hour. When done take the basil out.
Prepare the Polpettine (mini meatballs):
You will not be able to find pre-made meatballs that are small enough, so it is time to get your hands dirty. Taking very small amounts of minced steak roll teeny-weeny meatball that are approximately 1 cm in diameter. There is nothing added to the meat and as they are so small, they hold themselves together perfectly. Once all rolled out, fry them off for 3-4 minutes in olive oil, in small batches to seal them and set aside on kitchen roll to absorbed the excess meat.
Prepare the Mozzarella and the Parmesan:
Living in England and with half of S&H being born in Campagnia (where Buffalo Mozzarella is produced) makes this a sore topic. The Mozzarella we used in this dish was, well, tasteless. We have found better quality mozzarella here at www.laverstokepark.co.uk in the past.
If you do find some fresh Mozzarella, firstly, tell us where you got it from and secondly, chop it into 2cm cubes and place on kitchen roll to absorb the excess water.
Grate a very healthy amount of Parmesan ready to sprinkle in-between the layers on the bake and your prep is complete!
To make the Pasta Bake:
- Pre heat the oven to 200C
- Get some water boiling in a large pan
- Add the pasta and part-cook it for 3 minutes
- Drain the water and mix a spoonful of tomato sauce on the pasta to cover liberally
- Take a casserole dish and begin the layer tomato sauce, pasta, mozzarella, pollpette, Parmesan, ham, tomato sauce etc (three layers seems to work best!!)
- Cover with foil, place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes, then uncover, turn oven to 150 and cook for 10 minutes
- Remove from the oven and set aside
When it comes out the oven it should be bubbling with tasty pasta shells along the sides that have caught a bit too much heat, the cheeses will have melted – the mozzarella will have become a stringy glue holding everything together and the little pollpette will be happily swimming in the Sunday tomato sauce!
Let it rest for at least 10 minutes before serving so that the melted mozzarella firms up slightly to give a nice consistency to the dish.
Serve with a simple fresh green salad and a good (Italian) red wine!