Pasta al forno

I live in a old, raised house, built long before modern insulation.  This means icy cold floors all winter long, and warm rooms only while the heater is actively blowing out hot air. As a result, some time around Thanksgiving, my cooking makes a big seasonal shift; I start looking for reasons to turn on the oven, seeking out recipes with long cooking times, and baking bread as often as my schedule allows.

Simple pasta al forno is a good way to heat up the kitchen and make several meals at once.  Start with a simple, homemade pasta sauce–make enough to stock the freezer (it’s okay, hurricane season is really, truly over).  Then boil your favorite pasta shapes (rotini, penne, or ziti work well) and drain.

In a bowl, combine 1 ounce whole-milk ricotta per serving of pasta, lots of fresh-ground black pepper, an egg, and freshly grated pecorino and parmesan cheeses.  Mix well, then add the drained pasta and stir to thoroughly combine.  Spread the pasta in a baking dish and top with a thick layer of homemade sauce.  Bake at 375 until the sauce atop the pasta bubbles and thickens, and the ricotta underneath firms up (about 45 minutes).  Of course, the recipe is infinitely variable:  feel free to add chopped spinach, slivered & blanched asparagus, cooked italian sausage (crumbled or sliced into rounds), green peas, mushrooms, etc to the ricotta mixture.

If you lived in Italy and had really excellent fresh ricotta, it would be a shame to sully it with such additions.  But trust me, the supermarket ricotta won’t mind a bit.

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4 thoughts on “Pasta al forno

  1. I’m reminded of the dark days when my mom would garnish lasagna with slices of white american cheese cut into triangles melted over the top – do you think it minded?

    • Thank goodness it’s only 45 here, and not in the teens. My pipes would all freeze solid if we had a prolonged period in the teens (as would all my citrus trees!) Bake a pan of focaccia to accompany the pasta…extra heat from the oven.

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