"Pasta al forno oggi!" "Pasta bake today!" this was music to my ears as a little girl.
When I was small I used to wait in front of the oven and catch every whiff that would escape. My favourite was pasta filled with meat with lots of bechamel sauce.
You can use different pasta shapes, today I used paccheri which is a large shaped pasta which looks like small cannelloni and are suitable to be filled and baked in the oven.
I have filled them with meat sauce (or "ragu'") but you could also choose any filling of your choice of course. Ricotta and spinach is always a popular one. All you need to do is cook your pasta very al dente and then line it up standing up on a spring-form bake tin. It will look almost like a cake! Fill them with your favourite filling with lots of delicious bechamel sauce and Parmesan cheese.
You cannot possibly go wrong with a dish like this. It is going to be delicious!
So...1...2...3... let's cook!
- Prep Time : 45 minutes
- Cook Time : 2h 00 min
- paccheri pasta - 300 g - 10 oz
- lean mince - 400 g - slightly less than 2 cups
- celery - 1 stick
- carrot - 1
- nutmeg - a pinch
- onion - 1
- tomato sauce - 400 ml - 13 fl oz
- salt and pepper
- grated parmesan cheese
- chopped parsley - 2 tbsp
- olive oil
- For the bechamel (white) sauce:
- nutmeg - a pinch
- milk - 500 ml - 17 fl oz
- flour - 40 g - 1/3 cup
- butter - 40 g - 2+ 1/2 tbsp
- tomato sauce - 3 tbsp
- salt and pepper - a pinch/grind
First let's make the meat sauce:
Chop finely the onion, celery and the carrot. In a pan stir fry the vegetables for a few minutes with 2 tbsp of olive oil.
Add the meat and seal it until brown in colour. Add the tomato sauce, 1 tbsp of chopped parsley and cook over a low heat for 1 hour and 30 minutes (check my step by step bolognese sauce recipe). Add salt and pepper during the last 20 minutes of cooking.
Cook the paccheri in salty boiling water for half the time that it says on the packet.
Drain and let them cool down over a tea-towel.
Let's make the bechamel sauce:
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook the mixture for just under a minute.
Add the milk slowly, a pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper stirring all the time to avoid lumps forming. Bring the mixture to the boil, always stirring and you will see that the mixture will begin to thicken and become glossy.
Let it boil for 2 or 3 minutes and then add 3 tbsp of tomato sauce and stir.
Mix the meat sauce with half of the bechamel sauce and 3 tbsp of grated Parmesan. Grease with oil a springform round baking tin (measuring approx 22 cm or 8.6 inch diameter) or line it up with parchment paper. Pour a little bechamel sauce on the bottom.
Fill your paccheri standing up on your baking dish and line them up close to each other.
Finish off by filling the holes in between the pasta with the remaining bechamel sauce.
Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and a tbsp of chopped parsley.
Finally cook at 180C or 350 F for 25 minutes until golden.
Et voila'! Isn't this simply a wonderful "Sunday" treat? Love love love it!