The best baked ziti ever!

puglia crestIMHO 🙂 Pasta al forno Pugliese. Baked pasta is popular all over Italy. This version comes from Puglia. It uses Scamorza cheese instead of mozzarella. If you can’t find scamorza you can use mozzarella, but make sure it’s not too fresh as it will make the dish too wet. Actually, that probably wouldn’t be a problem outside Italy 😉 It is traditionally made with pecorino, but nowadays most people use parmesan. There is a lighter meatless version that leaves out the meatballs. Thanks to Grazia and Tiziana for the advice. Serves 6

Baked ziti ingredients

Baked ziti ingredients

  • 500g mezzi ziti or rigatoni
  • 200g scamorza cheese, finely diced
  • 50g pecorino Romano or parmesan
  • 800g passata
  • 1 onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the meatballs:

Meatballs ingredients

Meatballs ingredients

  • 250g minced beef
  • 50g pecorino Romano or parmesan
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 medium eggs
  • sprig of parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
    • Make a tomato sauce by frying the onion for a few minutes in plenty of olive oil. Add the passata, season and cook over a low heat for about 30 minutes.
    • Make the meatballs by mixing all the ingredients together. Form into small balls about the size of a hazelnut. Fry in olive oil until well browned. Drain on kitchen paper.
  • fried meatballs

    fried meatballs

    • Boil the pasta until it is very al dente, two or three minutes less than the usual cooking time.  Dress with a couple of ladles of the tomato sauce and half the parmesan.
    • To assemble the dish take a high sided baking tray and put a layer of the pasta in the bottom. Cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle with meatballs, diced scamorza, and parmesan.
  • partially assenbled dish

    partially assenbled dish

  • Continue until you have used up all the pasta. The last layer should be pasta covered with tomato sauce. Sprinkle the top with parmesan
  • Assembled dish
  • Bake in a hot oven for 25 minutes.
Baked ziti

Baked ziti

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Rigatoni with basil and tomatoes

Somebody was asking for vegan recipes on one of the forums I visit. She is due for a visit from her daughter-in-law and was stuck for ideas. My first thought was ‘Easy! Most of the recipes on the blog are vegan.’ . On closer inspection, however, I realised none of them are 🙂 Vegans eat cheese, don’t they? 😉 I asked around my Italian friends, and after much explanation of the concept of veganism, I came up with this recipe. Baking the dish concentrates the flavour of the tomatoes wonderfully. If you’re cooking it for a strict vegan, check that the bread crumbs don’t contain any milk.   Serves 6

rigatoni with basil ingredients

  300 grams  rigatoni
  1      kilogram  top quality tomatoes — sliced
  1      large bunch of basil — chopped
  1      tablespoon  bread crumbs
          olive oil

  • Cook the rigatoni in salted water. Drain and dress with plenty of olive
    oil, half the basil, and the bread crumbs.
  • Put a layer of the tomatoes in an oiled oven proof dish
  • Top with some basil, a drizzel of oil, a little salt, and a layer of
    rigatoni.
  • Repeat until all the ingredients have been used up. Finish with a layer of
    tomatoes.
  • Bake in a medium oven for about 45 minutes
  • Serve hot.

rigatoni with basil and tomatoes finished dish

Rigatoni baked with aubergines and meatballs

After yesterday’s simple recipe, I’m going to the other extreme today. This takes quite a while to assemble but is worth it in the end. Real Italian ‘comfort food’  😉

Serves 4

  •  500 g Rigatoni
  • 1 Aubergine
  • Olive Oil
  • 100g Provola cheese
  • 1 Mozzarella
  • 100 g Cooked ham
  • 400 ml Tomato sauce (if you have time, make your own. As you can see from the pic, I cheated.)
  • 100 g Grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

For the meatballs

  • 450 g Minced beef
  • 25 g White breadcrumbs
  • 1 Egg
  • 15g Grated parmesan
  • Parsley, chopped
  • 1 Clove garlic, finely chopped
  • White pepper
  • Heat the oven to 180°C
  • Make the meatballs by mixing all the ingredients and forming small balls with the mixture.
  • Rigatoni with aubergines and meatballs

    Rigatoni with aubergines and meatballs

  •  Boil the rigatoni in salted water until cooked. Drain. Cut the aubergine into slices 1cm thick. Grill until soft.
  • Grate the provola, slice the mozzarella, chop the ham.
  • In a baking dish put a layer of rigatoni. Place in order a layer of aubergine and then a few meatballs. Cover with tomato sauce, cheeses and ham. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up. Scatter grated Parmesan over the surface.
  • Bake for about 25-35 minutes until the mixture is bubbling and the top is golden.
Rigatoni with aubergines and meatballs

Rigatoni with aubergines and meatballs

This is adapted from a recipe collected by Matthew Fort in his book Eating Up Italy(excellent foodie porn). The original included sliced hardboiled eggs and he fried the aubergines. I didn’t think my arteries could cope with that 🙂