Baked winter pasta with sausage

The history of this Sicilian pasta dish is quite interesting. For Lent, Sicilians are not allowed to eat eggs, and on Good Friday, they are also not allowed meat, cheese, butter and milk. This is recipe is one that combined all of the ingredients that were not allowed into one rich, and delicious, dish.

This recipe calls for caciocavallo cheese, a cheese from the South of Italy and Balkans. It is a soft stringy cheese that has deep earthy flavors. It is almost impossible to find in India. As a substitute you can use provolone, smoked scamorza or mozzarella cheese which is more easily available.

As I mentioned, this is a rich and cheesy dish that is filled with various types of meats and eggs. Rich in protein, the dish is loaded with cheese, and a wonderful Béchamel sauce base. This is a very decadent pasta where the flavors of the meats predominate, the mutton, sausage and ham add wonderful nuances, and the pecorino and provolone cheese make it gooey and delicious. This dish did satisfy that craving for rich food.

This is an outstanding cookbook from the master of Sicilian cooking. Every recipe I have cooked has been exceptional, like this pesto sauce, and most recipes are simple. The subtle differences in Sicilian cooking, from Italian cooking, are highlighted, as well as, the chef's love of the land and its produce. This is a wonderful cookbook to have on your shelf.

For more recipes from the fabulous cookbook, click here.



Ingredients:

8 tablespoons butter or olive oil

2 cups breadcrumbs, Panko preferred


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, chopped

2 lb ground beef, or lamb or mutton

2 pork sausages, cut into 1/2 inch circles

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons tomato purée

1 cup chicken stock or water

Salt, to taste

1 teaspoon pepper

2 lb penne pasta or elbow macaroni

2 cups grated pecorino cheese or parmesan cheese

6 sliced cooked ham

2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced vertically

1 1/2 cups caciocavallo cheese or provolone cheese, grated


For the Béchamel sauce:

4 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

A generous pinch nutmeg

Salt, to taste


Grease a large Pyrex or oven safe dish with the butter or olive oil. Add the breadcrumbs and swirl them around to form a nice coating and line both the bottom and sides of the dish.


Heat the olive oil in a pot and add the onions. Sauté till soft and translucent, but not colored, about 3 minutes. Add the beef/mutton, sausage and wine and bring to a bubble. Allow the alcohol to evaporate from the mix. Add the tomato paste, salt, and pepper and fry for 2 minutes. Add the stock/water and simmer gently for 45 minutes till you have a rich sauce. The sauce should be thick and the oils should have risen to the surface. Taste and adjust salt as needed.


While the sauce is simmering, make the Béchamel sauce. Heat the butter and oil in a small pot and add the flour. Cook till the flour is lightly colored to a very pale golden. Add the nutmeg and milk and whisk getting the sauce to smooth out. Cook till the sauce is thickened, all the while whisking the sauce so you do not get lumps. Set aside. The sauce should have the consistency of thick cream.


Cook the pasta as per the manufacturer's directions on the package minus 1 minute. You want the pasta to be "al dante", and not mushy. Mix the pasta in with the meat sauce, Béchamel sauce, pecorino or parmesan cheese. Toss well to combine evenly.


To assemble the pasta dish, add a half of the pasta-meat sauce mix to the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of the sliced ham and a layer of the eggs. Cover this with the remaining pasta-meat sauce. Tip with the grated provolone cheese. The assembled pasta can be stored like this in the fridge.


Heat the oven to 375 F


Seal the pasta tightly with some foil. Bake pasta for 20minutes till the center is bubbling. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes till the top is melted and browned. Remove and sit for 3-4 minutes for the pasta to settle and serve.

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