Baked pasta has always been a summer treat in my house being my mum’s standard primo for a dinner party. She made lasagne and cannelloni in the winter and baked a variety of dried pasta like ziti, anelletti, fusilli or penne in the summer. She would also make large pans of baked pasta to bring to a picnic, to everybody’s delight.
As a consequence, there is no heat-wave which can stop me from craving that wonderful aroma of melted cheese, meat and vegetables.
And hot it is my friends, here in Umbria. However, because we’re high up in the mountains, evenings at Alla Madonna del Piatto are breezy. At sunset the lavender bushes are alive with marvelous butterflies feeding on the sweet nectar. You can spend hours enjoying the feast of color and flight and gazing at the views.
What I love of baked pasta is that is a great make ahead dish for a party, works perfectly well with gluten free pasta, and it’s a wonderful way to repurpose leftovers.
For this recipe, for example, I had leftover sausages and lentils which I reheated in a little olive oil and onion, deglazed with white wine and mixed into the pasta.
To make an authentic baked pasta, one that you will find in many Italian houses, please don’t overload it with condiments especially cheese and sauce.
As you see from the recipe I use meat as a flavor enhancer rather than as filler. Lentils add an healthy touch and more protein. You can also easily make a vegetarian version by using leftover grilled vegetables instead of sausages.
- 500 gr (1 lb) short pasta like ziti, fusilli or penne
- 1 cup Béchamel sauce
- 1 cup cooked lentils or 1/3 cup dry lentils plus broth ingredients (see below)
- 500 gr (1 lb) fresh pork sausage, casing removed, then sliced or diced
- 1 onion, sliced
- a handful fennel leaves, chopped parsley or chopped cooked spinach
- 5 tab grated Parmigiano
- 2-3 tab cream or ricotta
- white wine, salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste
If using dry lentils, cook in water with 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 tomato, 1 stick celery until soft but not falling apart.
Sauté the onion in a large pan until slightly translucent. Increase the heat, add the sausage meat and sauté quickly until cooked through. Deglaze with a few tablespoon of white wine.
Drain lentils and toss with the sausages and their cooking juices.
Make the Béchamel with 1/4 l ( 1 cup) milk, 15 g (1 tablespoon) corn starch and 15 g (1 tab) butter. See my super quick microwave recipe.
Cook pasta in lots of salted boiling water until half of the cooking time. Drain and toss with the sausages, 4 tab Parmigiano, the cream or ricotta, the sausages and lentils, the herbs or cooked spinach.
Transfer the pasta in an ovenproof pan, dollop with Béchamel and sprinkle with Parmigiano.
Bake at 200 °C ( 390 °F) until slightly golden on top, about 25 min.