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Pasta Jumble Bake

I came across this pasta at the weekend and bought it along with Sicilian and Kalamata olives, mozzarella, lots of large pomodoro tomatoes and basil with the intention of making a pasta bake.

I’m always a bit dubious about pasta bakes as I don’t like overcooked pasta or too much sauce but this particular purchase made me wonder. I also had ricotta in the fridge I’d bought thinking it was cottage cheese – so needed to make use of it. Here is what I made – it’s a warming dish, quite saucy, simple and delicious. I think it works best with a little chilli and a nice green salad.

Large Pasta Shell

Ingredients – Serves 4

  • 16-20 medium sized pomodoro tomatoes
  • 6 cloves of garlic, still in their skin
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large brown onion, sliced
  • 20g butter
  • 2 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tub of ricotta, about 250g
  • 1 bunch of basil
  • ½ a nutmeg grated
  • About 16 large pasta shells. Small shapes can be used, in which case add dabs of the ricotta mix, rather than using it to stuff the shapes
  • 1 mozzarella, sliced into 6-8 pieces
  • 1 handful of mixed olives
  • Green salad and chilli flakes to serve

First heat the oven to 150°C and slice the tomatoes in half, lay in an oven tray cut side up, scatter over the garlic, olive oil and season well. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes (or until the tomatoes look nice and soft and the garlic is golden). Take out the tomatoes and turn up the oven to 180°C. Let them cool before popping out the garlic cloves from their skins, discard the skins and empty the mixture into a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, use a hand blender.

Process until the sauce looks thick and smooth. Transfer to a pan and simmer down for about 20 minutes, until the sauce is quite thick and not at all watery, similar to pasata. The time taken to do this will vary depending on the tomatoes you have used. You could use shop bought pasata but this is well worth the effort.

Pasta Bake Steps

Find an oven dish big enough to serve 4 people and put half your tomato sauce in the bottom, spreading evenly.

Fry the sliced onion in a little butter and oil and add the sugar when soft. Let them caramelise nicely until they are mid – dark brown. This will take about 10 minutes.

Mix the ricotta with half a grated nutmeg and ¾ of the bunch of chopped basil and season.

Cook the pasta until al dente and drain before adding it to the tomato sauce, keeping the openings facing upwards so you are able to spoon the ricotta mix into each shell with ease.  Once done with the ricotta, add the onions in an even layer and scatter over the olives.

Top with the other half of the tomato mixture, scatter over the rest of the basil leaves and top with the sliced mozzarella. Season well, cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes, until the mozzarella has melted to your liking.

Enjoy with a green salad dressed with olive oil and balsamic.

Mozzarella Melting

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