Pasta al Forno (Oven Baked Pasta)

In Italian, “al forno” means “in the oven”, and the term can be applied to anything baked in the oven including pizza, breads and pasta. Pasta al Forno is one of my favourites. The double cooking of the pasta makes it a bit softer than the typical “al dente” style, while the oven gives the pasta a nice golden crispiness that has an unbeatable texture and crunch.  There’s a lot of different ways to experiment with this type of dish, and I’d like to try some later on with pumpkin and pancetta,

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1.2 kg minced beef (I used turkey)
  • ½ tsp chopped oregano
  • ½ tsp chopped thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 250ml red wine
  • 500ml tomato passata (pureed tomatoes)
  • 250ml water
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 450g rigatoni pasta
  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan, plus extra for serving

Directions:

Heat oil in frying pan. Sautee onions, then add garlic and minced beef. Cook over high heat until beef is brown. Break up any clumps. Can also try adding carrots and celery for more veggies.

Stir in oregano, thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Add wine and cook until it is absorbed. Add passata and water. Cover and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Add peas and remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 190C (374 F ). Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the rigatoni as instructed on the packet.

Place a few spoonfulls of the sauce on the bottom of a deep oven dish. Add the pasta. Scoop half of the remaining sauce on top of the pasta. Cut half the mozzarella and sprinkle on top, followed by two tbsp of parmesan. Scoop the remaining sauce on top, and scatter the remaining mozzarella and parmesan on top.

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until the top becomes a bit crusty. Serve with extra parmesan on top.

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