April 29, 2014 by Dewi
I’m entirely certain you’ll all agree that there are few things in this life more comforting or more satisfying than a good pasta bake. It’s also a dish which is absolutely perfect for sharing with friends, family and generally just anyone half-decent. Sitting down together to share in good food and good company is something I’ve long professed to be my favourite element of cookery. When you arrive at the table with a steaming oven-dish of rich, sauce-laden pasta resting beneath a film of molten, bubbling cheese you can feel the pressure drop in the room from the collective gasp of your expectant diners.
In terms of sharing food with loved ones, I actually made this dish for mother’s day. My dear old mam – I’m sure (I hope) she’ll find that endearing rather than insulting – thought it was delicious. Although I’ll openly admit that she may be somewhat biased in her opinion, I’m pretty confident that anyone who tries this will agree.
Briefly, some words on the ingredients:
My complete adoration of Italian food is no secret as I’m sure you’ll know by now. Rather excitingly, I was recently sent some wonderful goodies from Casanova: a brilliant, authentic Italian restaurant in Cardiff. They take pride in using special local produce and very kindly supplied me with some such ingredients. The restaurant sent over a bag of dried tagliolini pasta flavoured with truffles (I’m already dreaming of porcini mushrooms and cream), a large helping of n’duja (a spicy Italian sausage, similar to chorizo) and a wonderful salami al vino rosso, sweet and smokey with a distinct flavour of red wine. All are absolutely delicious. I’ll be cooking with these ingredients and posting the recipes on the blog in the coming weeks and months so keep an eye out. You can visit Casanova online here.
The salami al vino rosso features in this pasta bake and imparts its amazing flavour throughout the sauce. If you decide to make this, try to get some good quality salami if possible; you don’t need much as a little goes a very long way.
- 120g pasta tubes (such as penne or rigatoni)
- 80g salami (the best quality you can get), diced into 1cm cubes
- 1 banana shallot, finely chopped (or a small red onion)
- 2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- Pinch of dried oregano
- 400g chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp creme fraiche
- Bunch of parsley (stalks finely chopped and separate from the leaves)
- 1/2 glass of red wine (about 100ml)
- Handful of your favourite grated cheese to top – I used cheddar, but mozzarella, taleggio and gorgonzola would all be delicious.
- 3 cherry tomatoes, halved, for garnish (optional)
Cook the pasta for a couple of minutes less than the packet instructions suggest, until al dente. Reserve a cup of the starchy pasta water.
Meanwhile, make the sauce.
Heat some olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat.
Add the chopped salami and gently fry for 3-4 minutes.
Throw in the shallot, fennel seeds, chopped parsley stalks and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Pour in the wine and simmer for 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes along with the oregano and season with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for about 10-12 minutes, adding some water if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 200℃.
Stir in the balsamic vinegar and cook out for a few minutes before adding the cream and chopped parsley leaves.
Add the pasta to the sauce with some of the starchy water to loosen, and pour the lot into an oven-proof dish.
Scatter over the cheese and halved cherry tomatoes if using (be sure to season with salt and pepper)
Place into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the tomatoes are cooked.
Serve with some steamed spring vegetables or a green salad.