Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

My first foray into serious cooking started when I bought “The Classic Italian Cookbook,” written by the Marcella Hazan.

Like many great recipes, Fettuccine Alfredo is not complicated…but few restaurants that offer it get it right. Most of the Alfredo sauces I’ve had were watery, floury, and salty and had nothing in common with the real thing.
To this day, if I want a great Alfredo, I make it like Marcella.

 

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1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
Fleur de Sel or sea salt
1 lb. Fettuccine, fresh or dried
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper
A very tiny grating of nutmeg

Put 2/3 cup of the cream and all the butter in a large saucepan that will later accommodate all the pasta. Simmer it over medium heat for less than a minute, until the butter and cream have thickened. Turn off the heat.

Drop the fettuccine in a big pot of boiling salted water. If the pasta is fresh, it will take just seconds. If it’s dry, it will take a few minutes. Cook the fettuccine firmer than usual, because it will finish cooking in the pan with the butter and cream. Drain the pasta immediately and thoroughly when it’s done and transfer to the pan containing the butter and cream.

Turn the heat under the pan on low, and toss the fettuccine, coating with the sauce. Add the rest of the cream, all the grated cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the pepper and the nutmeg. Toss briefly until the sauce has thickened and the fettuccine are well coated. Taste and correct for salt.

Serve immediately!

Some people don’t like cooking with veal because of the way the animals are treated, and I completely understand because I’m one of those. But…I’m fortunate that I can buy my veal from a nearby dairy farm, Sweet & Salty Farm in Little Compton, RI, where the animals are grass-fed and raised humanely. That makes for happier animals and incredibly flavorful meat…and no guilt about using it.

If you can’t get humanely raised veal, pork and beef work, too.

I also buy veal bones from Sweet & Salty Farm, roasting them on a sheet pan in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, then placing them in a large pot of water. I take some chopped carrots, onions, and celery, toss them in a little olive oil, and place them on a sheet pan, roasting them in the oven until they’ve caramelized, then add them to the pot with the veal bones. The secret to a great veal bone broth is to boil the bones and veggies for as long a time as possible. Restaurants will do this for days, replacing the water in the pot as needed. At home, I’ll start the broth in the morning and finish it by evening, straining out the veggies and bones at the very end of the cooking time.

The subtle flavor of veal can get lost with heavy seasonings, so I keep it simple. The addition of veal bone broth amplifies the flavor and keeps the meatballs from drying out.

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1 lb. ground veal
1 cup toasted breadcrumbs (I use Udi’s bread to make it gluten-free)
2 teaspoons parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1 egg
extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. pasta, cooked firmer than al dente
2 cups veal bone broth or beef stock
salt and pepper for seasoning
2 tablespoons half-and-half
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup of frozen organic peas

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the meatballs: In a bowl, combine the veal, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, garlic, onion and egg, mixing the ingredients thoroughly. Don’t over-mix.

Form the meatballs one by one, about golf ball size, and place them in an ovenproof pan. I line the pan with non-stick aluminum foil for easy clean up. Cook the meatballs for about 10 minutes. Don’t overcook them! (Even if you’re using pork, 10 minutes is OK because you will be cooking them longer. )

In a saucepan, heat the veal bone broth or beef broth. Once the meatballs have cooked in the oven, transfer them to the pot of broth and cover it with a lid, keeping the heat on low. If the broth doesn’t cover the meatballs, turn them every once in a while to keep them moist on all sides. Simmer the meatballs in the broth for about 30 minutes, then transfer them to a large sauté pan.

Turn the saucepan with the veal broth on high and reduce it to about 1/2 cup. Season it with salt and pepper.

In a large pot, cook the pasta to a bit firmer than al dente in well-salted water. Drain it and set it aside.

In the large sauté pan with the meatballs, add the butter and the half-and-half. Add the reduced veal broth, the pasta, and the peas.

Gently mix the ingredients in the pan until the peas have warmed through and the sauce clings to the pasta. Serve immediately.

This is not your average shrimp! Found in the Pacific, from Southern California all the way up to Alaska, as well as Japan and Korea, these beauties, identified by the white spots on the sides of their first and fifth abdominal segments, live up to eleven years.

And here’s an interesting note: each spot prawn (or spot shrimp) spawns once as a male and one or more time as a female!

 

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Having read so much about them, I ordered a pound and decided that I would get full use of the shrimp by peeling them and making an intensely flavored sauce out of the shells.

Peeling and de-veining was easy: the shells slipped right off the shrimp, and they were so beautifully clean, their were no veins to remove!

If you can’t get  hold of Wild Pacific spot prawns, shrimp or lobster will certainly do. Just remember to ask your fishmonger for wild-caught American shrimp, and not that horrible farmed stuff from Asia. If he doesn’t have it, shop elsewhere.

 

prawns 2

 

For the stock:

1 lb. wild Pacific spot prawns, thawed, peeled, and de-veined. Save the shells and container water, if any.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 carrot
1/2 celery stalk
1/4 onion
1 smashed clove garlic
4 whole peppercorns
2 teaspoons ketchup
1/2 sprig rosemary
1/2 sprig thyme
6 cups water

 

For the shrimp:

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
4 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

 

The final touch:

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, pushed through a garlic press
2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/8 cup fresh chives or scallions, finely chopped

 

1 lb. pasta

 

For the stock:

Peel and de-vein the shrimp. Keep the peeled shrimp in the fridge, covered.

In a pot, heat the olive oil and add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, peppercorns, ketchup, rosemary, thyme and shrimp shells. Sauté them for a few minutes to get the flavors going. Add the container water, if any, and 6 cups of water. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 2 hours.

Strain the solids out and discard them. Place the stock in a smaller pot, and continue reducing it until about 1 cup of the stock remains.

Boil the pasta in well-salted water and remove it from the water before the al dente stage. (It will cook more later.) Strain it and set it aside.

 

For the shrimp:

Combine the salt, pepper and sugar with the prawns in a bowl and toss to coat them evenly.

In a large sauté pan, heat the butter and olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook them until lightly caramelized and almost cooked all the way through. Do not overcook them! Set them aside.

 

The final touch:

In the same large sauté pan that you cooked the shrimp, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the shallot. Sauté for 1 minute, then add the garlic. Sauté for 2 more minutes, then add some of the stock, the shrimp, the pasta, and the butter, and mix well. If it’s dry, add more of the stock until the pasta is coated, but not dripping. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the chives.

 

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Serve immediately!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What can I say? I was craving both dishes, so I combined them. I figured: if I love each one of them, I’d be crazy over both together!

 

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Pasta
1/4 lb. bacon, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
18 small clams, washed and purged*
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine
Good quality olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

 

In a large pot, salt some water and bring it to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente.

In the bottom of another large pot on medium-high heat, fry the bacon until it’s crisp. Add the onions and sauté them until they’re translucent. Add the clams, oregano and wine, and cover the pot with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium. The clams are cooked when they open. Discard any unopened clams.

In a frying pan, heat the olive oil to medium. Add the chopped garlic and fry it until just crispy. Toss in the parsley and stir it to combine.

Place the pasta in a bowl or plate. Pour the clams and juice over the pasta. Pour the fried garlic and oil all over the clams.

 

*Purging clams: Clams can be pretty sandy and gritty, so it’s important not only to scrub the outside of the shell, but to purge them as well. Clams should be stored in a bowl in the fridge with a wet dish towel over them, never in water. Once you’re ready to use them, fill a bowl with water and add salt (think salty like ocean water) and a tablespoon of corn meal. Mix this around, then add the clams and let them sit in this solution in the fridge for a couple of hours. The clams will purge (clean themselves) out. Discard the liquid and rinse the clams before cooking.

There’s something magical about a simple plate of spaghetti and meatballs. When my parents took me to an Italian restaurant as a child, a plate of spaghetti and meatballs made me feel like the luckiest kid on the planet. And even now, when I prepare a plate of spaghetti and meatballs for my daughter, she can’t wait to sit down at the dinner table.

 

meatballs

 

Great meatballs start with great meat. I always use 80/20 grass-fed beef. I don’t use a ton of breadcrumbs as filler. And the tomato sauce is homemade as well, from canned tomatoes. I start with the sauce.

 

 

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, through a press
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
10 cups ground and peeled garden tomatoes…or 3 cans (28 oz.) tomatoes pureed in food processor
2 teaspoons each: dried oregano, basil and parsley
3/4 teaspoon each anise seed and fennel seed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

 

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onions. Cook until the onions are translucent, then add the garlic. Stir for 10 seconds.

Add the tomatoes and cook on high until the orange foam disappears, stirring frequently. Don’t let it burn.

Add the oregano, basil, parsley, anise seed, fennel seed, salt and pepper, bay leaves and tomato paste. Allow the sauce to just come to a boil so that the tomato paste reaches optimum thickening power.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for at least an hour, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Stir often.

 

While the sauce is cooking, I start the meatballs…

 

 

2 lbs. grass-fed ground beef
1 cup plain breadcrumbs (gluten-free breadcrumbs work well, too)
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, cracked and scrambled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix all the ingredients, except the olive oil, thoroughly but gently in a large bowl. Don’t overwork it.

Make the meatballs.

Pour some olive oil a medium-hot pan (don’t let it burn), and place the meatballs in the pan, searing them on all sides until brown.

When the meatballs are nice and brown, place them into the pot of sauce, making sure they are covered. Pour all the little bits and the olive oil from the pan into the sauce as well! Great flavor there.

Cover the pot and cook the meatballs in the sauce on low for a few hours.

Serve the meatballs and sauce over your favorite pasta, and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

 

Making this dish gluten-free is easy: use gluten-free pasta and use GF breadcrumbs in the meatballs. I prefer to buy gluten-free loaves of bread, like Uni, toasting them, letting the slices cool, then tossing them in a food processor to make breadcrumbs. The flavor is as good as regular breadcrumbs, and way better than that pre-packaged stuff!

 

Fettucini alla Bolognese has been my daughter’s favorite Italian dish for years. And since today’s her birthday, I decided to make a large batch of it over the weekend.

The recipe isn’t difficult, but like many great dishes, it depends on the best quality ingredients you can get your hands on.

I like to use a combination of ground beef, ground veal and ground pork in my Bolognese recipe. But I don’t sweat it too much if I don’t have all three, substituting a little more of one or the other, depending on what’s in my freezer at the time.

I use humanely raised grass-fed ground veal that I get down the road from a local dairy farm: Sweet & Salty Farm in Little Compton, RI. I use ground Berkshire pork, full of “good fat.” And I use grass-fed beef from local farms. Guanciale, a cured pork product that comes from the cheek (jowl) of the pig, is something that I prepare myself. I buy the Berkshire pork jowls raw and cure them at home. (That’s another blog!) If you can’t get your hands on guanciale, a nice slab of bacon will do the trick.

The rest of the ingredients are organic, when available.

This recipe probably feeds a dozen people. I make a lot at once because it takes time to put it together and let it cook on the stove, and it freezes really well. I place leftovers in tightly sealed single-portion containers in the freezer and then re-heat them when my daughter gets the craving, adding it to freshly cooked pasta.

How much pasta you make with this dish depends on how many people you’re going to serve.

 

 

 

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped guanciale or bacon
1 lb. ground veal, 1 lb. ground pork, 1 lb. beef (or any combination to make 3 lbs.)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, squeezed through a garlic press or thinly sliced
1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
6 cups ground tomatoes
2 cups whole milk
2 cups white wine (I use an un-oaked Australian chardonnay, like Yellow Tail)
salt and pepper
pasta, cooked (regular or gluten-free )
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

 

Place the olive oil and butter in a large sauce pan with a heavy bottom over high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the guanciale or bacon, letting the fat render out. When it’s almost brown, add the veal, pork, and beef, stirring constantly. Make sure the meat is broken down into small pieces and completely browned.

Add the finely chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic, stirring well. Sweat the veggies for a few minutes, letting them get nice and soft. (Here’s a tip: rather than wasting time chopping all the veggies finely by hand, toss large pieces into a food processor–the onion, carrot, celery and garlic cloves all at the same time–and pulse until they’re finely chopped.)

Add the tomato paste, the ground tomatoes, milk and wine, stirring well. Allowing the sauce ito come to a boil will activate the tomato paste’s thickening power. Let it boil for a minute, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and let it simmer for at least a couple of hours, stirring occasionally.

 

Add the ingredients one step at a time until the sauce comes together: 1) guanciale, 2) meat, 3) veggies), 4) tomatoes.

 

You don’t want the sauce to be runny, and you definitely want to give it enough time on the stove top for the flavors to blend and for the alcohol in the wine to evaporate.

Carefully give the sauce a taste, and season it with salt and pepper.

Traditionally, ragu Bolognese is served by placing a part of the cooked pasta in a pan, and adding just enough sauce to have it cling to, not drip from, the pasta. It’s not soup!

Top it with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

 

 

 

Fast food is a relative term.
What we Americans think of as fast food is not what, say, the Italians think of as fast food. We think of drive-thru burger joints serving greasy, salty and fatty food. The Italians think fast food is something that simply doesn’t take all day to cook! If you can use the freshest of ingredients, and serve it in the time it takes to sip a half a bottle of wine while chatting with a friend, it’s fast food Italian-style.
Years ago, when my wife and I were visiting the island of Capri in Italy, one of the dishes we enjoyed was an incredibly simple pasta and tomato dish called spaghetti sciue-sciue (pronounced “shwee-shwee.”) We were told that sciue-sciue was loosely translated as “quick-quick,” although a check on the web said that it also translates to “improvisation” in Italian. And though quick it was (that is, by Italian standards), it was one of the most memorable dishes we had on our trip. It could be because of our surroundings: the famous Faraglioni rocks all around us at a small seaside restaurant called Da Luigi ai Faraglioni. We took the small shuttle boat from Marina Piccola, which made its way through those stacks jutting out of the Bay of Naples, and landed at this historic restaurant, built in 1936. People come here not only to dine, but to spend the day sunbathing and swimming.
So the reason Da Luigi’s sciue-sciue was so amazing certainly was, in part, the location…but it was also very much due to the use of the freshest and best possible ingredients…and they didn’t mess around with them too much.
The best time to make this dish is when tomatoes are at their absolute best in your area. But if you can get your hands on some beautiful cherry tomatoes off-season (they seem to be tastier than larger tomatoes in the winter months), it’s worth having a go at it as well.

 1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 hot Italian dried peppers, finely chopped
¼ cup white wine
8 to 10 chopped plum or cherry tomatoes (as ripe as possible)
12 to 15 torn fresh basil leaves
½ stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter
1 ball of fresh mozzarella (about 12 oz.)
1 lb. of spaghetti, or better yet, bucatini
Sea salt
Fleur de Sel (optional)
Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil and toss the pasta in.
“Heavily caramelize”–but don’t burn–the tomato paste in a large pan with the olive oil, salt, and the dried peppers. Add the white wine to de-glaze, and simmer until it’s reduced by half.
Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer on medium heat until they start to break apart. Hand tear the mozzarella ball into shreds and add it to the sauce, stirring gently. Add the basil.
Add the butter, gently stirring until it melts.
When the pasta is slightly firmer than al dente, drain it and add it to the pan with the sauce, stirring gently.
Serve this dish immediately, finishing with a little Fleur de Sel.

Finito!

Who says you have to only cook burgers and steaks on the grill? This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy clams…and without the clam knife! I always use hardwood charcoal.

 

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A couple of dozen (or more) little neck clams, washed and purged
1 stick (8 oz.) of unsalted butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

 

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The clams should be stored in the fridge until ready to use…not in water, not on ice. Place the clams in a bowl and cover them with a wet dish towel.

About an hour before cooking, I like to purge my clams to remove as much grit as possible. I fill a large bowl with cold water, add sea salt and some corn meal to it, and mix it around. Then I add the clams to this bowl and let them sit in this liquid for at least an hour. They will suck up the corn meal and spit out sand and grit. After an hour, I pour off the water/salt/meal/grit mix, and thoroughly wash the clams. Now they’re ready to grill!

I start my hardwood charcoal grill and divide it in half: coals on one side, no coals on the other.

While the coals are heating up, I grab a disposable aluminum foil tray and place it on a burner on my kitchen stovetop over medium heat. I add the butter, olive oil, parsley, oregano, basil, garlic and salt, and stir it all to combine. Once the butter has melted and everything has blended, I bring the tray over to the charcoal grill and place on the side of the grill without coals. It will stay warm.

Once the coals are hot, just place the clams directly on the grill. (Use tongs, unless you want to remove all of your knuckle hair.) They’re done as soon as they open, but you can cook them as long as you like, from raw to more thoroughly cooked. As each one reaches its desired doneness, place it carefully in the aluminum tray, making sure you don’t lose any of that precious liquid inside the clam shell. Give it a swish in the butter and herb mix.

When all the clams have been cooked and are in the tray, serve them with that herby butter sauce on top of pasta…or simply eat them with a fresh baguette. A glass of great white wine is a must.

 

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Really easy and really delicious!

When my daughter hangs out with me, I always ask her what she wants me to cook for her, and there are a few “Dad” recipes that are her favorites. This is one of them, especially when fresh asparagus is available. And as any parent will tell you, if your kid is craving a dish that has vegetables in it, count yourself lucky–and make it!!
Prepping asparagus is easy, and you don’t need a knife to cut off the woody bottoms of the stalks. Simply bend the stalks at the bottom and they will naturally snap off at the right point.
4 mild Italian sausages, sliced into pieces 1/2″ thick
1 lb. penne pasta
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped fresh trumpet mushrooms (white button mushrooms work, too)
2 cups fresh asparagus, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, passed through a garlic press
1 cup homemade chicken broth
6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Have the pasta water salted and boiling, and add the pasta, cooking until just a bit more undercooked than al dente.
Heat a large pan, and drizzle in some olive oil. Sauté the sausage pieces until browned and cooked through, but not overcooked. Remove the sausages from the pan and place them in a separate bowl. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat left behind in the pan.
Place the pan back on stove and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, and sauté for 10 seconds. Add the sage, and saute for 10 seconds, stirring. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute for a few minutes, then add the chicken broth, and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Pour the contents of the pan into the bowl with the sausages.
Return the pan to the stove, add a little more olive oil, and on medium heat, sauté the asparagus pieces. Cook them until they are al dente, not too soft. Once the asparagus has reached this stage, return all the contents of the sausage/mushroom bowl to the pan to heat through. Drain the pasta, and add it to the pan as well, combining all the ingredients. If it looks too dry, add a little pasta water to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
Make sure you serve this hot, with grated Parmigiano Reggiano on top, and drizzle lightly over the top with extra virgin olive oil.

Al Forno in Providence, RI, is a legendary Italian restaurant that was established in 1980 and has graced the pages of many a food magazine ever since. Chefs Johanne Killeen and George Germon made it a culinary destination, creating dishes that many have copied, but never equaled. 

One of those creations was the grilled pizza. These days, you can find grilled pizzas just about anywhere in the country, but it was Al Forno that started it all.

Sadly, George Germon passed away in 2015, but the restaurant continues, despite only being open for takeout these days, due to the pandemic. And although the menu offers a wide variety of dishes for takeout, the one my daughter and I crave–that isn’t on the menu–is their 5-cheese pasta dish. It’s not baked ziti. It’s not lasagna. It’s something way beyond.

 

 

Taking the recipe from one of Johanne and George’s cookbooks, my daughter and I decided that we would re-create this magical dish at home as best we could.

One element obviously missing in our home is a wood-fired oven, something Al Forno uses with every dish. (I’ll be able to tackle that end of the recipe in a few months, when my Ooni wood-burning pizza oven arrives.)

And looking at their list of 5 cheeses (mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, fontina, ricotta and gorgonzola), I found that gorgonzola was a bit of a surprise. Having had the 5-cheese pasta dish at least 4 times at Al Forno, I never detected even a hint of blue cheese. In fact, if I would have, I don’t think I would’ve ordered it again. So we chose to remove the gorgonzola and add another favorite, sharp provolone, instead. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

Other than that, we stayed true to the recipe, using shell pasta because that’s what we always got at the restaurant.

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes in heavy puree (San Marzano’s, if you can get ’em)
4 oz. thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
1.5 oz. grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1.5 oz. coarsely shredded Fontina cheese
1.5 oz. grated Provolone cheese
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water
6 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 lb. conchiglie (medium shell) pasta
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced thinly
Shavings of raw scallion for garnish (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 500°, or as close to it as your oven will get.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except the pasta and the butter. Stir well to combine.

 

 

Drop the pasta in the boiling water and parboil it for about 4 minutes. Drain it in a colander and add it to the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Combine it well.

 

 

Divide the pasta mixture into small ceramic dishes, or just use one large baking dish. You want it to sit in a relatively shallow 1-inch layer.

 

 

Dot the top of the dish with the butter, and bake it until it’s bubbly and brown, about 7 to 10 minutes at 500…a little longer at lower temperatures.

 

Funny how help arrives when it’s all about pasta and cheese!

 

It’s the creamiest, cheesiest pasta dish you’ll ever have…and everyone will fight over those little charred pasta shells!

 

Optional: When I ordered this dish at Al Forno, they would top it with thin shavings of raw scallion on top. I loved that touch and do that at home as well.