Whenever my mother or grandmother decided to make pasta al forno when I was a child, it always turned it into a wonderful day. The baked pasta casserole lured everyone to the table and put a smile on every face. Today, this is the case in my own family as well. What about yours?Jump to Recipe
Leftovers create a delicous meal
In Italy, we call baked pasta pasta al forno or timballo di pasta. This dish was actually made from leftovers, to avoid throwing out leftover pasta and sauce. This is also how lasagne was created. Every region of Italy, in fact, every family, has its own special pasta bake recipe, prepared with lots of imagination and love, with local products as well as with leftovers from the fridge.
Layer upon layer
In the south of Italy, people prefer short pasta (pasta corta), such as penne, rigatoni, anelletti and maccheroni. In the north, conchiglie or cannelloni are more popular. As is the case with lasagne, short pasta is usually layered with the other ingredients. Large canelloni are always filled and then baked with bechamel or tomato sauce with Parmesan on top. In the south, on the other hand, the pasta is cooked with tomato sauce and mozzarella or Pecorino. In Sicily, this dish was already popular in the 9th century. Those who didn’t have any cheese just used breadcrumbs instead.
Fill with whatever you like
What you use in addition to the pasta in this dish depends on your mood and taste: you can add vegetables, meat, cream cheese, … the options are endless, and nothing is forbidden. I’d suggest a delicious ricotta and beetroot stuffing. Cow’s milk ricotta is very mild and doesn’t have a lot of taste, so you should use a strong “partner” such as porcini mushrooms. Sheep’s milk ricotta, however, already has a rather distinct taste of its own, but once you add some seasoning, it’s the perfect filling for larger tubular pasta. For the tomato sauce, slice 1 onion and fry in oil. Add 500g strained tomatoes and basil, cover with a lid and let it cook on a low heat until the sauce has thickened
Pasta al forno – Baked pasta with ricotta and beetroot
For the filling/ stuffing
- 4 beetroots medium-sized
- 150 g ricotta from sheep’s milk
- 150 g Pecorino Romano, grated
- As needed pepper
- As needed salt
- To taste: tarragon
For the béchamel sauce
- 60 g butter
- 60 g flour
- 300 ml water
- 300 ml milk
- As needed salt
- As needed nutmeg
- Pecorino Romano, grated
- Olive oil
For the pasta
Bring water to the boil in a pot, add salt and cook the pasta until al dente.
For the filling
When the ricotta is fresh, it contains a lot of water. If this is the case, drain it in a sieve. Individually, wrap the beetroots in tinfoil, place them on a baking tray and bake in the oven at 220 °C for 30-60 minutes until a knife blade can easily pierce the vegetable. Leave them to cool and then peel. Finely chop or mix if you prefer. Place in a large bowl. Mix together all the ingredients for the filling, season with pepper and nutmeg and use a small spoon to fill the pasta with the mixture.
For the béchamel sauce
Melt the butter. Add nutmeg as desired. Add the flour and let it sweat briefly while stirring. Don’t let the sauce turn brown. Mix together the milk and water and slowly add to the pot. Bring the béchamel sauce to the boil, then let it simmer at low temperature until it thickens. It should take about 15 minutes for the béchamel sauce to cook. When the sauce thickens, bring water to the boil in a pot, add salt and cook the pasta until al dente.
Layer the rigatoni in an oiled baking dish. Pour the béchamel sauce over it and cover with plenty of Pecorino. Repeat these steps once. The last layer is the Parmesan. Bake for about 30 minutes until the cheese is brown. Cover with tinfoil if necessary as this will prevent the pasta from becoming dry.
While the pasta al forno is cooking in the oven, you have more than enough time for an aperitif.