Crowd-Pleasing Baked Pasta -killertomato

The killertomato household was taken hostage by SNOWMG 2011, and we did a lot of cookin'. Making its appearance for the second time this winter was the type of dish I usually scrunch my face up at, and I've now coined The American Dream, involves your chili and your macaroni and cheese getting all mixed up in the same bowl. It does provide a certain comfort, particularly on the night it was 13 degrees outside and our heat was broken.

So, there was that, a vegetable pie with Greek pita dough which I had saved in the freezer, gnocchi drizzled with pesto, biscuits, country ham with red eye gravy, and poached eggs, buttermilk pecan waffles and hot chocolate, quite a few tacos, and some other cold day scratch-togethers that made it a deliciously cozy week.
This post concerns a very simple pasta dish since it seemed to go over the best, hitting the spot so well it was half eaten before it was done baking!

It was getting to the point where the roads were still icy as hell and I'd heard the grocery stores were depleted anyhow. Our house sits in sort of a valley between two hills, I kept having these horrific waking dream sequences where my car slid into a neighbor's and a hit and run wouldn't even be possible...anyway...we do have a store to walk to but that's not in the manifesto. The manifesto states: "Use what you have!"

We had:
leftover Bechamel
Parmigiano Reggiano, yeah the good stuff!
canned tomatoes
frozen breadcrumbs

See where I am going? If we think alike, you are thinking of that baked pasta thing you can get in the food court at the mall. Oh, yeah!

Here's my version:
Cook the macaroni. (I used about 3/4 o a 1 lb box)
Heat the Bechamel on low and stir it back to a smooth consistency, or make some. Look for Mario Batali's simple recipe at the bottom of this entry.*
Make your sauce tomato sauce:
Saute 2 garlic cloves and a small onion in a generous amount of olive oil. Add 1 lb canned tomatoes. Season with lots of salt and pepper, some dried oregano and dried basil.
(I have some nice, fragrant basil we dried at home last fall. Store bought dried basil is shit. If you can use fresh, put it in after you take the sauce from the heat.)
Bring to a gentle boil and let simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
Blend your sauce, and combine with the Bechamel.
Now, layer your pasta, lots of cheese if you can, sauce, and breadcrumbs and bake on 350 or 45 minutes to an hour. Where are my bread sticks at? I ordered bread sticks, dammit.

*Mario Batali's Bechamel Sauce:
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.

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