Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Baked Pasta or Pasta Gratin

I love pasta, and I'm always on the lookout for tasty recipes. This is a classic for me, because it's another one of my mother's recipes. It is so tasty that it should be banned:) It's very easy to make and it's a good variation for pasta. You can bake it ahead and warm it up later, which actually tastes better:)

You will be using a pretty thick pasta. I believe it is called a #3 pasta which is a "Spaghettoni", but if you can't find it, you can also use Penne just as well. We typically use Kahkaval cheese, which is saltier than the Mozzarella, but you can use Mozzarella just as well, just adjust the salt accordingly.


You'll also find my trick for preparing the basic white sauce (Bechamel) without lumps:)

This one is a really hearty dish, just serve it with some salad and it should be more than enough.

BAKED PASTA - PASTA GRATIN

Ingredients:

1 package (16 oz. ) Spaghettoni
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup Kashkaval Cheese
1 cup Feta Cheese
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1,5 cups Milk
2 Eggs

Directions:
Cook the pasta according to package instructions. How long you will need to cook depends on the pasta you will be using. When the pasta is ready, drain and add some butter to prevent it from sticking.

You will need to prepare a basic Bechamel sauce while the pasta is cooking. In a medium sauce pan melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts add the flour and stir until you get a paste. It will turn a light golden sandy color. About 6 to 7 minutes. Here is the trick for not getting lumps in your sauce. Heat the milk, never use it cold, until it is just about to boil. Do not boil the milk. Add milk 1/2 cup at a time stirring constantly until it comes to a boil. You can increase the heat to medium to medium-hot after you start adding the milk. When the sauce starts bubbling, bring the heat down to low and let it cook for about 1 minute. The sauce will thicken, don't let it thicken too much. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cool the sauce down a little bit. When the sauce is ready beat in the eggs one by one. You have to wait for the sauce to cool down so that the eggs don't become omelets in it:)

Butter a Pyrex dish (use a square or a rectangular one, it makes serving easier). Sprinkle some flour, you don't have to cover the bottom, just a little bit will do just fine.

Add half of the pasta. Then add the white sauce and half the feta and Kashkaval cheese. Add the remaining pasta, then the remaining cheeses.

Preheat an oven to about 400 degrees. It takes about 25-30 minutes to cook, but keep an eye on it so that the cheese on top looks crunchy, not burnt:) When it's ready, let it rest for about 10 minutes and serve cutting it into pieces.

You can sprinkle with parsley if you like.

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