Last night I had my going away, which was graciously hosted by my friends Jayne and Bruce. The original idea was for me to make vodka pasta, my signature dish, but as the headcount raised, I decided to make something a little less time consuming and labor intensive: grandma Licia's red pasta bake. Grandma Licia wasn't my grandma, but like most Italian grandmas she had a bunch of fabulous recipes she was famous for. This pasta bake, made with tomato sauce, sharp cheeses and olives, is one of them. Let me tell you, it turned out great as it always does and everyone loved it so much they forgot all about the original idea of having vodka pasta. Which is great, because in these last few days before my departure I could definitely use something that went down smooth and easy.
The weather has not been cooperative for my last Florida weekend —we had an annoying drizzle all afternoon yesterday that made poor Jayne move the patio furniture seven times. And then today the rain has been (and still is!) coming down so hard all our plans of going boating had to be canceled, and we are sitting in the living room watching "Cape Fear" instead, which is not exactly what I had in mind for my last weekend in Florida. Oh well. There's always gin and tonics, right?
And if that weren't enough, there is this stupid Icelandic ash cloud that has thrown most European airports (including my destination of Milano) in a total chaos and nobody knows when and how flights will operate again. Needless to say, it had to happen when I'm moving back there. On the bright side, I'm almost done packing my suitcases. Plural. Two suitcases. But I figured out that when you are moving you are allowed to have a little extra baggage. I'm also almost positive I've forgotten something incredibly important, but if I did, I can always use it as an excuse to go to Zara and H&M and shop like there's no tomorrow.
Anyways, back to the recipe. Last night I made a triple batch, two 13x9 baking dishes, but here's the original version, for a normal sized crowd!
RED PASTA BAKE1 1/4 pounds rotini or cavatappi
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 can green olives
1 can black olives
1/2 pound sharp provolone cheese, cubed
1/2 pound asiago cheese, cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Crushed red pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
6 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 450 F.
In a large pot bring water to a boil. Cook noodles being careful not to overcook them... remember they have to go in the oven afterwards.
In the meantime heat olive oil in a large skillet, saute the onion until tender and add tomatoes and olives. Season with salt and red pepper and turn off heat. Set aside.
Grease a large baking dish with butter, and sprinkle with 4 tablesopoons of bread crumbs.
Drain ziti and add to skillet. Mix noodles and tomato mixture very well. Add cubed cheese and stir. Tranfer into baking dish and sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes, then cover with foil and bake for an additional 15.