Saturday, October 18, 2008

Spinach and Hot Ham Fake-Baked Pasta with a Crispy Top

Cook Time: 20 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 4 servings for big eaters :)


* 1 pound cavatappi, corkscrew pasta with lines or, macaroni with
line in any short cut
* Salt
* 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive, divided
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, chopped
* Black pepper
* 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups whole or 2 percent milk
* 1/2 pound sliced capocollo, hot ham, halve then slice into thin ribbons
* 1 box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and excess liquid squeezed out
* 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a few large handfuls, divided
* 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground or freshly grated, eyeball it
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, a couple pinches
* 1 pound ball fresh mozzarella -- buy a piece wrapped, not packed
in water, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes
* 1 cup plain or Italian bread crumbs
* A generous handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped


Preheat broiler.

Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the
pasta, salt water and cook to al dente, with a bite.

While the water is coming up to a boil for the pasta, heat a medium,
deep skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon EVOO, 1 turn of the
pan, and the butter. When butter melts into the oil, add onions and
garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for
2 minutes then dust the onions with flour and continue to cook for 1
minute. Slowly whisk in milk. Gently bring milk to a bubble, allow the
milk to thicken a bit, then stir in the capocola, spinach and 1/2 cup
grated Parmigiano. Season sauce with nutmeg and cayenne and remove
from the heat. Taste and add a little salt, if you like.

Combine the cooked pasta and the cubed mozzarella with the sauce, stir
to coat completely by turning over and over. Transfer dressed pasta to
a baking dish.

To make the breadcrumb topping, combine the breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons
of EVOO and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmigiano. Sprinkle the breadcrumb
mixture over the top to cover the pasta from edge to edge. Transfer
the baking dish under the broiler and broil until golden brown and
crispy. Garnish with chopped parsley. What a gut-buster!


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