Paccheri from the oven
This is an experiment in presenting a new recipe for a new dish. Throughout the recipe I will place photos of the dish, and at the end we can decide which of the photos is most likely to make someone want to cook it or eat it.
The dish is yummy, and it could easily have been made another way, but I’ve been pondering on how to make a first course that could be plated in the kitchen and made to look quite special. If I baked it in flat layers it would just look like another lasagna. If I just casseroled it, it would look like baked ziti. I wanted something arranged, orderly, presented, in short. I had in mind to make individual ramekins, but mine are all too small and besides 15 of them would be too much for most ovens when I cook for larger groups. I will make this only when I am cooking with an assistant who can run them to the table, because they’d all get cold if I were doing it all on my own. I haven’t really named it, either. It’s paccheri, of course, and it’s stuffed, and the filling is Sicilian inspired, but it’s not from Sicily, it’s from the nutty cook in Umbria. Have a look at the ingredients and see what you think about a name. Paccheri may not be easy to find where you are, but if you make manicotti and cut them in half it will look about the same, if a bit larger mouthed. You’d reduce the number because each would hold more stuffing. When buying a sausage for this dish, look for the leanest ones possible. You can use salted capers if you like, but rinse them and soak them in milk before using them if you do. The ones I used are just pickled in brine and I did nothing to them. The cheese to use can be any decently mature cheese that is still soft enough to melt. It might be Fontina, Bel Paese, or another you like. I used Pecorino because it is universally available in Italy and it’s really, really good. Sometimes Pecorino in other countries is not.
Paccheri (senza nome)
For two people
Preheat the oven to 175°C or 350° F
24 paccheri, boiled to al dente in salted water, rinsed in cold water and drained
2 Italian sausages, split and meat removed
a piece of fresh bread, a cube 3 cm X3cm X 5cm or 1″ X 1″ X 2″, torn in pieces
1 tablespoon or less of milk to soak the bread
¼ teaspoon minced dried chili (peperoncino)
1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped
2 heaped tablespoons of pine nuts, dry toasted in a pan
½ a beaten egg (beat it in a little bowl and take half)
about 1 cup (250 ml) simplest homemade tomato sauce
a tablespoon or so of fresh oregano, marjoram or basil
about 1 ounce (30 g) semi-soft Pecorino, grated coarsely
Mix all of the Stuffing ingredients together, squishing thoroughly with your hands. Find a shallow ovenproof dish that is just about the size of all your paccheri stood up on end. Drizzle a little olive oil over the bottom, spreading it around, then a little of the tomato sauce, tipping to spread that as well.
Using a teaspoon, one by one, pick up the paccheri and stuff some of the meat mixture into each one. Alternatively and probably easier, pick up a little of the mixture and roll it into a small sausage shape between your palms, then slip it into a pacchero. As each is filled, stand it up in the pan until you have run out of filling. I ran out after 18 paccheri. Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the standing pasta, then scatter the fresh herb, then add the grated Pecorino over that.
Put it into the heated oven and bake about 40 minutes until the sausage centers are done. I measured the temperature at 160°F, and left it to finish the climb from reserved heat.
Garnish with sprigs of whichever herb you used. Optionally you may wish to add a few drops of olive oil for gleam. Eat immediately, really hot.
Notice that I did not add any salt. Umbrian sausages are extremely salty. Capers are salty. I did not need a single grain of salt. If you live somewhere else, your sausages may not be so salty and you may need to add a little to the stuffing.
[photopress:Paccheri_presented.JPG,thumb,pp_image] If you click on the photos, they’ll pop up on a dark background and be easier to judge. Which one do you think would tempt you to eat this?
If none look good to you, I want to know that, too, but I’d also like to know the reason why!
And now, having figured out exactly where it is this week, I am proposing this dish to Presto Pasta Night, hosted this week by Closet Cooking. When you look at that blog, you can see what is possible in countries that have closets.