All hail the leftover! Especially that huge pan of Pasta Al Forno lurking in the fridge. An anecdote which exemplifies its temptations: Four friends, youngsters on a road trip, depart Bernalda with a lovingly-prepared (Grazie Mamma!) mega-pan, ( at least eighteen inches diameter) container of pasta al forno for lunch. They leave at at five in the morning, and after ten minutes the foil was already being peeled off. Hunks were being scooped out by hand by the time they had reached the main road, and by Ferrandina all that was left was a greasy pan.
Casetta A.N.A.S., Matera Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches, 2013
Its summer, its hot, and who wants to cook? But you have to eat, and the best way to get around spending regular hours in the kitchen is to create a dish that will carry a family through a number of meals. Here is a summertime standby which, though it is a little time-consuming to create, will feed folks for a few days at home or at the beach. It is good cold or heated, and it only gets better with time! This is my recipe, tweaked over many summers.
Ingredients for about six hungry people:
4-6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and roughly chopped, (not diced)
Thinly-sliced hot Calabrian salame, or equivalent: the best is a genuine sopressata piccante. If you can’t find it, then get the reddest and hottest dry salame you can find. You will need about a half pound. Slice each thin slice into half-inch strips.
One can of drained pitted black olives, nothing fancy, just the good-old California kind.
Fresh mozzarella, at least three cups chopped and tightly-packed. Lacking the real thing, use some chopped American “mozzarella” which is actually more like Scamorza, as it is low-moisture. Use the whole pound block, why not?
One cup plus one cup of freshly grated Grana Padano, or Parmigiano,
A freshly-made tomato sauce, about three cups. This can be made using ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced, cooked in a half cup of extra virgin olive oil over a lively flame, until broken down. Add about 4 cloves of chopped garlic to the simmering tomatoes. Add about a teaspoon of salt, and no, I repeat, NO, spices! ( Here I am making the ancient sign against evil pointing my index and little finger at the ground.) Why would you take a perfectly good tomato sauce and add some dusty old shelf-scrapings to it?
One 500 gram (call it a pound) bag of rigatoni pasta, or other medium pasta, cooked al dente in generously-salted water, and drained. Don’t skimp on the salt! (See previous post about pasta.) Rinse and leave in cool water to keep it from sticking.
Get yourself a great bowl and dump the mozzarella, salame, eggs, olives, and sauce together with the drained cool pasta. Mix in one cup of the grated Grana Padano cheese. Make sure the sauce isn’t boiling hot or it will cause the mozzarella to melt and become stringy and incorrigible. Mix everything well, and pour into whatever baking dish is large enough to hold the mixture. Make sure to oil the pan (or pans) well before hand, or everything will stick. Cover the top with the remaining Grana Padano.
Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake at about 350 degrees until it is bubbling and begins to brown on top. Place the pan where the bottom will not burn, in the oven center usually. About an hour should do it. ( Be careful not to allow the aluminum foil to touch the tomato sauce, or you will be adding some unwanted elements to your diet when the acid melts the foil!)
Cool a little, or not, or reheat in the microwave tomorrow, and serve.
* Mamma made pasta casserole!
Summer sweet and sour Oil, 6 x 6 inches