Monday, 28 November 2011

Oven-Ready Comfort

Maccheroni al Forno con Broccoli, Salsiccia Secca, Pomodorini & Feta
Oven-Baked Macaroni with Broccoli, Dried Italian Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes and Feta Cheese

It was a cold, dark, foggy and miserable walk home after a hard day at work again today. And we all know what that means- you got it... comfort food! Something to take your mind off your stress and worries, to warm you up and to make you feel good even though it is freezing cold outside. And preferably, if I have anything to do with it at least, something that does all of the above FAST! Something like this...

Ok people- picture this: I am starving and desperate for that dish of crispy-topped and yummy pasta you can see in the photos. I walk into the kitchen and am in a kind of "chef's auto-pilot mode". I turn on the oven first. Then I remember to take out all of the clutter I have inside. I try to calm down and think straight- I am SO hungry! I put on a saucepan of water for the pasta and at the same time, a frying pan for the rest. I snap the macaroni in half- remembering that if I don't, they will be impossible to eat and being thankful that I am going to be eating alone, as these things otherwise swing out from your fork when you try to eat them and either whiplash you in the face, or spray your partner or table guests with sauce. Or both.

As soon as the water boils, I add ample salt and pop in the pasta, stir it and get busy with the other ingredients. I used some cured Italian sausage, which is a milder, softer version of a salami I guess- perfect for this kind of dish. But you know me- I hate to eat food that has too much fat in it- and as this sausage seemed a little fatty, I dropped it into the noodle water in a colander for 2-3 minutes and then fished it out and popped it into the frying pan. The boiling water dissolves away a lot of the fat, but at the same time, the pasta takes on some good flavor- and afterwards, you will pour that excess fat away. Good idea, huh?

As soon as you have fished the sausage out, pop the broccoli in. In the meantime, the sausage is sizzling away in your dry frying pan, and you can add some chopped garlic and spring onions. As soon as they begin to brown a little, deglaze your pan with some milk, grate it with nutmeg, season with salt, pepper, chili and turn the heat down to a slow simmer.

Once the pasta is done, strain it, give it a little shake and then transfer it to the frying pan with the sausage and savory milk mix. You know me well enough be now to know that I will avoid cream if I don't think it is absolutely necessary- and trust me- this is another case where it will taste just fine without. Bring it back to a gentle boil and let it continue to cook together for a minute or two before transferring it to an oven-proof dish. Add a couple of cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of diced Feta cheese, grind freshly with pepper and nutmeg and add a little salt for the tomatoes. Ready!

You should have managed to do that all in 10 minutes... I did! If you are fast, it will all still be hot, so if your oven was pre-heated, you basically only need another 10 minutes or so for it to come up to temperature, to brown off on top and for the Feta to melt. In those 10 minutes you can set that table, light those candles and pour that wine... and get ready to relax and enjoy! You deserve it!

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