Friday, 13 July 2012

Baking in No Sun

Pasta Mista al Forno con Ajvar, Funghi e Scamorza
Mixed Oven-Baked Pasta with Ajvar, Mushrooms and Scamorza Cheese

Ok people... it was Friday the 13th today, we had torrential rain the whole time, it was cold, work was stressful and I was pretty miserable! And at times like these- what is the only solution? That right, yoiu guessed it- comfort food!

This is a super-fast, truly easy and relatively "light" recipe for you. I was done in 20 minutes and enjoyed every last bite. It was a great feeling, being able to indulge- or even over-indulge a little and to know that this was a healthy little treat. It was fun as well because it was totally different to the usual pasta bakes... no tomato, no butter, no cream... not even olive oil in this one... but so much amazing flavor! You're going to love it!

Here we go people- time to use up those left-overs from your pasta containers! I had some lovely long and wrinkly "Mafaldine" and some pasta tubes which I thought would be a fun mix. Neither of them were enough to make a meal on their own- so what did I have to lose? Exactly! Nothing! So into a saucepan of boiling, well-salted water they went for 6-7 minutes... more than enough time to get the oven hot and get the other ingredients ready!

I had 3 brown mushrooms left over in the fridge that I cut into slices, along with a Spring onion, and these went into my non-stick frying pan with a little salt, pepper, nutmeg and finely chopped garlic. I kept the heat moderate and kept stirring. The salt soon made the mushrooms begin to wrinkle and and "sweat" and to give off their juice which is what I wanted to take advantage of. I made use of this to start getting the other ingredients softening up and then added a cupful of milk to deglaze the frying pan. And yes- it was low-fat too. Trust me- it is the results at the end of the day that matter- and final result was pretty-damned good!

Next, I added 2 good tablespoons of Ajvar to the pan and stirred this in well. The great sweet and tangy pepper flavor blended right down with all of the other ingredients and the milk and before I new it, I had a nice rich sauce to dress my pasta with. Not a lot- just enough to get it coated... because that is all that it needed.

By that time, the pasta was "al dente", so I drained it briefly and not too thoroughly and added it to the frying pan. I stirred everything together well and got the pasta nicely coated. Any water that came along with the pasta cooked down with the ajvar and milk and there ware it was- a creamy and flavorful dressing with no work at all.

I added a little tabasco- just for the hell of it- and transferred the steaming hot pasta to a baking dish. I then added just a handful of grated Scamorza cheese and gave it 2-3 minutes under the broiler- just enough time for the cheese to melt, sizzle and crisp up. This was not about the pasta becoming an icky-sticky macaroni cheese kind of affair- it was about a crispy, crunchy, toasted cheese crust- which sounds pretty good to me! And it WAS good! And the only way to get that is to have a small amount of cheese which will quickly melt, lose its moisture and frazzle away... yum!

So, to sum this all up, I cut out the fat, cut down the time, kept it simple, treated myself and ended a dull, bad day in a bright and good way! Oh- and I was a cheapskate into the bargain! Lots of reasons to make this into a meal worth repeating- or one for you to consider trying! And I sure hope that you do so too!


  1. Yum! I usually don't go in for 'dietetic' food, but this looks very tasty. Now I wonder where to get Avjar in the States…

  2. Glad you like it Frank! We got ajvar at an ethnic supermarket whilst I was visiting in Nashville this year- but basically it is just a roasted pepper paste with a little eggplant. onion, garlic added. I am all for healthy food- I used to weigh 92 kilo 25 years ago and have weighed 70 kilo ever since cooking the way that I do. It's all a matter of choice- and you can choose to do things differently :-)