Friday, 8 February 2013

Upside-Down Bake!

Pasta al Forno con Zucchini & Mozzarella + Sugo di Pomodorini
Oven Baked Pasta with Zucchini, Mozzarella and Cherry Tomato Sauce

This was a simple, "emergency-style" dish- quick, easy and fun... 3 good things for a Friday evening after a looong week of work! I say emergency, but of course I just mean that my fridge was looking forward to tomorrow, when I will be able to bring fresh produce back from the market... and had precious little exciting stuff in there! So I quickly improvised this dish of pasta, with a filling of zucchini, red onion and mozzarella and backed it on a bed of cherry tomatoes... it seemed like a good idea at the time... and it still does now!

Normally, you would tend to pour the sauce on top of a pasta dish- but I wanted mine to brown and crisp-up a little, just for a change! It was a little unusual but a very cool thing to scoop the pasta up through the tangy cherry tomato sauce and the mild zucchini topping/filling was great in combination- especially with the mozzarella to bring everything nicely together... it was just yummy comfort food!

This shape of pasta that you can see here, are called "Festonati", but of course you can use any pasta at all and prepare it in this way. There is a little multi tasking to be done here, but nothing too tricky or time consuming- so it is well worth it!

Ok- task one- turn on the oven, task two, get the pasta boiling, task three, get 2 frying pans ready and task 4- get ready to work! I needed to get the zucchini and the sauce ready in 10 minutes- because that was how long the pasta needed- so I got out my board and got chopping!

I put a drizzle of olive oil into each frying pan and started some finely chopped onion off in each- I used red onion in this case. Once it started to become translucent, I added a little finely chopped garlic to each and a handful of halved cherry tomatoes to one, whilst I added half of a grated zucchini to the other... and stirred! I seasoned the zucchini with salt, pepper, a little sugar and some freshly grated nutmeg and seasoned the tomato with a little oregano, finely chopped basil and parsley, of course salt and pepper too, but also a pinch of cayenne. Once the zucchini began to soften, I took it off the heat and set it to one side- but once the tomatoes began to soften, I added a good heaped tablespoon of tomato paste, stirred it in gently and then deglazed the pan with a splash of water. The paste absorbed the water very quickly and before I knew it, I found that everything reduced down nicely and turned into a nice sauce! I added a pinch of sugar and got ready to drain the pasta!

I drained the pasta, but not too thoroughly, leaving enough hot water behind so that when I poured it into the zucchini and onion mix, it had a slightly "soupy" consistency, which allowed it to continue cooking for a minute or two- and it was in that time that through gently stirring, I got the pasta to fill up nicely with the yummy zucchini. In the meantime, I spooned the tomatoes and sauce into a baking dish, ready to go. I spooned the pasta on top of the sauce and then crumbled a little mozzarella here and there on top, added a dusting of nutmeg and coarsely ground black pepper and popped it into the oven at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, to heat through and to brown off nicely! And very nice it was too! If I were you in fact, I would try it for myself just to find out! ;-)

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