Saturday, 25 April 2015

I'll Bake You a Pasta You Can't Refuse!

Ditalini al Forno con Bietola, Ragu di Carne & Ricotta Fresca
Baked Ditalini with Swiss Chard, Meat Sauce & Fresh Ricotta


It is pointless getting frustrated about the weather if you live in Frankfurt, Germany- even if you have just been out to buy lovely Spring produce and the weather is like Autumn all over again, all of a sudden!

And so suddenly, I found myself craving some comfort food rather than a salad this evening- and quickly came up with an easy solution- easier still as I had some left-over meat sauce in the freezer!


I am going to go out on a limb here and presume that you all know how to make a simple ground meat and tomato sauce- haha!

And as usual, as I live alone and only prepared a small portion, unless you are single too, the exact amounts of ingredients really won't hit-home for you if you are cooking for the family or friends... but as is always the case with my dishes, it is simply about the combination of ingredients and flavors and the method. That's all that you have to know and you can make it work for yourselves just fine... with food as simple as this, you have nothing to worry about!

So here you have it- for my 2 small potions I had 1 very small and tender Swiss chard, 1 cupful of meat sauce and 1 cupful of fresh ricotta- apart from that, 2 handfuls of your pasta of choice (ditalini in this case) and a little salt, pepper and nutmeg to season.

There- I told you it was easy!


This is satisfying on a very basic level- it hits all of the right spots and is a lot lighter than many baked pasta dishes...

What's best is, the flavor is somewhat reminiscent of my mothers canneloni recipe- although this does not have bechamel in it and so is a lot lighter and faster to prepare. So- it's all good!


Ok- first things first... if you don#t have a meat sauce ready, like I did- you are going to need to make one! Haha! And secondly- you are going to need to get your oven cranked up to 180°C to be ready to go!

But then the good news is that the rest is easy!

Wash and chop the chard into nice, chunky, bite-sized pieces and begin to boil for 5 minutes in plenty of well salted water.


After 5 minutes, add your pasta and continue to boil for a further 7-8 minutes.


Next, drain the pasta and chard and add the ricotta- season with plenty of freshly grated nutmeg and pepper... and you will see- the flavor will indeed be reminiscent enough of bechamel to make this dish delicious... promise! Of course it will not be so buttery and creamy... but this IS a different dish after all!


Stir together well to get all of that creaminess and good flavor well incorporated... creamy enough for you? Yeah- it's plenty good enough! No need for all of those extra calories at all!


And finally- add the meat sauce and stir everything together well, ready to transfer to a baking dish and to finish off in the oven... hurry, hurry, hurry!


A last dusting of nutmeg and pepper and off it goes, into a hot oven, at 180°C for 20-30 minutes until the top is golden brown, everything is bubbling away... and you can't resist it any longer! It will be smelling terrific! I promise!

Yes, indeed I would say that this looks more than good enough to eat! You have the sweet but earthy chard, the savory sauce, the creamy ricotta- (I used a lower fat one as well- works just fine) and the aromatic nutmeg... comfort is absolutely guaranteed with this dish!


So even when the weather plays up- you can always rustle-up something to chase away the blues! And it can be as quick and easy to do as this!

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