Photo by Maria Robledo
My friend's ancient Italian grandmother calls this rustic baked pasta dish "the Big Macaroni". The casserole is an excellent dish to serve for a dinner party because you can assemble it up to a day ahead.
4 to 6 servings
• 1 teaspoon olive oil or butter
• 1 pound tubular pasta, such as ziti or penne
• Wild mushroom ragù (see recipe)
• 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1 1/2 ounces)
• Freshly ground pepper to taste
• 8 ounces ricotta salata cheese or fresh, lightly salted mozzarella, thinly sliced or shaved
Lightly oil a shallow 2-quart casserole dish and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt well and stir in the pasta. Cook the pasta until slightly underdone, a little firmer than al dente, (the pasta will continue cooking in the oven). Drain the pasta and plunge it into a large bowl of cold water to stop the cooking, running cold tap water on it until it is completely cool. Drain well again, dry the bowl and return the pasta to it.
Add the ragù to the pasta and toss until they are thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle with ½ cup of the Parmesan and pepper to taste and toss again. Pour half the mixture into the prepared casserole. Arrange the ricotta salata shavings over the top, cover with the remaining pasta, and sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the pasta until heated through and the top is lightly browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve at once.
Advance Preparation: You may assemble the casserole up to a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Allow to come to room temperature 2 hours before baking.