Is it safe to post about food again? Are we all recovered from overeating on Thanksgiving? I think that was mostly a “yes,” so I have to share this pasta al forno with smoked mozzarella. A quick Italian lesson: Forno is pronounced “forrno,” and simply means “oven.” So, this is a cheesy baked pasta. But “pasta al forno” sounds more impressive, don’t you think?
This is a wonderfully easy, comforting and oh-so-delizioso dish that I remember Nonna making sometimes when I was little. Mom taught me to make it a few years ago, and my family absolutely loves it. (We were rolling our eyes and swooning as we stole portions during the photo session.) It’s perfect to serve to a group of teenagers before the dance, or to birthday party guests when you want something a step up from pasta with sauce but don’t have time to make lasagna.
And really, it’s ideal for weeknights too, especially if you have some of my homemade marinara sauce hanging out in your fridge or freezer. (I had gotten behind in stocking up on my sauce, and recently made a triple batch so that I could use some and freeze some. Best decision ever.)
With the al dente pasta (I used rigatoni here, but penne or ziti work too), melty smoked mozzarella that oozes a bit in the middle and gets crusty on the surface of the pasta and edges of the pan, fresh Parmesan (ditch the green canister!) and plenty of homemade tomato sauce, what’s not to love? Speaking of al dente, here’s an important tip for whenever you’re baking pasta, including macaroni and cheese.
To prevent mushy baked pasta, don’t fully cook the pasta on the stove before it goes in the oven. A good rule of thumb is to boil the pasta for half the al dente time listed on the package. You’ll end up boiling it for 5-6 minutes, depending on the brand you use. Then, the oven will finish cooking it.
And then, you get to devour it. Enjoy!
(Recipe Source: Adapted from my Mom’s version)