This is one of those dishes I love pulling together mid-week. It’s easy, because I keep Bolognese sauce in the freezer, or I whip up a quick puttanesca sauce while I’m winding down at the end of the day with a glass of wine. Puttanesca sauce
You can use your go-to pasta sauce, it doesn’t have to be fancy-smancy, just something you and your family enjoy. The key is not to overcook the pasta because it cooks further in the oven. You want the pasta to be still quite bouncy, with a little bit of raw starch still visible in the core of each piece (bite into a piece and check). When you drain the pasta, do so over a bowl so you can catch some of the starchy cooking water. Use this to thin your sauce if it is clumpy or too thick. Get more tips here Pasta
Seasoning, seasoning, seasoning … yep, if you don’t get enough salt in the water, the pasta will taste bland. If you don’t season the sauce, the sauce will taste bland. Crikey, if you stuff up on both counts, your baked pasta will be boring. And if you don’t get a good smothering of crusty cheese on top, well, it just ain’t baked pasta baby! You can cut corners and use grana Padano instead of parmesan (about $10.00 a kilo cheaper in my neck of the woods), but don’t be stingy with it. And, put thin soft curls of butter on top, oh yes, because the butter will melt around the edges and help the pasta sizzle and crunch, and stop the top from drying. And it’ll add flavour.
For special occasions, load the middle with mozzarella. Mop with paper towels and slice just before layering.
Quantities are fairly loose, this is not a precise recipe, more an idea, even something you can do with leftover pasta providing it isn’t overcooked. Put a layer of pasta tossed with sauce in an ovenproof dish, not too deep, but not too shallow either! Then put in a layer of mozzarella, cow’s milk or buffalo, depending on your budget, then top with more sauced pasta. Smother with cheese, grind over some pepper and add a few curls of butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until bubbling and lightly golden on top, in an oven preheated to 190°C (375°F), or thereabouts. Serve piping hot.