A Do-Ahead Dish Italian Style
Whether it’s a wedding or just Tuesday night, this baked mostaccioli is a winner because it can be made in advance and either frozen or refrigerated, then re-heated to make a casserole as delicious as lasagna. Whatever the occasion calls for, it can be made in quantities or in just one pan. The hardest part is cutting up the vegetables. For one 13″x 9″ casserole you will need the following:
- 1 pound pene rigate pasta, cooked al dente and drained (reserve 1 cup pasta water)
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1 large carrot in tiny dice
- 1 large rib of celery in tiny dice
- 1 clove of garlic finely minced
- 6 oz. tomato paste
- 1 can Italian style diced tomatoes
- 1 jar traditional spaghetti sauce.
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese divided in two equal portions
- 6 oz. grated Monterrey jack cheese
- 2 or 3 slices of bread pulsed in the processor to fine crumbs
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
First, prepare the pasta and drain. Reserve a cup of the pasta liquid and set them both aside. In the pot saute, the diced vegetables in a little olive oil until the onions just begin to brown a little. Add the ground beef and brown it off well. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and heat through. Add the diced tomatoes and spaghetti sauce and simmer a few minutes. Add the pasta and a little of the pasta water if the sauce is too stiff. Stir everything until the noodles are well coated. Add one half of the Parmesan and all of the Monterrey jack cheese and stir it in until it’s melted.
Dump the contents of the pot into a 13″x 9″ baking pan, press the noodles down with a large spoon and smooth the top. Mix the bread crumbs in a plastic bag with the 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining Parmesan, season with salt and pepper and shake the contents of the bag until the crumbs are coated with oil. Break up any clumps. Coat the noodles with the crumbs and bake at 425° for 25 to 30 minutes or until the bread crumbs become golden brown. Allow to cool 10 minutes and serve with a wide spatula.
This dish is great for a crowd. One pan serves 10 to 12 guests. 4 standard 2″ deep steam table dishes could easily feed 100 guests. Whatever size party you pesent this easy dish to, you will not only be feeding them a super delicious meal but a meal already containing four vegetables, less fattening cheese than lasagna and far less fuss.