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What do you want to have to eat?

This was the phrase that Sicilian parents say most often in the days preceding the return of their emigrated children. And my parents also asked me those few times that from Milan I managed to return to Sicily.

All this until my baby was born, which since then the phrase has turned into “what does the baby want to eat?”, Grandparents are known to have a soft spot for grandchildren!

Ask “have you eaten?” or “what do you want to eat?” I believe it is one of the highest forms of taking care of someone. I must say that it took me a long time to be able to understand it, but in fact there is everything inside: the worry, the care, the cuddle, the wanting to nurture, the loving, the wanting to feel good , sacrifice…

To this question, I have sometimes answered, attracting my mother’s ire: “I want baked pasta”, and so far it was fine, if it weren’t for the addition “but aunt’s baked pasta”.

In fact, I don’t want anyone in the family to rmake, baked pasta like my aunt does, nobody knows how to make it. Not surprisingly, whether it was Christmas, Easter, or New Year’s Eve, if you had to make pasta in the oven and your aunt was there, they made her make the pasta in the oven.

You know, everyone personalizes the recipes in his own way, and to my aunt this customization of baked pasta was very successful. Even when my beloved wife gives it to me and asks me if I like it, I answer that she is very good, but that the aunt’s … it’s that of the aunt (risking to spend the night in the cellar!)

The baked pasta I’m talking about is the classic Palermo baked pasta, one of the many meat-based dishes of Palermo (which I prefer to those of pasce, but they are personal tastes).

It is made with pasta of the anelletti format that outside the province of Palermo becomes almost a luxury to find and always comes to me with the package from below. I always like to say that it is pasta in the shape of a wedding ring, which is combined with so many ingredients that from a first course they turn it into a super-greedy single dish that when you do it to someone not from Palermo you knock it out.

For many of us baked anelletti ise the dish of the holidays at home, those days when the whole family gathers to have lunch together and then play cards or bingo. It is the dish that is always made more than “if you stay, you can eat more tomorrow” and that in the afternoon when we bottomless kids got hungry we went to nibble directly from the pan in the oven.

To me it always arouses many pleasant memories, and it is so for many people who come from my latitudes. Baked pasta is so long to prepare that you only make it to those you love so much.

Recipe Pasta al Forno Palermitana from my aunt

Ingredients:

  • Anelletti pasta
  • Tomato puree
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • carrot
  • onion
  • celery
  • peas
  • salt and pepper
  • minced beef mixed with minced pork to make Sicilian sausage with fennel
  • Ham
  • salami
  • fresh mozzarella or caciocavallo from Palermo in cubes
  • Parmesan and aged grated caciocavallo
  • hard-boiled eggs cut into pieces.

 

The traditional Palermo recipe also includes diced fried eggplant and toasted breadcrumbs. The doses obviously depend on feeling and in my family as for me feelings are very abundant.

First you need to prepare a Palermo ragù: brown the carrot, onion and celery in extra virgin olive oil, add all the mince and brown well. Add the tomato puree and cook over low heat for a very long time. When cooked, add the peas and allow the peas to cook for the necessary time.

Then the pasta is boiled, which must not cook completely because it will complete its cooking in the oven.

So you need to season the pasta with a good part of the meat sauce and then put it in a pan alternating layers of pasta and layers of all the aforementioned ingredients as if it were a lasagna, someone instead makes a ‘mix’ of all the ingredients.

The important thing is to set aside a lot of ragù to completely cover the surface of the pasta. This serves not only to look good but also to create a moist “cap” that makes cooking easier

Place in a convection oven at 180 °.

At this point, to avoid spending the night in the cellar, I want to say that my wife, before putting the pasta, lines the pan with slices of fried eggplant and then puts pasta and seasonings inside.

At the end of cooking, then, she lets it cool a little and overturns the pan to obtain a timbale coated with aubergines which in addition to offering a beautiful aesthetic effect also has its own because in terms of taste.

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