Have you ever heard about Paccheri? Not probably among the best known Italian pasta types abroad, but a very trational one in southern Italy, mostly in the area around Naples.
Paccheri are wide cylinder-shaped pasta, made with a copper drawing machine to make the surfare ruvid enough to let the dressing stick well to them. I don’t cook them very often considering I am from Northern Italy and Paccheri are from the South, but for Christmas I received a basket filled with delicacies from the all over Italy, including Olive Oil from Sicily, a very big slice of Parmigiano Reggiano, a big salami from Felino, Polenta from the Dolomites and, among other types of pasta, a big box of Paccheri Napoletani, so I decided to cook them for my New Year’s Eve dinner.
There are several ways to cook Paccheri, most of which involve simple dressings with tomato sauce and Mozzarella cheese but I choose another way, probably the longest one, but definetly the tastiest: Paccheri al Forno (Baked Paccheri).
The process takes some time, thus enjoy them when you have plenty of time to spare and you really want to impress your guests.
Paccheri al Forno
For the Ragout
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery stick
- 1 small onion
- 2 tablespoon of Extra Virgin olive oil
- 1 glass of Red wine
- 400 grams of ground meat (veal or beef, do not use pork or poultry)
- 1 can of tomato sauce
- 2 big glasses of water
For the baked Paccheri
- 350 grams of paccheri (serve 5 to 6 people)
- 200 grams of Bechamel (cream sauce) – Bought
- 70 grams of grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano Cheese (avoid any kind of Parmesan)
Let’s start making the Ragout. It will take you approximately 3 hours
Chop the carrot, the celery stick and the onion into small pieces (the smaller, the better) and put them in a large and tall pot with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Turn on the fire at high level, and let them fry for a couple of minutes, then add the ground meat. Mix with wooden spoon to help the meat divide into small pieces.
Let the meat roast for approximately 5 or 6 minutes, then add a full glass of red wine. I used and Italian wine called Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato, but you can obviously use another wine from your own Country until it’s a red, full bodied wine, don’t use fizzy or Rosèe wine here, it won’t work.. Let the wine evaporate completely, at high fire (the room will be filled with a very pleasant aroma).
When the wine is completely evaporated, pour a can of tomato sauce intto the pot + 2 full glasses of water. Add a pinch of salt and turn the fire to the minimum level.
Don’t worry if the sauce looks very liquid. It will reduce a lot after 3 hours. Lower the fire to the minimum level, cover the pot with it’s lid and let it cook gently for approximately 2 hours. Check the consistency of it from time to time. After 2 hours, remove the lid and let it cook for 1 more hours. The final result will we a very dense sauce – the ragout – to be used to fill the Paccheri.
Boil the Paccheri in abundand salted water for approximately 5 minutes. Important: paccheri are very hard therefore this is not the cooking time if you want to dress them with a simple tomato sauce. Since our intention is to bake them, we do not need them to be fully cooked because the final coooking will happen in the oven. That is why we need to boil them for a short time, just to soften them.
Take a round and tall baking tray (one of which you commonly use to bake a cake) and cover the base with a thick layer of Bechamel (cream sauce). I do usually make it myself but this time I bought it.
Now, place the Paccheri vertically arouninside the tray following the edge by creating concentric circles until you have covered the whole surface of the tray, then take the ragout and with the help of a spoon try to carefully fill each Paccheri with the sauce. When you are done, pour another layer of Bechamel and sprinkle the parmigiano Reggiano (or Grana Padano) above the whole surface.
Pre heat the oven to 200 °C (390 farenheit) and bake the Paccheri for approximately 30 minutes. When you see a brown and crispy crust on the surface, your Paccheri are ready.
Serve them hot with a glass of Red wine