Beefy Caponata Baked Penne

15 05 2010

So there I was, standing in front of a 2-for-1 organic Italian pasta display, when my phone rang.  It was Nick, and he, like me, had no idea what he wanted for dinner.  Except that given the unseasonable cold and rain, it had to be warm and hearty.  The words “pasta bake” came out of my mouth, and were enthusiastically received.  I grabbed two boxes of penne, and when I looked up, I was faced with jars of Sicilian caponata.  Hmmm… eggplant, olives, capers, onions, tomato… that sound pretty good.  The jar was halfway to the basket when I decided I’d rather make it myself, fresh.  Many circles through the grocery store later (it’s an adjustment getting used to a new supermarket, too), my basket filled to the brim with pasta, eggplants, canned tomatoes, ground beef, a jar of green olives, a block of mozzarella, a container of ricotta, and a couple bottles of chianti, I made my way home under increasingly gray skies.

Browning

I arrived home and started cooking immediately. What better way to warm up a chilly apartment?  I browned the beef in olive oil, then threw in some chopped onion.  Next came a few cloves of garlic and two small eggplants, diced and lightly salted and drained.  When everything was nice and brown and roast-y smelling, I deglazed the Dutch oven with a splash of the aforementioned chianti, scraped up the tasty fond, and poured in the tomato products and a canful of water.

Meanwhile, I whisked the ricotta, an egg, and some cream with salt, pepper, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

"Alfredo"

When the beefy eggplant sauce was nearly done (that is to say, reduced but still a bit watery so as to finish cooking the parcooked pasta in the oven), I roughly chopped some olives and added them to the mix.  Then I quickly boiled a pot of water (yay induction!) and cooked the penne for about five minutes.  (If I didn’t have the stupid induction top, I could definitely have been doing these things simultaneously.  It’s a mixed blessing.)  I drained the still-slightly-crunchy pasta and poured the ricotta concoction into the empty pot.  I stirred in about half of the eggplant sauce, then the pasta and some mozzarella cubes.  This was then divided between two baking dishes (if you’re going to make something like this, it really doesn’t take any more tie to make two, and then you have an emergency dinner just waiting in the freezer) and topped with the remaining red sauce.  More mozzarella cubes and a grating of Parm finished them off.

One for now, one for later

Both got covered in foil, and one went straight into the oven.  The other I left to cool a bit before freezing for a future dinner.  After 30 minutes in the oven, I took off the foil and let the top get toasty.

Browned and delicious

And let me tell you, tucking into the gooey, beefy, steaming hot bowl did wonders for my outlook.  I mean, if cold, gray days mean food like this, who am I to complain?

On this day in 2008: How to Make Vinaigrette

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

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13 responses

15 05 2010
hungry dog

Holy cow. That looks amazing. We have a cold and foggy day here in SF and this would be perfect!

15 05 2010
Tammy McLeod

Wow. That makes me want the cloud cover to appear and the cold rain to beat down. Either that or I’m coming to your house for din.

16 05 2010
Celine

Baked pasta is one of my favorite rainy day dishes! We used to make this ziti with copious mornay + meaty tomato sauces.
Scotland food was delicious. Must tell you all about it soon!

16 05 2010
Hannah

Oh. Oh oh. Camille, I’m starting to think that my out-of-the-blue yearning for eggplant was because of some sort of psychic connection we have that subconsciously threaded knowledge of you cooking this into my heart. (Beautiful sentence, no? :P)

Looks amazing. Amazing.

16 05 2010
researchingparis

This is the kind of food made for cold, rainy days. And a definite redeeming virtue of winter (along with braises and stews). Eventually I’ll be ready for the giant salads of summer, but for now, bring on the cheesy pasta goodness. Thanks for what looks like an easy and delicious recipe :)

16 05 2010
croquecamille

hungry dog – It is a perfect gray day dinner.

Tammy – Heh. That would be a long trip!

Celine – Can’t wait!

Hannah – That *was* a beautiful sentence. Gotta love internet food synchronicities.

researchingparis – Yes, let’s try to embrace these last few days of winter while we have them. :)

16 05 2010
Salmon with Roasted Vegetables and Mustard-Herb Butter, Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie « Seasonal Market Menus

[...] We also had a simple but refreshing salad topped with sliced radishes as a starter to the leftover pasta bake, which really helped round it out as a meal.  Turns out pie is good for that kind of thing, too.  [...]

16 05 2010
tasteofbeirut

I would have been only too happy to come home to a plate of pasta such as this one!

17 05 2010
croquecamille

tasteofbeirut – It was a good feeling to have it in the oven when Nick came home. :)

19 05 2010
Meg Zimbeck

This looks so good that I’m almost sad the weather is warming up!

20 05 2010
croquecamille

Meg – Me, too… almost. ;)

22 05 2010
Jocelyn

Oh my, that looks to die for! That would warm me up in a chilly apartment ;) That is for sure!

25 05 2010
croquecamille

Jocelyn – It certainly did the trick!




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