Thursday, July 15, 2010

Spinach and Ham Baked Pasta with a Crispy Top

  • 1 pound cavatappi, corkscrew pasta with lines or, macaroni with line in any short cut
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole or 2 percent milk
  • 1/2 pound sliced capocollo, hot ham, halve then slice into thin ribbons
  • 1 box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and excess liquid squeezed out
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a few large handfuls, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground or freshly grated, eyeball it
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, a couple pinches
  • 1 pound ball fresh mozzarella -- buy a piece wrapped, not packed in water, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup plain or Italian bread crumbs
  • A generous handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, salt water and cook to al dente, with a bite.
While the water is coming up to a boil for the pasta, heat a medium, deep skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 turn of the pan, and the butter. When butter melts into the oil, add onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes then dust the onions with flour and continue to cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk. Gently bring milk to a bubble, allow the milk to thicken a bit, then stir in the capocola, spinach and 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano. Season sauce with nutmeg and cayenne and remove from the heat. Taste and add a little salt, if you like.
Combine the cooked pasta and the cubed mozzarella with the sauce, stir to coat completely by turning over and over. Transfer dressed pasta to a baking dish.
To make the breadcrumb topping, combine the breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmigiano. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top to cover the pasta from edge to edge. Bake 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Garnish with chopped parsley. 
From Rachael Ray

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