Italian pasta au gratin: more than macaroni and cheese
Pasta au gratin is one of the simplest recipes and it is the perfect dish to prepare and eat but also to prepare and eat the day after. Versatile, it is a substantial dish from different points of view: basically contains few ingredients but you can enrich it by adding sausages of different types, fresh and seasoned cheeses, and, why not, even vegetables.
The peculiarity of the gratin pasta is the béchamel which should be prepared at home by avoiding the one shop bought: béchamel is, in fact, the fundamental element of the gratin, capable of mixing all the other ingredients and at the same time giving compactness to the final dish.
The good success of the gratin pasta is due to the ingredients and especially the charcuterie, that must be tasty and non-dry, and the mozzarella that does not have to be very wet and must be of good quality otherwise it will dry.
If you’re thinking “well, it’s a macaroni and cheese”, let me reassure you: it’s not, it’s more than just macaroni and cheese. If a pan of macaroni and cheese tends to remain soggy, this pasta au gratin is colored and crunchy. Usually, mozzarella is used on the surface, but it is possible to use parmesan or grated hard cheese; if you choose one of these cheeses you need to add some butter curls otherwise the cheese will dry too much.
But the real peculiarity of this pasta is that if it advances it is enough to cool it all and put it in the fridge; it should be used within 24 hours after preparation, simply warming it in a pan with very little water or in the oven. It can also be freeze and to use it should be completely thawed and then heated as fresh.
This is how to make a perfect Italian style pasta au gratin, ideal for winter.
Ingredients for 4 people
- 400 grams of short pasta
- Salami or cooked ham
- 2 mozzarella cheeses
For the bechamel sauce
- 100 grams of unsalted butter
- 100 grams of all purpose flour
- 1 liter of whole milk
- Grated nutmeg
- black pepper
- Prepare the bechamel then put it in a flat bottom so that it will clog;
- Cook the pasta and in the meantime turn on the oven at 200°C. Cut the salami. Also cut the mozzarella.
- Drain the pasta al dente and place it in a large bowl, then season with the mozzarella and the salami (leaving little of both on the side) and mix. Add part of the béchamel sauce.
- Pour the pasta into a non-stick baking pan, distribute it well and add the remaining mozzarella, the remaining salami and béchamel on the surface. Level with a spoon and put into the oven.
- Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 180°C and leave in the oven with the only activated grill function for another 2 minutes. Take out of the oven and serve after 3-5 minutes.
Preparation time: 50 minutes
[Pics by Giuseppe]