I've been told that, as a little girl, I had quite a flare for the "dramatic". If I would begin to carry on about one thing or another, my mom would give me a little look and say, "Alright Sarah". Why "Sarah", you ask? After all, that's not my name. Well, she was referring to Sarah Bernhardt, who was considered the greatest French actress of the later 19th century and one of the best-known figures in the history of the stage. She had a reputation as a serious dramatic actress. Now, even as a child, I knew I wasn't being complimented. The real message was "Tone it down a little" or "You're being a little over dramatic".
Today, as an adult, I still enjoy drama, if done well and love things that have something special or unique about them. This recipe encompasses all of that. Although I've made and eaten a lot of pasta, in my day, I've never seen any pasta dish done this way before. Pasta is tossed with a basic tomato sauce, several cheeses, and fresh basil. Then it's covered with a layer of parchment paper and baked in the oven. When it comes out, the parchment is cut open and the pasta is served with dollops of fresh ricotta....YUM!
The recipe comes from a cookbook called "Donatella Cooks" by Donatella Arpaia. Paccheri is one variety of huge cut pasta. It's kind of like rigatoni on steroids....talk about drama! Al Cardinale refers to a cardinal; a senior official in the Roman Catholic church. According to the author, they eat better than anyone in Italy, including kings. Well, if it's good enough for cardinals and kings......it's good enough for me AND YOU! This pasta is delicious, unique and, yes, a little dramatic. You have to try this one!
Paccheri al Cardinale (serves 4-6)
3/4 cup olive oil
8 garlic cloves, chopped
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound paccheri or rigatoni
1/2 cup grated pecorino
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
20 basil leaves, cut into slivers
1 cup fresh ricotta (I used more)
To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the garlic and saute about 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Then season with the salt and pepper.
Turn the heat to low and simmer, partly covered, about 30 minutes, until thick. ( Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the paccheri until not quite al dente.....mine took about 10 minutes.)
Once the sauce has thickened, add all the grated cheeses and stir until the mozzarella melts.
Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Add the drained paccheri to the sauce and toss to coat.
Transfer everything to a 4 qt. casserole that has been oiled. Cover the whole thing with parchment paper, tucking it into the sides of the dish. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the pasta is piping hot.
Now, for a little DRAMA! Bring the dish to the table, cut an "X" in the parchment and gently tear back the points....be careful....steam is hot! Spoon some of the yummy ricotta onto each serving.
Note: Next time I'll add some extra cheese on the top of the pasta before I cover it with the parchment, just for a little more cheesy goodness and a little more drama!