Frugal Recipe: Pasta Al Forno

This weekend at Barbara's villa, we gathered in the kitchen (girls only, of course) to help prepare the Sunday lunch. Pia peeled the potatoes, Vincenza chopped cherry tomatoes for the bruschette and I sliced fresh carrots. We peeled and chopped and listened to Barbara's mom, Maria, as she recounted how she makes fried calamari in the oven. Enchanted, we listened to her unique recipe-telling...

First, take your fresh calamari rings and dredge them in the softest semolina flour. You can shake them up in a bag if you want to, it's fun! Then, lay them down on a cookie sheet with a few little drops of olive oil. Turn the oven to 350 degrees and slide the rings inside. Wait until you hear "pop, pop, pop!" That's the calamari telling you, "I'm done now, take me out!" See? It's easy! They tell you when they're done!

When she was finished, Barbara noted, "You'd think she was narrating Pinocchio with that recipe! " 

Giddy as ever, she went on to her next story; how to make her pasta al forno. Usually a heavy, meat-laden,  traditional Sunday dish, Maria's is much lighter and nicer. As she told it we were transfixed...

Slice some bright cherry tomatoes into quarters and drop them into a bowl. Drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle some oregano and dash a bit of salt and pepper right on top and let them sit. Make a box of penne, but be sure to strain them when they are still al dente! Mix them up with half of your tomatoes. The other half you can layer ever so thinly in a baking dish. Next layer the penne. Then layer the freshest cheeses: grated parmigiano reggiano and mozzarella, dried well. Then layer more pasta. Then finish with the rest of the tomatoes and lots of oregano and pepper. Bake in a hot 350 degree oven until the top starts to brown. Wasn't that easy, girls?

Ah, now that's my kind of bedtime story. Buona notte! 

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