Friday, February 17, 2017

Pizza Pasta Recipe

Red gingham table cloth white plate, fork and pasta

I can never decided between pizza or pasta. It's just too difficult. The gooey, cheesy pizza or the comforting, carby pasta in warm sauce... Some days it's just too hard to pick one, so I give you Pizza Pasta, which for me combines the best of both worlds. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about this pasta dish, but it's absolutely delicious and quite possibly one of the best things I make. Cheesy, spicy and filling, this is 100% comfort food and I can never resist a hot, steaming plate of this delicious pasta. It's easy to make too and tastes just as good as leftovers. I like to serve this with a pile of green beans on the side, but you could certainly serve it with salad, garlic bread or whatever you like.

Melted cheese on pasta

Before we get started, I'd like to talk about something very near and dear to my heart... Cheese! It may seem like you're saving time and effort by grabbing a bag of pre-shredded cheese and maybe you are, but I wouldn't recommend it if there's another option available. There's something remarkably different about pre-shredded mozzarella and a ball of mozzarella in terms of how it melts, the texture and how it tastes. At my local grocery store, there's also a block option for pizza and that's what I've used here. It's not as wet as the mozzarella ball, but it's not as dry as the shredded versions either. If you can't find a block like this, I'd go with the traditional ball of mozzarella, but be sure to dry it with a paper towel, chop it and then leave it to drain on some more paper towels, patting it dry before you use it, so you soak up as much of the excess moisture as possible. Otherwise, it will seep out into your dish and it will be quite possibly more watery than you'd hoped. Also, it may seem like you should shred the mozzarella, but stick with the small dicing beause it changes the way it melts and rather than getting a sort of hard film of thick cheese melted across the top, by chopping it, the cheese sort of melts into the pasta instead as it bakes. Similarly, I have to make a case for shredding your own parmesan as well. It won't be as dry as the pre-grated powdery stuff you find in the grocery store or the dried out flakes and it will melt better. It's all about getting a good melt with this dish, so the fresher the better when it comes to what cheese you're using.

olive oil, pasta, cutting board and pepperoni

Finally, a quick note about olive oil. You can of course use extra virgin olive oil if you prefer or if that's what you have on hand, but you absolutely don't need to. Extra virgin olive oil is more expensive than regular olive oil and is best enjoyed when it's not being cooked, so as a drizzle on a finished dish, in pesto, in a salad dressing or for dipping bread. If you're cooking olive oil as in this dish, the flavour of extra virgin olive oil can get a bit lost and so using regular olive oil is fine and a good way to save a few pennies on your meal. Also, if you don't have garlic oil, that's okay. Simply use regular olive oil and shred a peeled garlic clove into it when you get to that step or you can simply skip the garlic all together.


Ingredients:
A knob of butter for greasing
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon of garlic oil
350g fusilli
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of dried basil 
50g parmesan cheese
250g mozzarella, diced into small cubes
100g best quality sliced pepperoni, roughly chopped
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Regular olive oil for drizzling

cheesy pasta

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease an oven-proof baking dish or casserole with the knob of butter and set aside.

2. Add the chopped tomatoes to a blender and puree until smooth. 

3. Heat the garlic oil in a saucepan on medium-high heat. When it's hot, add the tomato puree. (If you're not using garlic oil, saute the grated garlic in regular olive oil for a minute before adding the tomato puree.) Stir and bring the sauce to a bubble before reducing the heat to low. Season with salt & pepper and cook on low for about 15 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

4. While the sauce is cooking, cook the pasta in a pan of boiling, salted water with a drop of oil until it's al dente. You don't want it too soft or it will get mushy as it bakes in the oven, so I normally check on the pasta about 2 or 3 minutes shy of the recommended cooking time and strain it when starts to soften, but still has a bit of bite to it. Strain the pasta and return it to the pan with the lid on to keep it warm.

Rose Gold knife with pasta, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni
Colori Titanium Paring Knife in Rose Gold (c/o Kuhn Rikon)

5. When the sauce has finished cooking, stir the dried oregano and basil into it. Pour the tomato sauce into the pasta and stir to coat.

6. Sprinkle the pasta with 2/3 of the parmesan cheese and 1/2 of the chopped pepperoni. Toss to combine. 

7. Tip the pasta and sauce mixture into the prepared oven dish. Top with the remaining pepperoni and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese and all of the diced mozzarella. Drizzle some regular olive oil over the top of the dish to help it crisp up and finish with a generous grinding of fresh black pepper.

8. Bake the Pizza Pasta for 25 minutes or until the mozzarella has melted and started to go a bit golden on top. 

9. Serve hot, preferably on warmed plates or pasta bowls. 

Colori Titanium Paring Knife in Rose Gold (c/o Kuhn Rikon)
Pimp your Pizza Pasta... 
Any of the following ingredients added to this dish will give new life to your Pizza Pasta:
  • Ham, sausage, chicken or any other meat you'd normally enjoy on a pizza
  • Green or black olives
  • Anchovies
  • Peppers, sweet corn, mushrooms or other vegetables you love on pizza
  • Substitute all or some of the mozzarella with other cheeses you enjoy on a pizza or create a Quatro Formaggi version
  • When you heat the garlic oil, add chilli flakes and stir while cooking for 30 seconds before pouring in the tomato puree for a spicier version of this dish.
  • Add ham & pineapple for a Hawaiian version.
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