EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 17, 2014

Baked pasta, Palermo-style

A meal for the masses, or a brown-bag tote

By Mary Ann Esposito
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — An extravagant dish, Timballo di Anelletti alla Palermitano is part of the culinary tradition of Palermo, the capital of Sicily, Italy.

For the Palermitani, pasta is not a food to be enjoyed occasionally, it is a staple food that is a direct line to eating well to live.

This dish uses anelletti, a typical Sicilian pasta form — think Spaghetti-Os for imaging the shape.

Originally the timballo was an elaborate concoction first introduced by the Arab emirs in the 9th century. The ingredients varied all over the island but it became a dish that was totable for the Sicilians who took it on picnics.

The classic ingredients are pasta, meat and vegetables. Many versions exist; some use eggplant instead of peas or zucchini. More elaborate concoctions also include chunks of salame, hard-boiled eggs and primosale cheese. This recipe comes from Mary Ann Esposito of Durham, N.H., host of PBS’ “Ciao Italia,” television’s longest running cooking show.

This is a dish to feed the masses, at least 12, so it is a good one for a party or a buffet dinner and can be made a day ahead and reheated.

Timballo di Anelletti alla Palermitano

Serves 12

Ingredients

1/2 cup bread crumbs,

1 onion

1 carrot

2 stalks celery

4 sprigs parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus some for oiling baking dish

1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

2 bay leaves

5 tablespoons tomato paste diluted in 1/4 cup water

11/2 cups peas

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup grated Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons butter, cut into bits

Cream Sauce

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

Grinding black pepper

Grinding nutmeg

1 pound anelletti (small ring shaped pasta. I use Tomasello brand)

Directions:

1. Oil an 111/ 2 by 2 inch deep casserole dish and coat with 1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs. Set aside. (I used my large blue Le Creuset).

2. Finely mince together the onion, carrot, celery and parsley.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and cook the minced vegetables until mixture softens. Add the meats and brown them. Raise the heat to high and add the wine. Let most evaporate off. Add the salt, pepper, bay leaf, cloves, tomato paste.

4. Cook uncovered over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the peas. Set aside.

5. Meanwhile make the cream sauce: Melt the butter in a medium size saucepan and stir in the flour to make a paste. Slowly add the milk and whisk until smooth. Add pepper and nutmeg.

6. Combine the ragu and cream sauce and set aside. Keep 1 cup separate to spoon on top of the casserole.

7. Cook the anelletti until very al dente, about 7 minutes. Do not over cook as they will cook in the oven again.

8. Drain and combine the anelletti with the ragu and cream sauce mixture.

9. Transfer to the casserole dish and spread the remaining sauce on top.

10. Sprinkle with the cheese and dot with butter.

11. Bake in a preheated 350-degree F oven until the top is nicely browned, about 35 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito, “Ciao Italia,” www.pbs.org.