I find that using lovely tableware makes every meal a special occasion — even if the repast in question is a homey pasta concoction called a ‘pasticcio’ in Italian.
Here is the recipe for a Pasticcio di Broccolo Romano. If you can’t find a broccolo romano, use ordinary broccoli or even cauliflower. The quantities will be enough for 6 people.
Start by: (1) preheating the oven at 180°, (2) making or buying a bechamel sauce and (3) grating 100g of parmesan cheese. Then proceed as follows:
Discard the leaves and cut the broccolo with a sharp knife, one or two florets at a time.
Cut the larger florets in half …
Wash the broccoli and then put it into a pan of slightly salted boiling water and simmer.
While the broccoli simmers, chop up about 200g of mortadella. If you don’t have mortadella, use ordinary ham instead.
Now, let’s get one thing clear straight away. We do not want soggy broccoli but neither are we chasing after any ‘bite’ to it. It was to be ‘tender’, otherwise it won’t work for this recipe. So tender, in fact, that I got fed up waiting and started knifing the broccoli around a bit to speed up the process.
When the broccoli is fork-tender, remove it from the boiling water.
Do not throw away the boiling water. We’ll need it to cook the pasta.
I didn’t have any small-sized pasta (‘pasta corta’) in my store cupboard (!), so I got hold of some mezzani, which are very similar to ziti, and broke them up into smaller pieces. I weighed 250g of pasta for this recipe.
I put the pasta in the pan to boil. I checked the cooking time: 10 minutes. I put a timer on to remove the pasta at 8 minutes. This is because the pasta was going to cook again in the oven and so I didn’t want it to go mushy on me.
While the pasta was cooking, I set about one cup of the broccoli aside. I put the rest into the Bella Frutta casserole dish and used a fork to mush it up a bit and spread it evenly all over the dish.
Remove the very al-dente pasta from the boiling water and put it into the casserole.
Add the chopped mortadella.
Spread the grated parmesan cheese and then mix all the ingredients together.
Sprinkle some salt and pepper.
I then poured bechamel sauce all over it, mixing it in well. The bechamel was made using 40g butter, 40g flour, 400ml milk. I added a little milk before pouring it over the pasta because it had become a little too thick to spread evenly.
Mix all the ingredients together.
Here we are!
Sprinkle a layer of very fine bread crumbs and dot the casserole with spoonfuls of butter.
Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.
Lay the table while the pasticcio is cooking ….
Hot hot hot out of the oven …
I drizzled a little bit of delicious olive oil all over …
How’s that for a funky mid-week supper?