Monday, 19 January 2015

Pasta "alla Pizza"

This is rather fun, but a little more complex and time consuming than most of the pasta dishes I make.  Also pretty rich! It's still a family type meal rather than something for fancy entertaining. Informal entertaining, maybe. Perhaps a good way to celebrate Friday. Finish the meal off with a nice green salad or steamed green vegetable.

I picked pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, and onions as very classic pizza toppings, not to mention seasonally available right now. If you have other favourite toppings, feel free to use them instead. The goal is to produce a pasta dish that reminds you of your favourite pizza. I used linguine for the pasta, but again, just about any favourite pasta will work, although I would not use one that takes less than 10 minutes to cook or more than 14. Still, that will allow most of them.

You will need to use your judgement as to whether other ingredients need pre-cooking with the sauce, or can just go onto the top when the pasta is ready to go into the oven. I would sauté most vegetables, but things like anchovies, hot pepper rings (pickled), olives, etc, I would add when the pasta gets sauced. Any type of sausage that goes on pizza would be fine, but I might stay away from bacon, unless you really love it, because I think it ought to be pre-cooked separately, then placed on top of the sauce. Not impossible, but a bit fiddly.

I turned to Google to discover if this dish was out there already, and I found a few Italian versions, which actually reassured me some. They seemed to consist of pasta with a thick tomato sauce, heavily seasoned with oregano, and mozzarella cheese. The Italians definitely take a more minimalist, or should I say purist, attitude to pizza. Being a North American, I am inclined to put more in there. I do think it is not a bad idea to keep it to 3 or 4 well-considered additions though.

I also suggest, since this finishes cooking in the oven, that you use a tomato sauce that is no thicker than average, and perhaps a little thinner. Since the pasta finishes cooking in the sauce, it will soak up quite a bit of liquid and leave the sauce much thicker.

makes 4 to 6 servings
45 minutes - 25 minutes prep time


100 to 150 grams button mushrooms
1 medium green or red pepper
1 medium onion
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons rubbed oregano
3 cups tomato sauce
450 to 500 grams dry pasta
250 grams (1/2 pound) pepperoni sausage
250 grams  (1/2 pound) mozzarella cheese
other pizza topping ingredients as desired...

Clean, trim, and slice the mushrooms. Wash, trim and dice or thinly slice the pepper. Peel and slice the onion. Peel and mince the garlic.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta, and preheat the oven to 375°F. I put the shallow casserole dish from which the pasta is to be served into the oven to preheat with it.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté the mushrooms, pepper, and onion slices until softened and slightly browned. Mix in the garlic and the oregano - yes, buddy, I said 2 tablespoons - and cook for just a minute or so more before adding the tomato sauce.

Meanwhile, when the water boils, add the pasta to it and cook it for HALF the recommended time on the package. Drain  it well, and arrange it in the casserole.

The other thing you do while the vegetables are sautéing, is slice the pepperoni and cheese. The pepperoni should be a bit chunkier than you would put on a pizza; the mozzarella slices should be about the same thickness.

Arrange about 1/3 of the mozzarella slices in amongst the pasta once it is drained and placed in the casserole. Pour the sauce, etcetera, over the pasta, and spread the etcetera out as evenly distributed over the pasta as you can. Dot the top with the remaining slices of mozzarella.

Put the casserole back in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese looks fairly melted. Turn the oven on to broil, and place the casserole under the broiler for 3 or 4 minutes, until the cheese is lightly browned. Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Mashed Squash with Roasted Garlic and Balsamic Reduction.

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