Paccheri alla Divina

PaccheriAllaDivinaIf you want to blow your sweetie’s mind, well, this is the PERFECT pasta. All great recipes come by chance, and this is one of them.

Paccheri (p. pac-cke-ree) is a large, hollow, tube-shaped type of pasta similar to rigatoni, only larger in diameter. They belong to the Neapolitan tradition, and the best paccheri are still those, which are bronze-extruded and air-dried in Gragnano, Campania. They are also called Schiaffoni (meaning ‘slaps’) and I usually buy them online.

Mind that this recipe considers 8 paccheri per dish and that will make a single course meal. If you want an entrée, stay around 4 or 5 paccheri max per person and consider an alternative presentation. Also, you may want to see how many raw paccheri fit your oven-to-table and adjust the recipe according to that.

GROCERY SHOPPING (2 people)

20 Paccheri di Gragnano (we actually need 16, but use 20 – as some will break)
1 eggplant (about 10 oz)
10 oz of salsiccia or 4 salamelle (I use HEB Fresh Bratwurst Sausages)
2 tbsp of heavy cream
4 tbsp of grated caciocavallo
2 oz of fresh tomato sauce or a can of organic San Marzano
Salt & Pepper

Main Tools
Cutting board & pairing knife
Colander
Saucepan & Wok
Pasta Pot
An oven-to-table pan or two ramekins, or two round cocottes

HOW-TO

1) Prep the Eggplant
Peel the eggplant and cut in slices of 1/4 an inch each. Place it in a colander, sprinkle generously with salt (no worries, you’ll be rinsing most of it off before you cook it), cover with a plate and place a load onto it (for example, a tomato can). Let it sit for about 30 minutes.  Then, quickly pass them under running water and squeeze. Tap dry with a paper towel. Take a clean cutting board and dice them.

2) Make the Tomato Sauce
Meanwhile, prepare the fresh tomato sauce as in Pasta al Pomodoro Fresco and put it aside. Or, to make it faster, grab a can of organic San Marzano from the pantry and use an immersion blender or a food mill to reduce them to sauce.

3) Boil Water
Fill a pot with 2/3 of salted water and place on fire for pasta.

4) Prep the stuffing
Crumble the salsiccia finely and put it in a pan (or wok). No extra oil is required as the salsiccia itself will release its fat. Let it sear. When it begins to fry in its own grease, stir occasionally to cook them uniformly. When the salsiccia gets a brownish color, add the diced eggplant and let them fry together. When the liquid is almost completely absorbed, add 2 oz of fresh tomato sauce and let it cook.

5) Preheat the oven
Meanwhile, preheat the oven at 395 degrees.

6) Cook Pasta
Add paccheri to boiling water and cook al dente. It will take about 15 minutes.

7) The last touch to the stuffing
Go back to the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep salt to a minimum, as the caciocavallo you will add later on is very salty. Once the sauce is absorbed, stir in two tbsp of heavy cream and let it thicken. Stir and add 2 tbsp of grated caciocavallo. Remove from heat.

8) Get ready to bake
Grease your oven-to-table pan with a little EVOO.

9) Drain & Stuff
Drain pasta in a colander. Take the paccheri, one at a time and place them vertically in the pan till they fit completely. Take a teaspoon and stuff all the paccheri with the sauce. Sprinkle each one with some of the remaining caciocavallo.

10) Bake & Serve
Place the dish inside the oven. Let it broil for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

THE ADVICE FROM THE BOWL

If you want to serve them in a dish instead, all you have to do is remove them carefully from the baker and place them on a bed of fresh tomato sauce and decor as you like.

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