Fusilli With Three Cheeses
From Ciao Italia Slow and Easy by Mary Ann Esposito
From Ciao Italia Slow and Easy. St. Martin's Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission.
- Servings: 6 to 8.
Mary Ann Esposito hosts the longest-running cooking program on PBS, Ciao Italia. In her 10th cookbook, Ciao Italia Slow and Easy, she brings us a tempting collection of Italian braises, stews, lasagnes and casseroles, one more flavorful than the next. In this recipe she gives us a classic method for combining pasta, vegetables and meat into a perfect balance of taste and texture.
In her cookbook, Ms. Esposito wrote that we should experiment with this recipe by varying the ingredients, such as substituting mushrooms or peas for the spinach. This is a signature cassarole for her -- and it's her husband, Guy's, favorite.
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1/2 pound ground chuck
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 cups prepared tomato sauce (see below)
- 1 pound fusilli, bow ties, or elbow macaroni
- 1/2 cup cubed Italian fontina cheese
- Two 8-ounce balls mozzarella cheese, cut in small pieces
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 cups shredded fresh spinach
- Brown the ground pork and ground chuck in the olive oil in a Dutch oven or similar pot. Season with salt and pepper.
- Stir in 2 cups of the tomato sauce and simmer the mixture uncovered for 5 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Cook the fusilli until still quite firm (about 5 minutes) in 4 quarts rapidly boiling salted water. Drain and transfer the fusilli to the Dutch oven. Stir in the fontina, half of of the mozzarella, and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses over low heat. Off the heat stir in the spinach and the remaining tomato sauce.
- Bake the casserole covered for 20 minutes, uncover, and scatter the remaining half of the mozzarella cheese over the top. Continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until the casserole is bubbly and the cheese has melted.
Plum tomatoes, San Marzano varieties from the region of Campania, are best for making tomato sauce because they are meaty and pulpy with few seeds. When not in season, canned San Marzano varieties are available in your grocery store. The sauce freezes beautifully.
Makes 9 1/2 to 10 cups.
5 pounds ripe plum tomatoes or three 28-ounce cans crushed plum tomatoes with their liquid
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fine sea salt or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 to 8 large sprigs fresh basil
- If using fresh tomatoes, core them, cut into coarse chunks and puree in a food process, blender, or food mill until smooth. Strain the fresh or canned tomatoes through a fine sieve to remove skins and seeds. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot and cook the onion over medium heat, stirring, until soft.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until it becomes soft. Do not let the garlic brown or an acid taste will be imparted to the sauce.
- Add the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
Tip: Cheeses should always be well wrapped and stored in the warmest part of your refrigerator. Always bring them to room temperature before using.