Pranzo di Ferragosto
Today is Ferragosto, August 15th, an Italian holiday who’s origin stems back to the time of Augustus in 18 B.C. (feriae Augusti), it celebrated the end of the summer harvest and a day of rest from the hard work in the fields. Judging from the torrential rains that we had this week in Puglia, also the end of a dry summer.
Ferragosto is sacred in Italy and it is sacrilege to work on this holiday, most of Italy shuts down this time of year. The streets of Rome were like a ghost town, one of the best times to live there, the whole city to ourselves. My husband took a few days off this week because the thought of working around August 15th was too much for him to handle. The nice thing about living in Puglia is that today was the only day that the stores were closed, the rest of the summer has been booming with festivals and tourists from all over Europe.
We decided to stay close to home this ferragosto, not wanting to face crowds and traffic and considering the fact that most stores were closed today, I prepared a pasta al forno yesterday that we could pop in the oven when we started to get hungry. We had friends here for the first part of the week and had a lot of grilled meat and vegetables leftover from one of the dinners that we had together. It would have been a pity to throw any of it away, so I made a ragù with the grilled meat and layered the grilled veggies in the pasta, using the mozzarella leftover from one of our lunches.
A pasta al forno is, in my mind, a little out of season for this weather, but after the heavy rain on Tuesday and thinking of the great Roman movie, Pranzo di Ferragosto, it didn’t seem terribly out of season. It was absolutely delicious for our dinner tonight.
Pasta al Forno with Grilled Sausage Ragù and Grilled Vegetables
- 3 grilled Italian sausages, we also had some grilled bombette, which are sausages wrapped in thin slices of beef or pancetta
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 box of Pomì strained tomatoes (of course any high quality tomato will do for this)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups chopped grilled veggies, we used eggplant and zucchini, but you could use any vegetable that you like
- 2 cups grated mozzarella, sliced if using high quality mozzarella
- 1 lb pennoni or any short pasta on hand
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup grated cacioricotta or parmigiano
Heat a dutch oven or a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add oil and onions, sauteing until they become translucent. Add the grilled meat, sliced or left whole, depending on your tastes, when it starts to sizzle add the tomato, bring to a simmer and lower the heat. Partially cover and simmer over low heat for at least an hour. Add water as the sauce begins to thicken.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until it is almost tender enough to eat, about 3 minutes less than usual.
Spread about ¾ cup of the ragù on the bottom of a 9- by 13- by 2-inch baking dish.
When the pasta is done, drain it well, then toss it with enough ragù to dress it, but not smother it.
Spread half of the pasta in the baking dish. Evenly spoon over it ¾ cup more ragù. Cover with half of the grilled veggies and half of the sliced mozzarella. Top with the rest of the pasta. Add the rest of the veggies and the mozzarella, add the rest of the ragù, and add the fresh basil.
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling.
Let the casserole cool for 10 minutes before cutting it into portions. Serve hot.
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