Great Vegetarian option..Light first course or main course & Children love it! Best if you use fresh ingredients, but can substitute fresh tomatoes for canned. Ive been making this dish for years. This is my modified version to my aunts in Sicily (Italy),who had shown me. Its been a huge hit & requested regularly at dinner parties or at a busy family day visit! Hope you enjoy.
Blanch and peel tomatoes. ( Score tomatoes,place into simmering hot water till skin starts to split..then remove and put into chilled water to help remove the skin.)
Dice tomatoes into chunks, removing half the seeds.
In a well heated non stick pot, add the olive oil and then add diced brown onion. Stir and cook till transparent. Then add garlic & parsley, stir and add diced tomatoes, salt,pepper to taste and simmer to cook for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile melt butter in a pot and add flour and pinch of nutmeg, stirring for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually add 500mls of milk,while continually stirring and trying to avoid any lumps. Return to heat and continue stirring till thickens. Add additional 100mls of milk slowly, to obtain a runnier consistancy,preferably similar to a thick gravy or runny custard. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese and two tablespoons of the grated cheese,stir well.
Prepare your work area with individual bowls of your ingredients.
In a large deep dish, baking tray, spread a light layer of tomato sauce to the base.
Then add enough pasta to almost cover the bottom.
Spoon large dollops of Ricotta to scatter over the layer of pasta. Then sprinkle 3/4 cup of the shredded cheese to layer and 1 to 2 tablespoons of the grated cheese, and if adding optional fetta, a few small dollops sparingly to layer.
Slowly drizzle bechamel in a zigzag manner to coat pasta layer or if thicker,spoon to lightly cover.
Add just the odd dice of tomato from the sauce to highlight some colour and then top with another layer of pasta.
Continue to layer tomato,then cheese's and pasta until almost to the top of the baking tray and finish with small tomato dollops for colour,drizzled bechamel and sprinkled parmesan.
Cover with aluminium foil, spraying the foil with non stick cooking spray to help avoid sticking to top of pasta.
Bake in a oven at 180c or 160c fan forced for 35-45mins or until pasta cooked through. You will notice pasta has grown so it will cooked. Lower heat and brown top for 5 mins or so. Remove from oven, return cover to pasta and let sit for 10mins then cut into square portions and scoop out into a pasta dish and garnish.
You can use less than a 500gm pack of pasta,as you may have left over semi cooked pasta, I suggest a reputable brand as some shell pasta breaks very easily even when par-cooking it.
You may also use extra peeled tomato can to ensure you have ample sauce. This dish is not to be saucy, but well coated so it has ample moisture. Oven temperatures vary according to different ovens. You can use less shredded cheese if you choose to,as its a ricotta pasta,but it will lessen flavour a little. I add Fetta at times, more for adults than children.
You will,after cooking this the first time, adjust it to your tasting..ie,more or less tomato concasse'.
Garnish with Fresh Basil leaves or shredded parley.
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