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Baked pasta with beef ragu

February 20, 2008

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Serves 4

Oil (for the dish)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 pound penne or rigatoni
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 can (14 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
About 2 cups shredded leftover braised beef
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
10 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
Extra olive oil (for sprinkling)

1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Have on hand a 10-inch baking dish. Oil the dish.

2. In a large pot bring 4 quarts of water to a boil over high heat.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes or until they are toasted; remove from the pan and set aside.

4. Add a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water. Add the pasta. Cook according to package directions or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite. Drain the pasta into a colander.

5. While the pasta is cooking, in a medium saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the garlic. Cook for 2 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant but not colored. Add the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt and sugar. Cook gently, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Add the beef and cook 5 minutes more. Add half the basil.

6. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with half of the tomato sauce. In the baking dish, layer half the pasta, half the remaining sauce, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, and half the mozzarella. Repeat with another layer. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and the remaining basil.

7. Bake the pasta for 10 to 15 minutes or until it is bubbling at the edges and brown on top. Jonathan Levitt