pasta al forno (baked pasta) …

This pasta bake recipe is THE recipe that my mum is known for. (Well, there’s the sponge kisses too but that’s another story). The pasta bake is a family favourite. People can’t get enough of this food. My mum has made this recipe so many times that she doesn’t refer to a written recipe – it’s all in her head. I know, crazy, right?

Anyways, under my mum’s directions, (because, as we know, the recipe hasn’t been documented anywhere) I made this pasta bake.

It’s easy to make and ideal for large gatherings. You can make it gluten free (by using gluten free breadcrumbs and gluten free spaghetti). You can make it vegetarian by layering grilled zucchini and grilled eggplant (and whatever other vegetables you like). You can use any other dry pasta – penne, rigatoni, etc …

I have a cousin, Marc, who loves my mum’s pasta bake. So much so that he asked her to teach him how to make it. He tried so many times to make a pasta bake but it never turned out like mum’s.


I think he was pretty pleased with himself :)

Buon appetito!

100ml olive oil
1/2 large brown onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 litres passata (tomato sauce)
5 slices bread (can use gluten free bread or store bought breadcrumbs)
750g beef mince
1 large clove garlic, crushed
3 eggs
generous pinch of salt
100ml cold water
125g grated cheese
2 x 500g packets of spaghetti (can use gluten free pasta)
1 dessertspoon salt
300g chopped ham
shredded tasty cheese
grated cheese

1) Fill a large pot with the olive oil and brown the onion and garlic.
2) Add the tomato sauce and wait for the sauce to boil. Once it has reached boiling point, simmer the sauce for a couple of hours on low heat, making sure that it doesn’t dry out. If it does, add water.

3) To make your own breadcrumbs – tear the bread slices into small pieces. Process in a food processor until the crumbs form.

3) Put the beef mince into a large bowl. Add the crushed garlic, a couple of sprigs of parsley and basil, the eggs, salt and cold water. Mix all the ingredients by hand.

4) Add the breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Again, mix by hand.

5) Roll the mince into meatballs and gradually add to the simmering sauce.

6) Leave the meatballs in the simmering sauce for about 20 minutes.

7) After 20 minutes take the meatballs out and let them cool. Turn the sauce off.

8) Put a pot of water onto boil. Once it’s boiled, add the 2 packets of spaghetti. Stir the spaghetti immediately and keep stirring until the spaghetti isn’t stuck together. Add the salt. (Make sure there’s enough water in the pot to cover all of the spaghetti).

9) Once the spaghetti is ‘al dente’ (firm to bite but not), take the pot off the stove and drain. Mix some sauce through the spaghetti so that the cooked spaghetti doesn’t stick.

10) Mash the meatballs.

11) Using a 4 litre baking dish, layer the base with the sauce. Then add a layer of spaghetti. Sprinkle a layer of chopped ham, followed by a layer of shredded tasty cheese and a layer of grated cheese.

12) Repeat this layering process another 2 times. The final top layer will be spaghetti and the 2 cheeses.

Note: you will have enough ingredients left over to fill a 2 litre baking dish. You can cover the 2 litre dish with cling film and freeze.

13) Cover the 4 litre baking dish with aluminium foil and place in 180C oven. Bake for 1 hour. After taking the dish out of the oven, let the baked pasta rest for 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Below is the vegetarian version with grilled zucchini and grilled eggplant.

The pasta bake, if it is at all possible, tastes even better the next day!

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” ~ Sophia Loren


One response to “pasta al forno (baked pasta) …

  1. MMMM,… What a rich divine looking inviting wonderful special pasta bake! I will make tho lovely recipe too, for sure, soon! :) Yummmm!

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