Rosemary Focaccia & Baked Cheesy Pasta




“Spaghetti can be eaten most successfully if you inhale it like a vacuum cleaner.”
― Sophia Loren

A rather simple and easy dinner for a busy day, but especially because it is Friday and I had quite the variety of tomatoes to use…this simple baked pasta with Pecorino Roman, Parmigiano Reggiano, and fresh mozzarella  is quite the saucy dish and great with a freshly baked loaf of focaccia, all that one can ask for on a cozy up to home night.

This was the first time that I used all bread flour for the foccacia, I didn’t have enough AP and I baked the bread on a parchment covered sheet pan totally forgetting the already heated baking stones that permanently reside in the oven…so the second time around , once the bread firmed up in the oven I slid it onto the hot stone.

This recipe can be easily doubled…

1.  For 2 people I started with a bunch of tomatoes, all kinds, about 1 pound, chopped and oh don’t bother peeling the tomatoes.  You can substitute a good quality canned or boxed San Marzano diced Italian tomatoes.   Use a sick blender to puree the sauce if you prefer a smooth sauce

2.  pinches of red pepper flakes

3.  1-2 tablespoons EVOO

4.  3 cloves smashed garlic add the garlic

5.  pinches of dried oregano

6.  2 sprigs fat fresh basil leaves, torn

7.  4 ounces fresh mozzarella , shredded or cubed, more if you like

8.  freshly grated Romano and parmesan about a 1/2 cup of each

9.  1/2 pound rotini, fusilli, or other short pasta, cooked 2 minutes short of the package directions.  Rinse with cool water to stop the cooking and drain completely.  Cover if making ahead of time.

Add about a tablespoon of the olive oil to a saucepan and heat on medium low setting.  Add the tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened then add the oregano, basil, garlic, and pinches of red pepper flakes.   Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  I have a sausage seasoning blend made up and I use several pinches of that to season the sauce, but not necessary.

Grate the parmesan and Romano, and shred the mozzarella.  Lightly butter or oil a baking dish, add the pasta and stir in the sauce add about 1/2 of the  cheeses, blend and finally top with the rest of the cheese and more basil if you like.  Drizzle with a little more olive oil.   Bake in a 350º for 15 minutes or until you see the mozzarella starts to melt.

Easy Focaccia

3-1/2 cups bread flour, AP flour or a blend of both
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm milk
2-3 tablespoons EV olive oil
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
coarse sea to top bread with
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Dissolve the teaspoon of sugar in the warm milk and add the yeast, stir and allow to sit until it is bubbly looking then stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Blend the flour on slow speed (use dough hook) and add the yeast mixture,  Process to a smooth dough and knead for 2 minutes.   At this point you can knead the dough by hand for 5-7 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Oil a sheet pan or cover the pan with parchment paper to bake the bread on, after kneading the dough shape into a nice round cake pan size loaf and place on the pan or parchment paper.  Use your fingers to dimple the dough and add a few grains of the salt to each indentation, brush with olive oil and allow to rise for 1-1+1/2 hours.

Bake the bread in a 400º for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown, set finished bread on a cake rack to cool for 10-15 minutes.  Leave the room so you don’t eat half the loaf before dinner.