Did you ever become completely obsessed with having a certain food? This happens to me all the time.
Last weekend, my wife and I were on our way to a crafts show — good husband that I am, I went voluntarily — when we drove past an Italian grocery called Rosario’s. It’s kind of famous here on the South Side of Chicago, primarily because its sign features pigs jumping into a meat grinder to be turned into sausages, which spell out the name of the store. Here’s a photo:
The pigs used to light up sequentially so the sign kind of animated the slaughter of the hogs, but the lights broke years ago. Good times!
Anyway, Rosario’s had a big sign advertising a sale on mostiaccioli. Immediately, it became embedded in my brain and I had to make mostiaccioli.
Penne pasta and mostiaccioli are the same thing. Penne, which is the plural of the Italian word “penna” which means “feather” or “quill”, comes in two versions: penne rigate, which has little grooves along its sides to help the sauce stick to it better, and penne lisce, which has no grooves. Penne lisce is also known as mostiaccioli, which is Italian for “little mustache”.
Oh, those Italians and their pasta names!
Mostiaccioli also can be served the same way you would serve penne rigate, which is boiled, then poured into a pasta bowl and covered with red sauce and parmesan. But growing up we always had it baked in a casserole with tomato sauce and grated parmesan, then smothered with mozzarella cheese. It’s almost like a pizza casserole, except replacing the pizza dough with pasta. Everything else is essentially the same.
Baked Mostiaccioli with Italian Sausage
1 TBS sea salt
1 lb box dry mostiaccioli noodles (or penne or ziti)
14 oz can diced tomatoes
4 oz can tomato sauce
1 TBS tomato paste
2 TBS EVOO, separate
1/2 white onion, medium dice
1/2 green pepper, medium dice
1 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, medium dice (optional)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 oz can mushroom slices
4 oz can sliced black olives
1 TBS Italian seasoning
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 lb spicy/hot Italian sausage
8 oz grated fresh mozzarella (about 1-1/2 cups)
1. Fill large pot with hot water, add salt, cover and bring to boil. Add pasta and cook to package instructions for al dente, which is slightly undercooked. The pasta will continue to absorb the sauce while it bakes, so you don’t want to boil it too soft or the end product will be mushy. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, put sauce pan on fire. When hot, add half the EVOO. When smoking add onions and peppers and cook until translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add tomato paste and stir aound until mixed in, then add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and sugar and stir together. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the tin can taste is cooked out and the flavors meld together, about 10 minutes.
3. Put your cast iron pan on the fire. When hot, add remaining EVOO. When smoking, carefully place the sausage in the pan and brown, turning to brown evenly. Cook until cooked almost all the way through, about 5 minutes.
4. In mixing bowl, combine pasta, sauce, sausage and parmesan and mix well with a spatula. Then pour into a casserole dish and top with the mozzarella. Bake at 375F covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered another 10 minutes to crisp up the cheese. Serve in pasta bowls, garnish with parsley sprigs.
This recipe is also easy to cook in bulk and baked mostiaccioli is a standard at South Side block parties, first Communion parties, church picnics and the like.
What are some of your food obsessions? Please share your story in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!