Do you like pasta? Do you like baked stuff? Do you like surprises? Yay! Then this is for you!
And the best thing is, you can select your own surprise, sort of customizing the dish to your personal preferences. Who wants to follow some standard recipe, where you have to strictly follow what is written down, right? I’m all about flexibility in cooking, and I expect my readers would be too.
Conceptually, the dish is very simple. You prepare a set of ramekins…
You choose a pasta – you can pick your shape, as long as it is not too big. My choice was a simple spaghetti. Drench the cooked pasta in a creamy béchamel sauce.
Now comes the surprise… a filling, something that contrasts with the creaminess of the béchamel sauce. Something spicy or tomatoey will do very well. Chopped turkey cooked in a thickened tomato sauce with onion, ginger and garlic is what I used here. You can even do a vegetarian filling.
Put down a layer of the pasta in the ramekins, a layer of your chosen filling, and another layer of pasta to wrap up.
If you want, you can enhance the flavours with the addition of cheese at different layers. I added some pecorino at the bottom of the ramekin and a bit of shaved cheddar over the filling.
For best results, you need to bake this in a water bath, with the water level coming up to half the height of the ramekins.
Make sure to wipe down the rims of the ramekins so that you don’t get burnt crusts along the top.
When done, just inverse the ramekins onto a plate and dig in!
Though this dish is a bit time consuming, it is well worth the effort. And all you need is a plain green salad to go with it.
- 8 oz spaghetti
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tsp flour
- 2 ½ cups milk
- ½ tsp nutmeg powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 ½ lb chopped lean turkey
- 1 large onion
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 1 inch piece of ginger
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- 2 tbsp oil
- Salt to taste
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup grated pecorino cheese
- ¼ cup yellow cheddar cheese, shaved into thin slices
- Chop the onion into small, thin slices.
- Slice the ginger and garlic thinly.
- In a largish pan, heat 2 tablespoon oil.
- Add the onions and fry.
- When the onions are half done, add the ginger and garlic and continue frying.
- When the onions start to caramelise, that is they begin to brown, add the cumin and chilli powders.
- After a quick stir, promptly add the chopped turkey and stir to mix.
- Add enough salt and cover and cook, adding a little water if required.
- When all the water has evaporated and the meat mix is dry, remove from the heat.
- In a large pot of salted water, boil the pasta till it is just tender.
- Drain and rinse under cold water and keep aside.
- To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a large pan,
- Add the flour and mix together, stirring continuously.
- Continue cooking for two minutes.
- Add the milk in one stream, stirring continuously.
- Mix thoroughly and reduce the heat.
- Add the nutmeg powder and the oregano to the sauce, along with enough salt.
- Bring to a slow boil, continuously stirring, and remove from heat.
- Add the boiled pasta to the sauce and mix well.
- Take 4 oz ramekins and brush their insides with butter.
- Sprinkle them liberally with breadcrumbs and shake off any excess.
- Pre-heat the oven to 420 degree farenheit.
- To assemble, sprinkle half a spoon of pecorino cheese in each ramekin.
- Fill one third of each ramekin with the pasta mix.
- Add the meat filling till two thirds of each ramekin.
- Add a few thin slices of cheddar cheese.
- Finally add enough pasta as the third layer till it is a little below the rim.
- Place the ramekins in a baking pan and fill the pan with water till the water level comes up to half the height of the ramekins.
- Place the pan in the pre-heated oven and bake for 20 minutes.
- Check for doneness by inserting a skewer into the center of a ramekin. If the skewer comes clean, the dish is ready.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Carefully invert each ramekin onto a plate, and serve hot with a green salad on the side.