Sunday, 8 November 2015

Pasta 'ncasciata

Pasta 'ncasiata is mentioned in several books from Inspector Montalbano series. This is a casserole of pasta corta (elbow macaroni, penne, ziti or something similar), tomato sauce, ground beef, parmesan and sometimes Bechamel sauce.
"He set the table, then looked in the fridge and found the pasta 'ncasiata and veal roulade from the day before. He put them in the oven at low heat..." (The Snack Thief, page 128)

In The Terracotta Dog, one of the best stories in the series, Montalbano stuffs himself with the pasta:
"He went home, put on his bathing suit, went for a long, long swim, came back inside, dried himself off, but did not get dressed again. There was nothing in the refrigerator, but in the oven sat, as on a throne, a casserole with four huge servings of pasta 'ncasiata, a dish worthy of Olympus. He ate two portions, put the casserole back in the oven..."

I have searched for Pasta 'ncasiata online, and there are different versions of this pasta dish. some use cubed or sliced aubergine, some make a kind of a pasta bomb wrapped in aubergine slices. Most versions I found don't use Bechamel sauce, yet the footnotes to Montalbano's book describe this pasta as cooked with Bechamel.

My version is based on the Italian book "Nivuro di siccia", which is a compilation of recipes appearing in the Inspector Montalbano series of books, and I trust their knowledge of authentic Sicilian dishes.
I have slightly adapted the recipe. First of all, I couldn't find any Caciocavallo cheese and used some mozzarella instead.

Pasta 'ncasiata
1 medium sized aubergine
3tbsp olive oil + more for frying the aubergine (at least 5tbsp)
2 cloves of garlic
150g minced beef
750g tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
2 medium eggs, hard-boiled
100g salami
500g maccheroni/ macaroni
100g mozzarella
salt, pepper
a bit of Grana Padano, grated on top

Peel the aubergine, slice them, sprinkle with salt and leave for an hour. (Actually I didn't peel the aubergine as suggested)
Fry the garlic in 3tbsp of olive oil until golden. Then add the meat, tomato sauce and chopped parsley.
Season well with salt and pepper and cook on low heat for about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. If necessary, add a little water.
I used a combination of tomato and basil sauce (350g) and Cirio chopped tomatoes (tin/400g). Use two tins of chopped tomatoes instead, or another tomato sauce pasta combination.
Wash the salt off the aubergines, dry and fry in the olive oil. Drain the cooked aubergine slices on paper towels and keep warm.
Hard boil the eggs.
Bring the salted water to boil and cook the pasta; drain and place in a pan with the meat sauce, aubergine, chopped salami and cubed cheese as well as finely chopped eggs.
Cook in the oven for 10 minutes at 180C until the cheese has melted. Grate a bit of Grana Padano on top before serving.
Serve the pasta dish in the same container for everyone to help themselves straight at the table.

Cirio Chopped tomatoes was one of the products in the latest Degustabox. This is an authentic Italian product. Tomatoes are already peeled, deseeded and chopped. It's a convenient ingredient to keep in the kitchen, as you can use it in many pasta dishes, casseroles or soups.

Now, what's the verdict? It was a tasty pasta dish. Food worthy of Olympus? Perhaps not. Maybe if I used caciocavallo cheese, it would have been a little bit more exciting. It is quite similar to ragu Bolognese, though most likely both Bolognese and Sicilians would throw rotten tomatoes at me for the comparison.

I haven't done yet with Montalbano recipes, watch this space.

And if you liked this recipe, I have some more recipe posts inspired by my favourite Inspector:
Caponata for Montalbano
Sarde a beccafico
Polpette di tonno (tuna meatballs)

Have you tried cooking any of the Sicilian dishes appearing in the Inspector Motalbano books and films?


  1. Ooh this looks like a perfect family-friendy winter warmer. Love the extra veg in there. :)

  2. What an interesting dish, this would be perfect on a windy cold day like today!

  3. Love the recipe, it is so full of Sicilian charme! Caciocavallo is not easy to find but some italian online deli occasionally sell it. I use Delicatezza and they have it ( .. i can send you an introductory discount code too :)

    1. Thank you Federica! 'll see if I can find it at some Italian delis in Oxford first.