Ziti al forno or oven baked pasta has a history all to its own. Meaning that although Italian cuisine usually brings with it many traditions and techniques that have been used for hundreds to thousands of years, with pasta al forno there seems to truly be no rules.
What do I mean no rules? Well, ziti al forno is basically more of a method. Ingredients can vary widely and prepared in millions of Italian kitchens pasta al forno is usually the result of true creativity—an inspired cook or in my case, the nagging feeling that I need to use up some leftovers.
In Italy this approach can satisfy the cook, the very hungry appetite of the family or it can be in honor of a household’s guest tailored to their likes. In my house it is usually used as a special treat to celebrate a birthday.
So a brief history of ziti al forno…Oven baked pasta has a history that dates back to the late Middle Ages and Renaissance where these dishes were served at banquets at the palaces of the nobles. Eventually this caught on in Italy and was adopted all over the boot. However, today it is still a staple dish for many southern Italian towns. Sicily and Campania (Campania includes Naples, Amalfi and Salerno) are the regions where this dish is still most popular. The great diversity in preparations of pasta al forno greatly depends not only what you have on hand, but also what area the recipe hails from.
This week’s Sunday Pasta is one that definitely is from the southern region. So enjoy this recipe, use it and make it your own, here Italians would say, “Fai con quello che hai” (make do with what you have) and everything else will fall in place.
Donna Picciocchi, Editor