Recipe:Francesco Mazzei’s Pasta Bake

This Pasta Bake from Francesco Mazzei combines the best things about Italian cooking, great fresh ingredients and love.

Calabrian-born Francesco Mazzei is Chef-patron of Sartoria in Mayfair, as well as Radici and the recently opened Fiume in Battersea Power Station’s Circus West Village. He has worked in some of Italy and the UK’s most prestigious kitchens including the Michelin-starred Eden Terrazza and his first venture L’Anima where he showcased dishes from Calabria, Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia. 

Franceso somehow also has time in his diary to promote Polenta Valsugana an incredibly simple and wholesome dish to prepare that is often overlooked here in the UK, but very popular in Italy. This recipe is fantastic, I also love Polenta fried with a slight crust, prepared as a side dish instead of mash potato and it’s really great with strong meat flavours like wild boar stew too. Enjoy!

Ingredients – Serves 4

375gr Polenta Valsugana flour
750ml water
750ml milk
100gr celery
100gr carrots
100gr onion
700gr lamb mince
50gr ‘nduja
50gr tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic
2 sprig of rosemary
200gr Grana Padano Riserva

200gr mozzarella cheese
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1lt chicken stock
100ml white wine
Salt and pepper
70gr butter
30gr fresh mint

For the tomato fondue:
5 shallots
500gr peeled tomatoes
20gr fresh marjoram
100gr butter

Method:

Place the shallots in a baking tray and cook in a preheated oven at 190°C until soft inside. Remove the skin and place the pulp into a pot with lid suitable for the oven. Add the peeled tomatoes and bake at 170°C for about 1 hour. Check when the liquid is all reduced and the tomatoes are quite dry. Transfer into a blender and add the marjoram leaves and butter. Blend until smooth and adjust with salt.

Chop the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and the rosemary and sweat it in a sauté pan with the olive oil. In the meantime, pan-fry the lamb meat with some olive oil and drain completely from the fat, transfer into the pan with the vegetables, add the ‘nduja and season with salt, fry for couple of minutes then pour the wine and let evaporate. Stir in the tomato paste, pour the chicken stock and let simmer until the stock has almost reduced completely. Adjust with salt and pepper if necessary.

Pour the water into a pot and bring to the boil. Add couple of pinches of salt and start adding the polenta flour mixing with a whisk or a spatula. Cook for about 8 minutes or as indicated on the package. Transfer the polenta in between two sheets of backing parchment and with a rolling pin flatten it down to 1cm thickness. Let cool down completely.

Pre-heat the oven at 180°C.

Cut the polenta sheet into the size of a baking tray greased with melted butter. Lay the first sheet of polenta, garnish with the ragout, shredded mozzarella and a generous sprinkle of grated Grana Padano and chopped mint. Alternate the polenta, ragout, mozzarella, mint and grana padano until the top of the tray. 

Finish the top layer with Grana Padano and drizzles of melted butter. Bake for about 20 minutes, leave to rest for 5 minutes and serve.

Polenta Valsugana is available in all good supermarkets including Waitrose, click here for more >