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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

May 28, 2010 at 12:44 PM

A delicious Italian recipe — from the movies — for the long weekend

This is not a food blog, because, well, that would be weird. (People who drink as much Diet Coke and eat as much popcorn as I do are, by default, not foodies.) But every now and then, food and movies collide — in this case, quite delightfully. A month ago I wrote about watching a short and sweet Italian movie called “Mid-August Lunch,” a comedy in which a middle-aged man finds himself taking care of four elderly ladies over a summer holiday weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and was particularly drawn to a scene in which Gianni, the main character, makes something everyone refers to as “macaroni casserole” and the others enjoy eating it — especially one lady, who sneaks away with the entire dish. That casserole looked like heaven — and the kind filmmaker, Gianni Di Gregorio (who also stars in the film), provides the recipe on the film’s website. I made it the other weekend, for four people, and it was every bit as delicious as it looked in the movie. Here’s the recipe, with my notes added, just in case you need Italian comfort food for this rainy holiday weekend. See you Tuesday.
Pasta Al Forno (which basically means, I think, “pasta from the oven” or “baked pasta”)
1 lb. rigatoni
1 carrot, medium sliced
1 celery stalk, medium sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced (I diced it)
1/4 lb. of pancetta, diced
1 link of pork sausage (I used two)
1/2 cup white wine (and more, in a glass, for the cook)
2 cups of crushed tomatos or 2 lbs fresh tomatoes (I used canned Muir Glen, crushed)
3/4 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced medium thickness
1/4 lb. grated parmesan
Fine bread crumbs
Salt
Olive oil
Saute the carrot, celery and onion with a little olive oil until the vegetables begin to soften; add the pancetta, broken-up sausage meat, and wine. When the wine has evaporated, add the tomatoes and salt and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, start boiling water for pasta. If the sauce gets dry as it simmers, add a ladle of warm water.
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water for 6 minutes. (Don’t overcook; it will finish cooking in the oven.) Drain, rinse in cold water, and add to the tomato sauce.
Take a 9-inch square baking dish, cover the bottom in breadcrumbs, and pour half the pasta mixture over. Over that, put a layer of mozzarella slices and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Add the rest of the pasta and the remaining Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes in a 375 oven, until top is nicely crunchy.

Gianni Di Gregorio, with Maria Cali, busily cooking (though note the ever-present glass of wine) in “Mid-August Lunch.” The movie is no longer in theaters, I believe, but should be out on DVD soon. (Photo courtesy Zeitgeist Films)

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