Allyson Gofton - Fasta-Pasta

Publish Date
Tuesday, 5 May 2015, 11:57AM
By Allyson Gofton

Pasta types:
Dried - prepared from flour and water paste – plain, flavoured and coloured - though dried egg pastas are now more readily available.
Fresh -prepared from fresh eggs and flour the pasta is malleable and can be made into many shapes and is usually only available from specialist shops.

Dried pasta shapes and sauce matches:
Thin ribbons - like vermicelli (little worms), Capellini, (angel hair)  pastas are ideal dressed with oil and herbs, maybe a few shrimps or a thin sauce.
Thicker ribbons - serve fettuccini (little ribbons), or spaghetti  –like pastas with richer, thicker tomato, cream, mushrooms sauces or bolognaise-style sauces.
Small tube pastas - such as penne (quills), rigatoni (large grooved) hold sauces both inside and  if the pasta is grooved on the outside, will hold thicker chunkier mince-style sauces on the outside too.  Ideal for tossing with thicker salad dressings and mayonnaises.
Baby shapes - sprinkle orzo(barley)  or ditalini (little thimbles) into soups, stews etc or mix with a sauce and small  vegetables like peas.
Medium Shapes - like orecchiette (little ears), macaroni ( dumpling),  fussilli (twisted spaghetti), gemilli  (twins) and  bow ties will work well with almost any sauce or  baked in a sauce such as the ubiquitous macaroni cheese or tossing with vegetables for a salad.
Large shapes - such as Jumbo shells, cannelloni  are for stuffing with mince, cheese-based or a vegetarian mixture and baking.
Flat pasta sheet - designed to help create the classic Lasagne, they come pre-cooked and can be trimmed to fit the shape of the dish. 

Puy Lentil Lasagne
Earthy but delicate, chewy yet tender, moss green-brown Puy lentils are more often served as part of a meal, mostly because of their cost. However, cooked with garlic - mellowed from roasting - salty pancetta, and dense meaty flat mushrooms, a small amount of these cult-status lentils can be stretched to make a sensational sauce for a very easy and stylish lasagne!

Preparation Time:
20 minutes
Cooking Time: 
1½ hours
Serves: 6

600 grams large flat mushrooms
2 bulbs roasted garlic (see method below)
150 grams panceta
¼ cup olive oil
1½ cups Puy or brown lentils
4 cups beef stock
10-12 dried lasagne sheets
250-350 grams firm-style mozzarella


  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease an 8-cup capacity ovenproof lasagne-style dish.

  2. Cut one large mushroom into thin slices and set aside to use later for the top. Chop the remaining mushrooms evenly. Cut the garlic bulbs in half horizontally and squeeze out every skerrick of cooked paste.

  3. Heat a large lidded frying-pan and cook the pancetta slices until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate and crumble. Set aside. Add the olive oil to any fat remaining from the pancetta in the pan and cook the diced mushrooms and garlic until the mushrooms are well softened.

  4. Stir in the lentils and beef stock. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring regularly until the lentils are tender. The mix should not be dry, but sauce-like. Stir in most of the pancetta and season with salt and pepper, if wished.

  5. Into the prepared dish, spoon one-third of the lentils and then cover with a layer of pasta. Using a thin-bladed knife or cheese peeler, cut the mozzarella into the thinnest possible slices and layer one-third of it on top of the pasta. Repeat layers, finishing with a layer of cheese. Sit the reserved sliced mushrooms on top.

  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until hot and golden. Serve immediately, garnished with the remaining pancetta, accompanied with a fresh tomato salad or baked tomatoes and crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Roasted garlic bulbs:

  1. Drizzle garlic bulbs with oil, wrap securely in foil and bake at 180ºC for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer can be inserted easily into the centre of the bulb. Keep in an airtight ceramic dish in the refrigerator (avoid using plastic dishes, the flavour permeates through the plastic).

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