Michela’s stress free pasta bake perfect for freezing
It’s the most stressful cooking event of the year, but Michela Chiappa is here to make all of our lives a little easier this festive season. She’s showing you how to make her Italian Christmas pasta bake, which can be made in advance and then frozen ready to go straight into the oven for a stress free tasty family feast!
Festive freeze ahead rotolo
For the green pasta: *Alternatively use 500g shop bought fresh lasagne pasta sheets or dried equivalent and blanch in boiling water until just soft before using*
200g ‘00’ flour
2 tbsp blitzed baby spinach (squeeze out as much of the moisture or use spinach powder)
Pinch of salt
For the Pulled Pork:
1kg pork shoulder
1 litre water
6 tbsp caster sugar
3 sticks of cinnamon
3 star anise
1 chicken stock cube
For the white sauce:
3 tbsp cranberry sauce
4 tbsp grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to season
1. To make the pulled pork, put the pork in a large saucepan and cover with water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, star anise and chicken stock cube. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and slow cook for approx 3-4 hours or until very tender. You can also do this in a slow cooker or pressure cooker.
2. Once cooked, leave to cool slightly then remove the pork, remove the fat from the pork and shred the meat and set aside. Tip: you could double the quantity of pork and enjoy it hot for a roast dinner and then keep half for the recipe another time. Reserve a little of the cooking liquid.
3. To make the pasta, squeeze out any excess water from the spinach then blitz together the flour, eggs, salt and blitzed spinach in a food processor until a dough ball is formed - depending on the water content in the spinach, you might need to add more flour so that the dough ball binds, ideally it should be like play-doh - soft but not sticking to your hands. Try to keep the amount of flour added to a minimum as otherwise it will make the pasta dense to eat but make sure you use enough to avoid the pasta sticking to the machine. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge to chill for approx 30 mins.
4. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a large pan. Whisk together the cornflour and 200ml of the milk until smooth, then whisk in the remaining milk. Pour the mixture into the pan, and slowly bring to a simmer, stirring all the time.
5. Preheat the oven to 180C fan. Lay out a tea towel on a work surface. Roll your pasta out into long thin sheets and then start placing your pasta sheets horizontally across the top of the tea towel leaving a small border on the edge. Gently overlap the layers of pasta horizontally (you might need a little water to help them stick), until you have one large rectangle of pasta approximately 50 x 40cm, or roughly the size of the tea towel.
6. Once you have a large rectangle of pasta, spread a thin layer of white sauce over the pasta, setting the remainder aside. Add the shredded pork on top.
7. Finally, loosen your cranberry sauce with a little of the juice from the meat and drizzle it across the pork. Top with 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
8. Starting with the long edge of the rectangle start to roll up your rotolo (long edge to long edge) until you have a long log roll. My recommendation is to put it in the freezer for 15-20 mins here as it will be easier to slice the rolls. Alternatively make sure you have a very sharp and hot knife to make the cuts as easy as possible. Slice 4-5cm rolls (to give you approx 8 discs) and place them disc up in a large oven proof dish measuring about 26 x 20cm.
9. Once all the discs are in the ovenproof dish, cover with the remaining white sauce and top with 2 tbsp grated parmesan.
10. Cook or freeze immediately. Cook for 20-30 minutes from fresh, or until golden, cooked through and bubbling. If cooking from frozen, cook at 180C fan for 40-50 minutes or until golden, cooked through and bubbling.