Every family has a favorite party dish, regardless of cultural background or ethnic makeup or religious observance. I happen to think that every special occasion in my family should contain a very large pasta dish of some sort: lasagna, pasta with meatballs, eggplant Parmesan or mostaccioli, that oven baked pasta dish that is oh-so filling and warms up the house with the aromas of Italy.
To me, its comfort food, its party food, it’s family food. It reminds me of home, of my childhood, of growing up surrounded by the people I care so deeply about in this world and who love me back. Isn’t that what good party food is, anyway, regardless of the actual dish? It’s that feeling and emotional attachment to something special, wholesome and dear to you.
I actually feel like my second go-to dish on ‘Eid would be arroz con gandules y pollo (rice with beans and chicken) because the Puerto Rican side of my family was always the second stop on family holidays, and that is typically what was served. Needless to say, we always ate so well and food brought everyone together, even families from very different cultural backgrounds who could savor foods that were considered ‘exotic’ to them because they was such hospitality surrounding the sharing of these traditional dishes.
I know for many Muslims, ‘traditional’ Eid foods are very far away from Italian or Latin recipes, but from the perspective of someone who was not raised to observe Eid, it’s important to recognize that our cultural backgrounds usually carry a lot of food history that absolutely does not have to discarded simply because of a change in religious observation. In fact, the Muslim community is such a melting pot of diversity that what makes Eid gatherings so very interesting is looking at what remains special to each individual, family and community at the Eid table. With the inclusion of many Latinos and Europeans who are joining the Muslim community, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more diversity at the table that isn’t actually rooted in Eastern or Asian foods; perhaps it will fuse with them and perhaps they will remain traditional at the core of their geographic and cultural roots while of course being halal through and through. It’s an exciting time to attend an Eid gathering, to cook for an Eid party and to simply be a part of one of the most special times of year for billions of Muslims worldwide. Invite neighbors, family and friends who otherwise would never be able to get a glimpse of this beautiful gathering of diversity- who knows, you may even gather a collection of recipes you didn’t even know about before…
Okay, on to the Mostaccioli dish…
Sorry for the detour.
Start with a great sauce- it’s everything.
If you have a favorite brand you like to buy, that’s fine. If you want to make a super quick homemade version, I have a tried and true recipe in my cookbook which I make all the time.
You need to give yourself some time for this recipe, too. It’s slow food at its best in the sense that it does take time to prepare, but it’s absolutely one of those dishes you won’t mind spending time on because the result is so fantastic. Even people who think they don’t like pasta dishes or too much tomato sauce, actually turn up loving this dish. I’ve even had my friend’s kids devour plates of this and later been told that their kids had never even tasted pasta, that they were more of rice eaters.
Oh, and if you’re in doubt about the cheeses used in this recipe or just have some questions about them, head on over to my cheese and dairy page where I give suggestions on halal-friendly or vegetarian-friendly options.
I’m so excited for you guys to try this recipe- let me know how you love it!
Bismillah and Buon Appetito!
Mostaccioli (Baked Pasta Dish)
By August 8, 2013Published:
- Yield: 10-12 Servings
- Prep: 60 mins
- Cook: 50 mins
- Ready In: 2 hrs 0 min
Simple and fresh Italian ingredients all baked together for the perfect hearty family style dish. Makes your kitchen smell great, too!
- 4 cups prepared tomato sauce
- 1 pound penne pasta (preferably organic whole wheat)
- 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (preferably the fresh variety)
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup curly parsley chopped
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and set aside until the sauce is ready.
- In a medium size bowl, whisk together the ricotta with milk until the ricotta is completely smooth. Add salt, pepper and chopped parsley. Mix to combine all the ingredients and set aside.
- Mix the cooked pasta with the warmed tomato sauce until the pasta is completely combined.
- Drizzle the bottom of a large baking dish with olive oil. Create a layer of pasta with sauce on top.
- Dollop several large spoons of the ricotta mixture on top of the pasta. Layer with another round of pasta and sauce that covers the ricotta mixture. Add more spoons of the ricotta mixture on top and continue to do this until there is no more pasta left.
- Cover the top with shredded mozzarella and then fresh parsley. Cover with aluminum foil and create several slits to allow air to escape during baking.
- Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for about ten minutes before serving.