Pollo Al Forno
A great pasta bake recipe - well worth the effort
- 200-300g pkg
- pasta shells, giant (boiled)
- diced chicken
- bechamel - flour (mix into butter to form a roux - judge by sight)
- bechamel - a chunk of butter - an inch or so thick
- bechamel - milk, pour in and mix by sight
- bechamel - mature cheddar cheese and parmesan (you can also use asiago and mozzarella to make a stringy sauce)
1Boil a large pot of water for the giant shells - add them while you panfry the diced chicken. As you make both of these components, make your bechamel, for which instructions are given below.
Put a knob of butter (about an inch thick, cut straight from the packet) into a heated saucepan. Turning off the gas, add flour slowly, mixing in to form a brown paste. I've not given measurements of flour - mix in by sight. Continue adding flour to form a roux: this should look like a ball (or bound mass) of dough-y looking stuff. It should smell cakey. Ensure the roux is not wet and is binding. Then add milk slowly in small amounts, mixing as you go. Continue mixing until the sauce is loose and silky. Turn the hob on low and slowly add grated cheese mixing in to melt. As it cooks the cheese will make the sauce very thick. I generally use cheddar cheese and never a whole block - a few chunks maybe, enough grated cheese to fill a breakfast bowl. You can also use asiago, Parmesan and mozzarella to make a stringy sauce. You'll know the bechamel is ready once it falls gloopily off the spoon.
3Now that's the prep done and you need to put the components together to go in the oven. I generally use a pot rather than a baking tray in which to put the pasta dish, as the pot will keep the pasta soft and prevent it becoming hard as an open tray will.
Spoon your shells and chicken into the pot - I do a layer of shells, then spread chicken over the top, then more shells, than more chicken, to ensure the chicken isn't just a the top or bottom of the dish. Spoon over the bechamel - you can mix the pasta and chicken in the saucepan with the bechamel but I find it easy to just pour the bechamel on top of the pasta and chicken in the pot, to let it work its way down. Generously sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top with black pepper.
Leave the lid off the pot to ensure it cooks properly and put in the oven for around 45 minutes on fan 180, or the gas equivalent.
Once you lift it out of the oven, the top should be crispy but the pasta beneath soft and well cooked. This will become one of your favourites, as it is mine - a lot of effort but well worth it.