I collect Al Dente Pasta as one might collect baseball cards — only I get to eat my collection. I enjoy having different varieties and flavors to choose from on those evenings where I want to whip up a meal in less than 15 minutes — or more, as in the following recipe.
Of course I love this pasta because it’s locally made, but I’m pretty sure it would be a staple in my kitchen even if I lived in Oklahoma.
This month Al Dente celebrates its 30th birthday. In honor of Monique and Denny’s success, I whipped up a casserole I made frequently about 25 years ago. I lost the exact recipe, and I’m sure I used regular bread crumbs, as panko weren’t readily available.
Back then, Al Dente wasn’t making this pasta flavor, but it works well in the recipe, and the flavor conjures memories of the old Moosewood Cookbook style of eating.
Basically I boil the pasta until it’s just malleable, since it will continue baking in the oven. I toss it with oil and layer a medium-sized casserole with half the partially cooked pasta. Then I layer veggies and fresh mozzarella over the pasta, another layer of pasta and cheese, and then the toasted panko.
For added richness, I toss panko with grated Parmesan or Asiago (an optional step), then bake. The Al Dente Whole Wheat Pasta is flavored with roasted garlic, which permeates the casserole, so there is no need for additional seasoning aside red pepper for heat.
Last Friday I wrote about this being the month of The Back Alley Gourmet’s 30th birthday as well. I remember Monique and I going into the pasta business (back then Back Alley sold fresh pasta) the same month, the same year. Time certainly flies!
What will we be doing 30 years from today? If I live to that day — God willing, I’ll be turning 86 — I hope a collection of Al Dente will have a place of honor in my cupboard.
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