Take some tomato in a can, chunks of mozzarella in a bag, some spices and your pack of pot-sized spaghetti. Preheat the oven and, in the meantime, pour everything into a baking dish to prepare your baked spaghetti the one pot way. Then, put everything in the oven, wait for it to cook, set the table and say goodbye forever to any Italian guest you have invited for dinner.
Because I assure you that it will be extremely difficult to convince my compatriots to eat this type of dish (oven baked spaghetti), especially after having witnessed its preparation.
Of course, there are (very few) brave people who could do it, some off-site students who have not seen a plate of pasta maybe for two years.
Seriously (not so much), here is all you need to know about this recipe so famous in many countries and so much criticized by Italians.
The (presumed) story of oven baked spaghetti
Baked oven spaghetti are part of those recipes that many people consider Italian but which, actually, are not taken into consideration in Italy at all.
Pot-sized spaghetti does not even exist in our country and, if we really need to cut down…well, we cut them by hand, but only in very rare recipes that require this process!
Even the origins of this dish are uncertain and smoky, but many believe that their roots are found in Naples during the Second World War. A moment of great difficulty for a city that had been the capital of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies and which dealt with a completely different scenario after the Italian unification (1861). However, let’s go in order.
According to some versions, oven baked spaghetti goes back to the eighteenth century and arrived in America with the Italians’ migration dated in the following century, becoming quite popular. In Italy, on the other hand, they had much less luck, finding themselves being chosen only in times of war, when food supplies were reduced to the minimum and the flour was used to give life to everything that could quench people.
In other words, as it has often happened, it is a recipe that would have helped Italians abroad to keep the tradition alive…by turning it upside down. To be honest, the information regarding this historical path is extremely contradictory and fragmented, so there are not too many certainties.
The Italian concept of baked pasta, different from the Oven Baked Spaghetti.
The fact that Italians do not love baked spaghetti does not mean that pasta is not cooked in the oven in our country. Indeed, in Sunday lunches, during important dinners full of guests, it is very easy to find a huge pan of baked pasta at the center of the table to be shared. But then, what are the differences?
- The first, essential: the pasta is initially cooked, as always, in boiling water and salt and we complete it in the oven, where it can absorb the sauce, acquiring that browning that would be impossible to create otherwise.
- The second, important: the main format for Italian baked pasta is lasagne, closely followed by cannelloni. Both are almost always prepared exclusively in the oven, so it is a local Italian special dish.
Rigatoni, ziti, penne, tortiglioni and long pasta (more bucatini than spaghetti) also find a place in our ovens but strictly respecting the cooking method I have described previously. It is that we are really used to avoiding the traumatic event of “overcooked pasta”.
However, there is an Italian recipe that can resemble that of oven baked spaghetti: it is called spaghetti arrangiati and it has Apulian origin. The preparation is one-pot-way, but with regular spaghetti broken by hand and local ingredients; someone even ventures a pan-fried variant and, even if it horrifies many gourmet, it is much appreciated when cooking respects the right times (especially, you guessed it, pasta’s one).
Italian-style baked spaghetti, is that a possible option?
If you were to ask for baked spaghetti in an Italian hostelry, you would probably find faces with a question mark in the shape of their head in front of you. But that does not mean you could not be satisfied.
Indeed, there is a very quick, tasty and light recipe often proposed by mothers to the most whimsical children. The secret is always the same: cook half of the pasta in salted water and the other half in the oven and do the same with the sauce. Initially prepare it in a pan with garlic browned in boiling oil. Another must: the addition of mozzarella and not just simple cheese.
Basically, the oven is conceived only to perfect the recipe and make it more mixed, strong and crunchy; but it is never a single option for an Italian pasta dish, which has too many promises to be kept like the oven baked spaghetti.