To do this you need an afternoon, as it is not a quick dinner! On the other hand, you could make it the day before, which is actually better, but I will tell you later about that. To start I cooked a pack of paccheri from Italian Foodies, then I drained them and cooled them under cold water.
In the meantime I made a vegetarian ragù, starting with a soffritto: finely chop 1 onion, 1carrot, 1 garlic clove, 2 stalks of celery with leaves and some Italian parsley. Sauté the vegetables with some olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Then add soy mince, vegetable stock and tomato passata and simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thick.
Make a white sauce (Besciamella) with milk, flour, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg: melt 100 g of salted butter in a saucepan, then add 100 g of plain flour and stir. Add 1.5 l of milk slowly (this needs more milk than usual as it needs to be a little runny), stirring constantly without making lumps, then simmer until the sauce thickens. At the end add freshly grated nutmeg, white pepper, and salt to taste.
Put the paccheri in a lasagna dish facing up and fill them with the ragù. I started from the centre to get them to stand up against each others, and yes, this is a bit fiddly!
Pour the white sauce on top of each tube.
Keep filling all the pasta, keeping the broken bits for the sides so that they can be rolled around whole paccheri.
Cover with the remaining sauce and plenty of freshly grated parmigiano.
Bake like for lasagne, and until golden on top, then serve!
When freshly made the paccheri will be soft and bend in the plates, (see photos) but if you leave them to cool and then heat them again the day after they will have more of a 'pie' consistency and can even be cut with a knife. Anyway, it doesn't matter how and when you eat them, they taste amazing!
Have a happy weekend!
Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©