Baked Pasta Aragona Style  

The Tegame d’Aragona Tianu d'Aragona

 

The township of Aragona is situated about 10 miles north of Agrigento, between the Platani and Salso rivers. 

Agriculture and craftsmanship are the primary area’s economical resources. 

The county of Aragona was founded in 1606 by Baldassare III, Count of Comiso: Aragona was his mother’s name. 

The town became a commercial center for the production and trade of sulfur, extracted in an extended nearby area and for agricultural produces farmed in the county where the land is rich of minerals and water. 

Since the closing of all the sulfur mines, the economy is limited to farming and craftsman creations. 

This small town is rich with works of art, beautiful churches, princely buildings, picturesque panoramas, and the “Maccalube”. 

The Reserve Maccalube is a small hill outside the town, where the scenery resembles a lunar landscape, full of numerous geysers expelling cold water, clay and methane. 

The name, from the Arabic language, means “continuous changing” and in fact volcanoes are forming endlessly and water and mud puddles disappear, replaced by little new “volcanoes” from 2 to 6 feet high, changing the view all the time.   

However this town is famous for a pasta dish, The Tegame D’Aragona, Baked Pasta Aragonian Style, which is a noble and distant cousin of the baked ziti Sicilian style. This specialty is often prepared for the Easter dinner. 

The classic cut used are the rigatoni, meaning grooved,so more sauce will attach to the pasta or the mezzemaniche, a short version of the rigatoni; but if not available, penne rigate is a good substitute. 

This recipe calls for “tuma” which is a young sheep’s milk cheese. If it is not available, substitute with “primosale” or unsalted diced mozzarella or with fresh Provoletta. 

 

MAKES 4 to 6 SERVINGS

  INGREDIENTS 

 

 

For the Sauce  

  • · 3 tablespoons of olive oil  
  • · 1 large onion, minced  
  • · ¾ lb. ground beef  
  • · ½ glass of white wine  
  • · 1 can (12 oz.) tomato paste  
  • · 1 cup chopped peeled tomatoes  
  • · 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley  
  • · 1pinch of cinnamon (optional)  
  • · ½ lb. fresh or frozen peas  
  • · Salt and pepper to taste  

Other Essentials  

  • · 1 lb. Rigatoni  
  • · 3 eggs  
  • · ½ lb. diced tuma or any other mild soft cheese  
  • · 1 cup grated cheese  
  • · 2 tablespoons of oil to coat the pan  
  • · ¼ lb breadcrumbs for coating  
  • · 1 round pan non stick 9 ¾ “spring form  

 

PREPARATION 

 

The Sauce
In a 6 quarts sauce pot, over a medium heat, combine the olive oil and the onion; cook until onion is light golden in color.
 
Add the ground beef, stir continuously until it begins to brown, use a wooden spoon to mash any clumps of meat.  Add the wine and cook a few minutes to evaporate the alcohol.

Sauce Preparation

 

Dilute the tomato paste with 2 cups of water and stir it into the meat. Mix in the peeled tomatoes, the parsley and ½ teaspoon of salt. 
Sauce should be a little watery, if necessary add additional water to cover the meat.
Lower the flame and simmer for 50 minutes. Add peas, cinnamon (optional), salt and pepper to taste and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes.  

Let it rest a few minutes, then skim off any excessive fat and set the sauce aside. 

You can make the sauce a day ahead and keep refrigerated. 

  

The Pasta
In a large pot filled with an abundant amount of salted water, cook the pasta al dente, reducing the recommended cooking time by 4 minutes. 

In a large bowl beat the eggs, add ½ of the grated cheese and a little salt and pepper. 

 

 

Grease the mold or pan with olive oil and coat with breadcrumbs. 

When the pasta is ready, drain pasta and add to bowl with eggs. 

Toss and quickly mix thoroughly, until pasta is well coated. 

 

The Tianu d'Aragona

Pour a few tablespoons of sauce at bottom of the pan and make the first layer, using about one third of pasta; cover with 1/3 of the remaining sauce, top it with some tuma and sprinkle with grated cheese.
Build a second and a third layer and when you finish, top with remaining sauce, tuma and sprinkle with the left over breadcrumbs and cheese. 

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. A golden crust will appear to let you know that the “tianu” is ready.                                          

Let it stand for 5 minutes before carefully reversing the “Tiano D’Aragona” into a serving dish.  

Tiano di Aragona's Pasta

                                                                        

A perfect compliment to this dish is a Californian Napa Valley Merlot wine pleasant, smooth and with flavors of plums and cherries, or a bottle of Sicilian Don Antonio Morgante Nero di Avola, produced in the nearby hills of Aragona: both are ideal matches to this superb first course.