In setting out to write this recipe for Pasta al Duomo, an architectural marvel of baked pasta with summer vegetables named in honor of Florence's famous cathedral, my mind strays to snippets of lyrics attributed to another Catholic icon, Evita Peron. "It won't be easy, you'll think it strange when I try to explain how I feel, that I still need your love after all that I've done."
My guilt is not of the fascist, pillage-the-national-treasury variety; rather, I too feel I've been "running around trying everything new" what with my foraging, canning, sausage making and the like. But now, with this elaborate and beguiling recipe for Pasta al Duomo, "I've kept my promise. Don't keep your distance."
Put aside any thought of crying for Argentina, the only cries will be those of delight and admiration when a majestic Pasta al Duomo is presented at your next candle light supper. You'll feel mighty and proud presenting this flawless dome of alternating bands of zucchini and yellow summer squash crowned with a millefiori of carrots. (Click here for the how-to video on carrot flowers — this YouTube video has had 31,000 views and counting!)
It's been ages since my first encounter with a vegetable and pasta mold. So long ago, some place on the Upper East Side with a big bunch of friends in the 1980s. By some stroke of providence I managed to order a perfect half-sphere composed of ribbons of zucchini filled with creamy pasta. An indelible impression was formed and now, all these years later, the time has come to master this concept.
Readers will have noticed I've gotten hand-made pasta fever of late, more of that "running around trying everything new." Naturally the only cure is to amass as many vintage cookbooks on the subject as possible. Hence my new The Joy of Pasta by Joe Famularo and Louise Imperiale (Barron's, 1983) provided some blue prints to erect my own Basilica-topper.
Two more reasons this recipes deserves top-tier status on Spectacularly Delicious: for maximum results at least three pieces of specialized kitchenware are called for: a mandolin slicer to make perfectly uniform, slim slices of squash; a zester with with the side channel cutter to make the carrot flowers, and my brand new, basil-toned, twelve quart 14" diameter Staub cocotte. A cast-iron monster, it's really ever-so-much more useful in this extra-large size. But it is really heavy. Like, I mean really heavy.
Here's the Hollywood pitch: The confident cook expertly lines a well-buttered mold with carrot flowers and squash ribbons. A masterful toss of an comely pasta with all sorts of tasty goodies is carefully spooned into the vibrantly striped walls of the mold. The glamorous green cocotte serves as the deep bain marie to solidify the structure. The climax is turning out the Duomo onto a platter and scattering mini-heirloom tomatoes of all colors and shapes at its base.
Come colder months, you might be inclined to serve a luscious marinara on the side to pass with each slice. But now, at the peak of summer's best heirloom and even more unusual varieties of tomatoes (I mean really, are these truly seeds rescued from near-extinction or is some mad botanist busy at work creating strange new strains?).
No matter. A slice of Pasta al Duomo with a rainbow necklace of miniature tomatoes is Spectacular.
Click here for the recipe for Pasta al Duomo (Baked Pasta Mold)