Macaroni and Cheese: Part III

Commence drooling (photo from Visitbuffaloniagara.wordpress.com)

For a bunch of years when I was a kid, my parents would take me and my sister to Darien Lake for my birthday each August. The trip would generally start with dad dropping my mother, sister and I to the hotel to hit the pool (my father, both a freakin’ genius and the master of disaster, would make a couple of sales calls so he could justifiably write the entire trip off as a business expense). The next day we’d go to Darien Lake, but the real treat of the trip came the night we got to town. Dinner at Chef’s.

If you’ve never been, Chef’s is a Buffalo, N.Y. landmark. It got its start as a hole in the wall Italian restaurant on the corner of Seneca and Chicago Streets with four items on the menu — spaghetti, ravioli, and veal and chicken caccitores. By the late 1980s when we were going, the menu had expanded to include a couple of other items, including the lasagna I would always order. By the time I got to college, the restaurant had expanded from about 15 tables to a much larger dining space that was still always full. The menu grew with it, incorporating one its most popular dishes — spaghetti parmigiana.

Spaghetti parm is where macaroni and cheese and baked pasta meet. The key to this working is not using a lot of sauce. The egg helps the pasta bind , while the cheese caps the pasta during the baking process to prevent drying out. Ideally, the pasta in the middle and bottom of the pan should be moist and tender. It took a while to get this proportion of pasta, egg, cheese and sauce down. I’m not entirely sure it’s as good as Chef’s, but it does the trick.

Spaghetti Parmigiana
By Jared Paventi

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup parmagiano reggiano
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 quart marinara sauce

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease or butter a 9×13 baking dish.

Cook spaghetti according to the instructions on the package and warm the sauce through.

Drain the pasta and add to a mixing bowl with the egg and parmesan. Toss well to coat the spaghetti. Add two ladles of sauce to the mixing bowl and toss the pasta to coat well (add more if necessary). Add half the pasta to the baking dish and top with mozzarella. Add remaining pasta and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 20 minutes.

Cut into squares and serve with the remaining sauce in a gravy dish so that people can use as little or as much as they would like.

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