I thought we'd close out the year with a hearty, rustic, warm-you-from-the-inside baked casserole. It's a cold weather crowd-pleaser made of alternating layers of broken farro pasta, sliced potatoes, two cheeses, and mustardy shredded cabbage. The sort of thing you can prep a day or two ahead of time, then bake when convenient. I suspect you might be able to tell from the photo - its the sort of food that pairs magnificently with a pint and a stormy night.
Let's break it down a bit. One of the things that works for me here is the play between the starchiness of the pasta/potatoes and the bite of the mustard. You can, of course, adjust the amount of mustard to your liking if you make this more than once. The amount I use here is straight up the middle - it comes across as neither meek or assertive once the casserole is baked. But keep in mind, the type of mustard you will also be a factor. I guess what I'm trying to say - feel free to adjust to your tastes.
Like most casseroles or lasagnas, you'll have a bit of a project on your hands, but in the end there's lots of food to enjoy. It took the two of us the better part of a week to finish it off. If you have kids, I imagine a version with a blend of whole wheat/regular macaroni elbows could be a more kid-friendly version. The original idea for the recipe actually came from a buckwheat casserole I came across while flipping through in The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook. She used a buckwheat pizzoccheri and savoy cabbage. The premise is brilliant and there are a thousand ways you can mix it up. Another alternative I've been thinking of...for those of you with The Essential New York Times Cookbook....I made the Brussels Sprouts "Slaw" with Mustard Butter the other night. I can imagine using that in place of the cabbage here if you're more of a sprout fan, or if that is what you happen to have on hand.
I'm spending the next few days looking after my nephew. Hopefully we'll have some adventures to share with you - today involved hot chocolate, buffalo spotting, and the beach. Enjoy the last of the holiday season - I'm certainly looking forward to a fresh year of recipes and stories with all of you. I've got a fantastically good noodle soup to share with you when we kick off the new year. xo -h
Baked Farro Pasta Recipe
You can use pretty much any green cabbage here - savoy, napa, or even shredded brussels sprouts if you have some to use up. On the pasta front I call for farro tagliatelle, but you can substitute a wide range of pasta shapes and types. For example, fettuccine, penne, broken lasagne, etc. And you can experiment beyond farro - whole wheat pastas, buckwheat, spelt, they'll all work nicely here. Lastly, I don't hammer this point to death down below, but do your best to salt/season each of the casserole components as you go. Each should taste great on its own.
1 pound small waxy potatoes, for example Yukon gold, fingerling, Yellow Finn
fine grain sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
2 medium leeks, trimmed, thinly sliced, well washed
3 garlic gloves, minced
1/2 medium head of cabbage (about 1 lb / 16 oz / 450g), cored and shredded
1/2 cup / 120 ml vegetable broth or water
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
16 fresh sage leaves
12 ounces / 340 g dried farro tagliatelle, broken into 3-inch segments
4 ounces soft-rind, creamy cheese, cut into tiny cubes (for example, I used this Ardrahan farmhouse cheese, but Stracchino, fontina, or tallegio could all work too)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for cooking the pasta.
In the meantime, in a separate pan, cover the potatoes with water and a few big pinches of salt. Simmer until just tender, somewhere between 30 - 45 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain well, then slice into 1/4-inch rounds, toss gently with a bit of salt. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until soft, a few minutes. Stir in the garlic. Stir in the cabbage, and then the broth. Season with salt and cook, covered, for a few minutes, or until the cabbage is tender. Remove from heat and stir in the mustard, then 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, and half of the slivered sage leaves. Taste, adjust the seasoning if needed, and set aside. It should taste good on its own, with an assertive mustard flavor at this point.
Cook the pasta in generously salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Generously butter a 9 x 13-inch (23cm x 33cm) baking dish, or equivalent. Arrange 1/2 of the noodles evenly in the bottom of the dish. Layer half the cabbage mixture, half of the potatoes, 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, and half of the cubed cheese on top of the noodles. Arrange the remaining noodles over the cheese and cover with the remaining cabbage, potatoes, and cubed cheese. Finish with the remaining Parmesan and slivered sage.
At this point you can cover and refrigerate the casserole for up to a couple days, or bake in a 400F degree oven for 45 - 60 minutes - until the top is nicely golden, and it is hot throughout. Serve hot.
Serves 6 - 8.
Prep time: 60 minutes - Cook time: 60 minutes