Updated Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Baked pasta is classic comfort food and easy to make. But it's important to follow two basic rules.
First, the pasta should not be cooked more than an hour before baking and serving, or it will lose its toothsome bite.
Second, it is "importantissimo" to undercook the pasta in the boiling water so that the finished dish still has real texture. You want the noodle really al dente when removed from the boiling water, because it will also be baked with sauce in the oven.
This dish can be made just as easily with any shape of pasta. I start with a simple filling of veal, lamb and prosciutto cotto, egg and herbs. Fill (or coat, depending on the pasta shape) the partially cooked pasta with the filling, cover with tomato-based sauce, top with cheese, then bake.
After 25 minutes in the oven, if it's not quite crispy golden brown on top, throw it under the broiler for some color.
This is the kind of dish that can live in your fridge for a few days. Carve off a little bit every night then throw it back. It works just as well on day three.
James Beard Award-winner Mario Batali, a Seattle native, is a chef, restaurateur, author and TV personality. His latest book is "Molto Batali."