Creamy Baked Penne
A splash of cream gives this sauce a little extra body, as does halloumi cheese. This cheese is as creamy as mozzarella in taste, but is firmer and has a higher melting point, so it stays intact even after baking. The combination of black mustard seeds and turmeric balances that richness nicely.
Creamy Baked Penne
4 to 6
Lior Lev Sercarz, from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz
1½ teaspoons dried onion slices (3 grams)
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds (2 grams)
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds (3 grams)
2 teaspoons ground turmeric (2 grams)
Finely grind the onion and cumin together and immediately mix with the whole mustard seeds and turmeric.
1 pound penne
- 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste (2⁄3 cup)
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces halloumi cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, preferably aged, finely grated
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Put one-quarter of the spice blend in a large pot of cold water and generously season it with salt; it should be as salty as seawater. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for a minute less than the package instructs for al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta.
Scrape the tomato paste into a 3-quart baking dish. Add the oil, cream, 2⁄3 cup of the reserved cooking water, and the remaining spice blend. Stir until very smooth, add the pasta, and fold until evenly coated. If the mixture seems dry, add more pasta water, a little at a time, until the noodles are evenly coated in sauce.
Add the halloumi and half the Parmesan. Fold to distribute everything evenly, then smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan evenly on top.
- Bake until the cheese melts and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes and serve hot.
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