Baked to perfection

Baked pastas provide comfort, high profit margins and great taste.

Published in FSD Update

Noodles

To ensure you have a delicious baked pasta dish, start with great ingredients. “Have respect for the ingredients and don’t mess with them too much; the simpler, the better,” says Auburn’s Cruz, who makes his pasta from scratch. “There are great fresh pasta products on the market but nothing like homemade; and making pasta is a simple process that can be learned very easily—you just need flour, eggs and salt.” Cruz, who often freezes batches for future use, recommends parboiling the pasta first to ensure proper cooking during the baking process.

If you don’t have the resources to make pasta from scratch, you can also use dry pasta, like UC Berkeley’s Shen does. She recommends boiling the noodles in plain water to limit sodium and shocking if holding the pasta for future use. “Don’t overcook the pasta during the boil—keep it al dente so that when it absorbs the sauce, it still keeps its integrity,” she says.

Similarly, Kowalski cautions chefs to evenly blend all ingredients together so that each portion contains the same flavors and isn’t missing a component of the dish. “We pay special attention to this when we test the recipe and make adjustments as needed before it goes on the menu,” Kowalski says.

Michigan State’s Cruz offers a daily pasta bake using 10 different shapes of pasta to make more than 25 dishes that are rotated in a four-week cycle. He also does extensive recipe testing with his culinary team.

Presentation

Presentation goes a long way in selling baked pastas, so consider using smaller, individual pans, as Shen does, who bakes pastas in 2-inch hotel pans, ovals, squares and 8-by-10-inch pans with handles. “Smaller pans with different shapes and handles look less institutional and more upscale,” Shen says.

Likewise, Kowalski prepares the pasta before transferring to decorative Bon Chef pans and baking, and Auburn’s Cruz serves his cannelloni in small cast-iron skillets hot from the oven. The added benefit of individual pans is the ability to “keep the pasta piping hot and oozing cheese,” adds Cruz, who plates baked pastas in single-serve oval casserole dishes. The speed of service means Cruz can feed almost 3,000 people for lunch with items that were batch cooked beforehand—all in front of the customer.

However, even if you decide not to portion baked pastas individually, size is still important. “You must ensure the vessel is the proper size, because if it’s too big the pasta will spread out during the cooking process and will not hold the desired shape,” Cruz warns.

“Another important aspect is a nice, golden brown, bubbly top when it comes out of the oven, which really enhances the taste and presentation,” Kowalski adds.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Italian food hall chain Eataly is making plans for a 2018 initial public offering in its home country, according to a report this week in Financial Times.

The company plans to list shares on the Italian stock exchange in Milan “as early as next year,” Eataly Executive Chairman Andrea Guerra told Financial Times .

Eataly is eager to expand the presence of its massive Italian food emporiums in the U.S., which have helped spur the growing food hall trend . The company has five locations here, with two in New York City and one each in Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. Financial...

Industry News & Opinion

Students staffing the foodservice department at Rutgers University will soon get an hourly pay bump, as the New Brunswick, N.J., university is raising its wage for student workers to $11 an hour, philly.com reports.

The increase will go in effect Jan. 1 and will impact 13,000 students.

The fight to raise wages at the school was spearheaded by student group United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), which is continuing to push the university to increase student wages to $15.

The fight for a $15 wage for student workers has spread at schools throughout the country,...

Industry News & Opinion

After shutting down 265 schools due to ongoing wildfires, the Los Angeles Unified School District kept three schools open on Friday and Saturday to provide meals for students and their families, the Los Angeles Times reports.

At one of the schools, employees and volunteers handed out around 100 meals on Friday and 270 meals on Saturday. The meals included items such as dragonfruit punch, raisins, bananas, sunflower kernels, whole-grain cinnamon graham crackers, sunflower seed butter and fat-free chocolate milk.

Around 80% of students in the district come from low-income...

Sponsored Content
Breakfast chili

From Bush’s Best®.

While decadent plates of French toast and pancakes stacked high will always be breakfast favorites, it’s undeniable that savory breakfast items are on the rise in many foodservice operations. Menu items such as avocado toast and omelets aren’t new, of course, but consumers’ preferences for better-for-you food choices, along with their desire for global flavors, are driving this trend.

According to a recent Technomic Breakfast report, consumer demand for vegetarian ingredients has led to an increase of ingredients like soy, tofu, beans, lentils, seeds,...

FSD Resources