Baked Ziti with Spinach and Veal
- 2 bundles farm spinach, trimmed, washed and dried, chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound ground veal
- 1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 large shallots or 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 to 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons very thinly sliced fresh sage (a small handful of leaves)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup dry white wine or chicken stock-in-a-box
- 1 pound ziti, whole wheat pasta or whole grain ziti
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 rounded tablespoons flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- Freshly grated nutmeg, to your taste
- About 1 1/2 cups grated Italian fontina (recommended: Fontina Val D'Aosta or 6 ounces Gruyere cheese)
- About 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta.
In the skillet heat the olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, over medium to medium-high heat. Add the ground veal and lightly brown and crumble, then add the chopped carrot, shallots, garlic, and sage and season with salt and a little pepper and cook to soften carrots and onions, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, add the wine and turn the heat down a bit to simmer gently.
Meanwhile, drop the pasta in salted water and undercook by 2 minutes from package cooking directions.
In a saucepot over medium to medium-high heat, add butter and melt, whisk in the flour for 1 minute then whisk in the milk, bring to a bubble and season with more salt than pepper and a few grates of nutmeg. When the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon taste and adjust nutmeg and pepper to your liking.
Add the spinach to the veal until it is wilted and incorporate, then stir together the pasta, veal mixture, and sauce. Pour the mixture into a casserole and top with the cheeses. Cool, cover and store for a make-ahead meal.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the casserole on a baking sheet to catch the drips and bake in a hot oven until brown and bubbly, 35 to 45 minutes if reheating, 15 to 20 minutes, if not.