Pasta is usually boiled before it is baked in al forno dishes. This double cooking means that it is served soft, not with the firm al dente consistency that Italians customarily prefer in pasta dishes.
History and culture
Northern Italy has a tradition of wood-burning ovens and open-flame grills that continues to this day. A wood-fired oven and al forno dishes are a feature of many Italian restaurants. Brick and clay ovens are a key feature of cuisines of the Mediterranean and Middle East, with wood being the main fuel for many parts of Europe for many centuries. A typical oven found in Italian restaurants is brick lined with an arched oven door, and a wooden board with a very long handle is used to place the food to be cooked in the centre of the oven.
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