Mince pasta dishes combine finely chopped or ground ingredients with pasta, the noodles that are a starchy staple of Italian cooking. Not all mince pastas are Italian style, and the minced ingredient is not always red meat — an assumption sometimes made due to the association of the word "mince" with mincemeat. Fish or vegetables may be the minced foods. The final dish usually takes one of two forms: pasta with sauce on top of it or a casserole.
While mince pasta dishes differ, the size of the pieces of chopped food is about the same in all. The cooking terms "mince" and "dice" are sometimes confused. Diced foods tend to be cubes with sides of 0.125 to 0.25 inch (3.175 to 6.35 mm); minced ingredients are smaller and irregularly shaped. The term "chopped" typically refers to larger chunks of food.
Different types of minced food call for different types of pasta. The weight and thickness of the ingredients generally correspond to the size of the pasta. A mix of minced vegetables, such as garlic, onions, and celery, works well with a medium-weight noodle such as spaghetti. If a lightweight meat like prosciutto is used along with vegetables, the bowtie-shaped farfalle effectively catches the minced ingredients in its pockets. Sauces with ground meat usually take sturdy pasta shapes such as rigatoni.
Pasta bolognese is a famous Italian mince pasta. Ground meat — usually beef, though sometimes a combination of beef and pork — is browned on a stove. Minced onions and garlic are cooked separately in butter and oil. These ingredients are then simmered with minced carrots and pureed tomatoes for an hour or more, and this bolognese sauce is served over a sturdy type of hot pasta.
Other mince pastas meet the requirements of a vegetarian diet. The sauce for one Indian-style dish contains a mince of garlic, onions, jalapeño peppers and cilantro as well as chopped tomatoes and spinach. The vegetables are sautéed in olive oil and served on top of freshly cooked spaghetti.
Sometimes minced ingredients go inside pasta rather than over it. Types of dry pasta that are strong enough for minces include large shells, manicotti, and cannelloni. Some cooks like to prepare their own pasta along with the filling and can make shapes that will be fully closed, such as ravioli and tortellini.
One mince that works inside any of these pasta types consists of garlic, ground beef, and basil. These ingredients are cooked in olive oil for about three minutes. They are then drained, cooled, and mixed with egg yolk, ricotta cheese, and Parmesan cheese.
Mince pastas also come in the form of casseroles. After the pasta is cooked in boiling water, it is usually placed in a deep dish along with some mix of vegetables, meat, and dairy products. Sometimes creamy soups are added for extra flavor. The ingredients are stirred in the dish for uniform consistency, and the mince pasta then bakes in an oven for about 30 minutes to 45 minutes.