Showing posts with label ricotta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ricotta. Show all posts

November 11, 2011

Ricotta Polenta with Fennel Pollen



Ingredients:
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen*
salt
freshly ground black pepper



Directions:

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the polenta, salt, pepper, and pollen and stir until it starts to thicken, 2-5 minutes. Simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the  ricotta.

*I found this at an Italian market


My thoughts:
This recipe is so good, creamy and easy, everyone should make it this weekend. It seems simple but the ricotta adds a ton of flavor and texture to the polenta.

October 22, 2010

Lasagna with Homemade Basil Noodles and Sausage-Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

for the sauce:
2 lb bulk Italian sausage (casing removed if necessary)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cubanelle pepper, minced
56 oz canned coarse ground tomatoes
14 oz canned diced tomatoes
6 oz tomato paste
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
red wine (optional)
10 basil leaves
salt
pepper

for the pasta:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup finely minced basil
3 eggs

for the filling:
1 lb ricotta
1/2 lb frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cup mixed Italian cheese*
1 egg
salt
pepper

extra shredded cheese for sprinkling

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Start the sauce first. Brown the sausage in a large, heavy pot (I used this dutch oven) breaking up any large pieces. When nearly fully cooked, drain off as much fat as possible. Add the onion, garlic and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic, salt and pepper. Simmer as you make the pasta. It should reduce by about an inch and half or so. Add wine if desired periodically. Stir occasionally. When the sauce is cooked, stir in the basil leaves.


for the pasta:
While the sauce is bubbling away, pour the flour onto a clean counter top. Create a well on top and add the eggs. Knead together until a ball forms then work in the basil. Knead until a flexible dough forms. Divide into 9 equal balls. Roll through a pasta machine according to the package instructions. We rolled ours out through #5, rolling at each level twice on this machine. Hang until you are ready to use them.

for the filling:
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

assembly:
Ladle a even layer of sauce over the bottom of a standard 9x13 inch pan, covering it thoroughly. Arrange three noodles in a single layer. Top with 1/2 of the cheese mixture then ladle more sauce on top. Repeat. Top for the remaining three noodles and cover with sauce.


Sprinkle with cheese. Cover in foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake an additional 30 minutes or until heated through. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes before slicing.



*I used a shredded six cheese blend that included Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Fontina, Romano and aged Asiago.


My thoughts:
This was a fun weekend food project. We planned out what we wanted to do and was on sauce and filling duty while Matt rolled the pasta out. It was surprisingly easy! Why has it taken so long for us to make fresh pasta for the first time. It didn't take as long as I would have thought and I think with practice we will get every faster. I think lasagna was a good first homemade pasta experiment because it was not only delicious (I loved the hint of basil) but we didn't have to bother boiling the noodles before using them because they were going to be baked buried in sauce. It sounds silly but eliminating that one step was great, I went right from finishing the noodles to layering to popping it in the oven with no lag time. Let me tell you, it was a spectacular lasagna. The sauce was complexly flavored, the noodles were awesome and well, we liked it so much, we had it for dinner twice vs. our usual leftovers for lunch/frozen for later new food for dinner routine. Yum. I already want to make it again.

Note: while it looks like a lot of sauce, I promise you will end up using all of it!


If you use sausage in your pasta dishes, enter this Johnsonville contest.

February 26, 2010

Eggplant & Fennel Calzones


Ingredients:
prepared pizza dough
2 Italian eggplants, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
3 tablespoons Parmesan
1 tablespoon minced basil
1 tablespoon minced oregano
salt
freshly ground black pepper


warm tomato dipping sauce

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the eggplant slices in single layer. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until they are soft and cooked through but not browned. Allow to cool slightly. Turn the oven up to 400. In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, Parmesan, and mozzarella. Divide the dough into 8 equal chunks for individual (about hand sized) calzones or 4 equal chunks for larger calzones. Roll each one into a 5-6 inch round. Add a single layer of fennel and then 2 (or 4) tablespoons of the cheese mixture and top with slices of eggplant in one half of each round, leaving a 1/4 inch border. Fold the dough over to form a half moon shape and pinch shut. Repeat until all are filled and pinched shut. Bake on a pizza stone or on baking sheets for about 20 minutes or until golden and hot all the way through. Serve immediately.

Refrigerate leftover calzones in an air tight container or resealable bag overnight. To reheat: allow them to sit on the counter while the oven preheats to 350. Bake until cooked through.

My thoughts:
I found some lovely Italian eggplants and a pristine bulb of fennel at, of all places, H Mart, and immediately began trying think of interesting and new ways to use the two together. I can't say that calzones leapt immediately to mind but I had ricotta and mozzarella and of course, flour and yeast so I thought I'd give it a shot. I am glad I did, it was so good! Slightly more upscale and subtle and the usual calzone.

I discovered the baking the eggplant trick when I was developing recipes for my upcoming cookbook and it really does result in a velvety texture in the final dish. The fennel stays somewhat crisp but not so crisp that when you bite into it the fennel falls out of the calzone and burns your chin.

February 20, 2009

Chicken-Spinach Meatball Pasta Bake



Ingredients:
1 lb shells, cooked to package instructions
10-12 oz ricotta
4 oz sliced fresh mozzarella

sauce:
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
28 oz canned ground tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano or Italian herb mix
2 tablespoons olive oil


meatballs:
1 lb ground chicken
1/2 cup frozen spinach, defrosted
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano or Italian herb mix
1 egg or 2 egg yolks
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
salt
pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, mix together the cheese mixture ingredients. Set aside. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Saute the onion and garlic until softened and fragrant. Add the tomatoes and spices and simmer on low. In a bowl, knead together all of the meatball ingredients. Form into small meatballs. Place on a broiler pan and broil, turning once, until pretty much cooked through. Place the meatballs in the sauce and continue to simmer about 5 minutes. Toss the cooked pasta and the sauce together. Pour half of the mixture in a 13x9 baking dish. Dot with ricotta. Top with remaining sauce. Bake, covered in foil, for about 10 minutes, then remove the foil and cook an additional 10 minutes or until bubbly.





My thoughts:
This a meal that was sprung from the need to use up some ingredients. I picked up some ground chicken for 99 cents that on its sell-by date and had bit of ricotta and mozzarella leftover from other recipes that needed to be used up. I also had a bag of herbs that a friend of the family brought back from Italy that I hadn't tried yet. I don't know much Italian but I am fairly confident that the mix includes oregano, basil, summer savory, and thyme. I was really happy with the end result. The meatballs and sauce had a ton of flavor and the leftovers were just was tasty as the meal was fresh. Perfect for a cozy evening at home.

November 06, 2008

Butternut Squash & Swiss Chard White Lasagna





Ingredients:
1 medium to large butternut squash, sliced lengthwise and seeds removed
1/4 cup Parmesan
1 lb lasagna noodles
olive oil

for the filling:
1 large bunch Swiss chard, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
15 oz ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg


for the sauce:
3 cups milk
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt
white pepper




Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. Brush the butternut squash with the additional olive oil. Place cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until fork tender. Allow to cool slightly. Scoop out the insides. Mash. It should yield about 3 1/2 to 4 cups of squash. Set aside.


Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain and arrange in a single layer on baking sheets until ready for use.

For the filling: Heat the oil in a large skillet. Saute the onion until fragrant, then add the chard and sage. Saute until the chard is soft. Allow to cool slightly then combine with the ricotta, nutmeg, salt, pepper and paprika.

butternut squash & swiss chard lasagna

For the sauce: In a medium pan, melt the butter. Add the flour along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, garlic and whisk until smooth. Add the milk and whisk together until slightly thickened. Stir in Parmesan.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 375. Spread some sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan. Top with noodles then layer with a layer of squash then the chard-ricotta mixture and drizzle with sauce.

butternut squash & swiss chard lasagna

Repeat until the pan is full, then top with a final layer of noodle, the remaining sauce and Parmesan.

butternut squash & swiss chard lasagna

Bake covered for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly. Allow to sit about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

butternut squash & swiss chard lasagna



My thoughts:
I had never made a non-tomato based lasagna until this one but it turned out really well! I just sort of made it up as I went along to use up some Swiss chard I didn't have earmarked for anything special and a butternut squash I've had for ages but the flavors came together wonderfully. It is a great way to use seasonal ingredients in different way than they are normally found. It also freezes well.



Note: To cut down on some of the prep time you could roast the squash the night before and just let it warm up a bit while you make the sauce before spreading. However, the squash roasting is pretty hands off so it is easy to do that while you are making the cheese mixture.

I don't buy into the whole "no boil" lasagna noodles are just as good as the regular kind propaganda at all. It doesn't take that long to boil them and you will be in the kitchen anyway so why not just boil the noodles? I have had success freezing boiled lasagna and large shell shaped pasta for future use. I just freeze them in a single layer before transferring them to a freezer container

September 25, 2008

Baked Ziti with Rapini and Chicken Meatballs




Ingredients:
1 lb ziti, cooked to package instructions

cheese mixture:
15 oz ricotta
1/4 cup shredded Italian cheese
10 oz rapini, chopped and steamed
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg

sauce:
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
28 oz canned ground tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

meatballs:
1 lb ground chicken
1 slice sandwich bread, crusts removed
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup grated Italian cheese*
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg
1/2 onion, minced
matzo meal or bread crumbs
salt
pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, mix together the cheese mixture ingredients. Set aside. In a large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil. Saute the onion and garlic until softened and fragrent. Add the tomatoes and simmer on low. Meanwhile, put the milk and the bread in a saucepan, heat low. Mash bread with fork after it has absorbed all milk. Remove from heat and cool. In a bowl, knead together the chicken, basil, onion, vinegar, egg, olive oil, cheese and the bread/milk mush, salt and pepper. Pour the matzo meal in a shallow bowl. Shape the meat into medium sized balls and roll all sides in the matzo meal. Place on a broiler pan and broil, turning once, until pretty much cooked through. Place the meatballs in the sauce and continue to simmer about 5 minutes. Toss the cooked pasta and the sauce together. Pour half of the mixture in a 13x9 baking dish. Dot with cheese filling. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with additional shredded cheese if desired. Bake, covered in foil, for about 10 minutes, then remove the foil and cook an additional 10 minutes or until bubbly.



*I actually used this which is a mixture of Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Fontina, Romano and Asiago but any one of those cheese would work well.

My thoughts:
This is the latest result of my baked pasta tinkering. We had a pound of ground chicken I wanted to use and thought it might be fun to make meatballs. The great thing about ground chicken is that it is really easy to flavor with herbs and sauces and it is much lighter tasting than even really low fat ground beef.

Tossing the meatballs into a baked pasta dish was a stroke of genius, a nice change from our usual but not more time consuming or fussy. I also liked that if I didn't want a lot of meat, I could just take less meatballs since the meat wasn't evenly distributed in the sauce. Perfect if you live in a household where some people are more meat eaters than others. We love, love rapini and adding it to the dish makes this a one-dish meal.

The recipe is also very budget friendly-it easily feeds 4-6 and uses simple, inexpensive ingredients. Ground chicken is only about $2.50lb and you can't get more affordable than a dish that incorperates dried pasta and canned tomatoes.

This dish also reheats exceptionally well the next day.

April 04, 2008

Eggplant Rollatini with Rapini


Ingredients:
For the sauce:
58 oz canned coarse ground (or crushed) tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt
pepper

for the eggplant:
2 eggplants, striped* and sliced in 1/4 inch wide slices
1 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 egg, beaten


for the filling:
1 bunch rapini, coasely chopped and steamed
15 oz ricotta
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
salt
pepper


canola oil
Parmesan for sprinkling


Directions:
WARNING: this recipe make a double batch of eggplant rollatini or about 8 servings, one to freeze and save, one to eat now.

First, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Saute the onion and garlic until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil and simmer on low until heated through. Spread a layer of sauce over the bottom of two 9x13 inch pans. Set aside.

Second, mix together all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside. Pour the remaining egg into a shallow bowl. Then mix together the matzo meal and the oregano in a second shallow bowl. Coat both sides of each eggplant slice in egg, then dip both sides in the matzo meal. Heat about a 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet. Preheat oven to 350. I suggest coating all of the slices and stacking them on a plate so they are ready for frying before you fry your first batch. Fry each slice in the hot oil, about 3 minutes on each side, until golden. I was able to fry about 5 slices at a time in a single layer with ease. Immediately remove the slices to a paper towel lined plate, place another paper towel on top and allow to drain. Meanwhile, place the next batch of the eggplant in the pan and fry. While they are frying, place about a tablespoon of filling on top of one of the cooked eggplant slices from the first batch. Wrap the edges of the eggplant to enclose the filling. If the slice is on the small size you might end up with something that looks more like an eggplant taco than a complete circle. That's okay. Place the eggplant rollatini seam side down on the baking pan. Repeat for remaining eggplant slices. By the end, both of the 9x13 inch pans should be filled with a single layer of the rolls. Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan. Cover one pan with foil and bake 30 minutes or until bubbly, remove foil and cook 5 additional minutes. Serve over pasta if desired. Cover the remaining pan (I like to use this freezable Pyrex container with lid) tightly and freeze. The night before you want to eat the frozen portion, place in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. The next evening bake according the above directions, adding a few additional minutes in the oven if the food is not totally defrosted.


Tip: The eggplant slices should be still warm when you roll them, if they are cold, they have a tendency to crack during folding. I found that by the time I got the next batch of slices frying, the first batch was cool enough to handle. If I worked quickly, stopping once to flip those that were frying, I could fill one batch in the time it took the next to cook. If you would rather not do two things at once, I suggest that after you drain the slices you cover them to keep them warm until you are ready to fill.




*Peeled in alternating strips. This helps the eggplant maintain its shape while remaining malleable.




My thoughts:
Rollatini is sort of a vegetarian version of involtini (meat rolls) that is a fun alternative to eggplant parmesan. It seems like more of a winter dish than one for early Spring but it has been freakishly cold and rainy so I've been sneaking some bubbly and warm from the oven dinners in while I still can.

As part of a recent assignment, I've been experimenting and developing recipes that have at least one component that can be made ahead of time. This recipe is a little more involved than what I plan to use for the project but the results were so delicious I couldn't help but share it with you. It is a bit of work, but none of it is difficult and at the end you have two days worth of meals, one to eat now and one that simply needs reheating. I know a lot of people fear frying but in this case it is actually rather simple, the eggplant isn't totally submerged in the oil so it is easy to flip the slices without splashing, making it more of an exercise in pan frying than deep frying. Just remember to keep the oil hot and drain the eggplant slices (on both sides!) immediately so they don't soak up any oil while cooling. I added the rapini to sneak a little extra bit of vegetable into the mix and I am glad I did, the slight bitterness really really brightens the tomato sauce and keeps the cheese/eggplant combination from slipping into blandness.

March 06, 2008

Baked Penne with Four Cheeses




Ingredients:

12 oz short tubular pasta like penne or ziti

for the sauce:
3/4 lb ground beef
32 oz can tomatoes in puree, chopped*
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon oregano
pepper


for the cheese mixture:
15 ounce ricotta cheese
5 oz frozen chopped spinach
1 egg
4 oz grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz asiago, grated
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg


for sprinkling
mozzarella cheese, finely shredded



Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. Cook pasta until almost al dente. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients of the cheese mixture. Set aside. Heat oil in large saucepan. Add onion, garlic and carrot, red pepper flakes and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. And the ground beef and sauté until almost cooked through. Drain off any rendered fat if needed. Mix in tomato paste, tomato chunks in puree and oregano. Simmer until mixture thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, covered, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread a small amount of tomato sauce over bottom of the dish. Top with some pasta. Dot with cheese mixture. Top with more sauce. Repeat until all of the pasta, cheese and sauce is gone, ending with sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake until heated through, about 35-40 minutes. Remove the foil and cook about 2-3 minutes to brown the cheese on top. Allow to sit a few minutes before serving.

*I just stick a long knife into the center of the can and slice towards the can to cut the tomatoes into manageable chunks. Much less messy than using a cutting board.



My thoughts:
Matt really likes baked ziti so I created this recipe to be sort of an über ziti using all of his favorite ingredients. I did use penne because we had it on hand, but any sort of short pasta would work. It is actually just as good in a vegetarian version, just omit the ground beef and follow the rest of the directions as is. I just added the beef because that's how Matt likes it, it is great either way. It can also be made the day ahead, all the way up to the actially baking, just cover and refrigerate it until you are ready to cook. I'd let it warm up a bit on the counter while you preheat the oven.

December 27, 2007

Four Cheese Rapini Lasagna


Ingredients:
1 lb lasagna noodles
parmesan for sprinkling

for the cheese filling:
15 oz ricotta
3/4 cup steamed rapini*
3/4 cup shredded asiago
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

for the sauce:

1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 oz fresh mushrooms, roughly chopped


whole tomatoes, hand crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil the lasagna noodles until almost al dente. Arrange the boiled noodles in a single layer on cookie sheets until assembly. Meanwhile, stir together all of the cheese filling ingredients until uniform. Set aside. Then, heat the oil in a large saute pan and add the onions, garlic, carrots and mushrooms. Saute until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomatoes and turn the heat down low. Simmer for at least 1 hour. You can cook it longer if you have the time, the flavor improves with more cooking, but an hour yields a perfectly tasty sauce. Ladle some of the sauce in the bottom of lasagna pan. Arrange the noodles in a single layer, overlapping as necessary. Spread with the cheese mixture and top with more sauce and another layer of noodles. Repeat until the pan is full, reserving some sauce to coat the final layer of noodle. Sprinkle with parmesan. Cover in foil and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake 15 additional minutes or until bubbly and hot. Allow to sit 5 minutes before serving.


*AKA broccoli rabe, rabe, broccoli raab, it is nearly identical to Chinese broccoli.



My thoughts:
Lasagna is always a favorite but sometimes it gets a little boring. This time we eliminated the meat sauce and used one of Matt's favorite vegetables, rapini. Rapini can be on the assertive side (some might say "bitter") but I really like it. The flavor is also tempered by the tomato and cheese.

November 05, 2007

Crab Stuffed Shells


Ingredients:
64 oz whole tomatoes (in juice), hand crushed
1/2 lb fresh lump crab meat
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, minced
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons grated Asiago (divided)
1/4 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella (divided)
1 egg
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt
white pepper
jumbo pasta shells, cooked and cooled

Directions:

In a large pan, heat the olive oil then add onions, carrots and garlic and saute just until the garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, cook 2-4 minutes or until it reduces slightly. Add the tomatoes, simmer for until sauce thickens, about 20-25 minutes. Stir in cream. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, 1/2 cup asiago, nutmeg, crab, salt, pepper and egg. Mix thoroughly. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Fill shells with 1 tablespoon of the cheese/crab mixture. Place filled shells in a single layer on the sauce. Shells can be placed very close together. Cover with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover in foil and bake in a preheated 350 oven for 1/2 hour, then remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese melts and the dish looks bubbly and hot.
My thoughts:
I think this is the very first time I've used fresh crabmeat for anything other than crabcakes. This is a nice twist on classic stuffed shells, the addition of crab really takes it to the next level. Matt came up with the idea when I was having some recipe ennui at the store this afternoon. Stuffed shells are a lot fun to make especially as a team, the mixing/stuffing parts go a lot faster.

March 28, 2007

Lasagna


Ingredients:
1 lb lasagna noodles
parmesan for sprinkling

for the cheese/spinach filling:
1 cup ricotta
3/4 cup chopped spinach (squeezed dry if previously frozen)
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

for the bolognese sauce:
1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 oz fresh mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 large can whole tomatoes, hand crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup parsley
salt and pepper


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil the lasagna noodles until almost al dente. Arrange the boiled noodles in a single layer on cookie sheets until assembly. Meanwhile, stir together all of the cheese/spinach filling ingredients until uniform. Set aside. Then,heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the beef and brown*. When beef has browned, add the onions, garlic, carrots and mushrooms. Saute until the vegetables are soft. Add the milk and cook over high heat until the milk has evaporated to prevent the sauce from becoming acidic after adding the wine. Add the wine and continue to cook over high heat until the liquid has evaporated. Add the tomatoes and turn the heat down low. Simmer for at least 1 hour. You can cook it longer if you have the time, the flavor improves with more cooking, but an hour yields a perfectly tasty sauce. Add the parsley and cook for 5 more minutes. Ladle some of the sauce in the bottom of lasagna pan. Arrange the noodles in a single layer, overlapping as necessary. Spread with the spinach/cheese mixture and top with more sauce and another layer of noodles. Repeat until the pan is full, reserving some sauce to coat the final layer of noodle. Sprinkle with parmesan. Cover in foil and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake 15 additional minutes or until bubbly and hot. Allow to sit 5 minutes before serving.

* At this point, if you didn't use low fat ground beef, you can drain the fat and then add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil.


My thoughts:
I think a lot of people, my husband included, think of lasagna as this big, drawn out affair. I don't see how it is any more difficult or time consuming than so-called "easier" baked pasta dishes like baked ziti, and layering noodles is quicker than stuffing shells or manicotti. The hands on time is really minimal: 2 minutes to stir the cheeses together, brief hands on time with the sauce followed by ignoring it while it simmers, about 10 minutes for assembly and you are done. The 1 hour bolognese sauce (which, in a secret Rachael Ray-esque way, I think of as bologn-easy sauce) tastes like you have been making it all day, and totally eliminates the need to cook any other sort of meat separate from the sauce. You do have to be around while the sauce cooks and the lasagna bakes but they honestly need little monitoring. Unbaked lasagna also freezes well, so you could make it ahead (or make two and freeze one) but I find that frozen lasagna often takes twice as long to bake, so it might be just as quick (if you don't mind some prep) to make it fresh.

March 12, 2007

Meatball & Spinach Calzones


Ingredients:
pizza dough, up to the point where you roll it out
1 1/2 cup baked or broiled mini meatballs
pizza sauce or other favorite tomato sauce
3/4 cup ricotta
3/4 cup spinach
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup shredded mozzerella
1 egg
1 egg yolk, beaten

Directions:
In a medium saucepan, simmer the meatballs in the sauce. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400. In a medium bowl, mix together the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, egg and mozzarella. Divide the dough into 8 equal chunks*. Roll each one into a 5-6 inch round. Add 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture and about 3 meatballs in one half of each round, leaving a 1/4 inch border. Fold the dough over to form a half moon shape and pinch shut. Repeat until all are filled and pinched shut. Brush the tops with the egg yolk. Bake on a pizza stone or on baking sheets for about 20 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately. Leftover calzones keep well refrigerated for a day or two and can be reheated quickly in the oven.



*To make hand sized, invidiual calzones.



My thoughts:
These calzones are so good. Using small meatballs means you can make smaller calzone, which I prefer-less messy and you don't have share, since they are indiviually sized. You can use leftover sauce for dipping if you like but we had a little bit of leftover filling and sauce so I made a mini lasagna in a loaf pan to use it up. meatball hack

September 13, 2006

Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups




Ingredients:

sauce:
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small carrot, minced
1 medium onion, diced
28 oz canned whole tomatoes, hand crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon sugar

filling:

2 eggs
1 shallot, minced
1/2 lb ricotta cheese
1/2 chopped spinach
2/3 cup mozzarella, cubed
2/3 cup Parmesan, grated
2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, grated


1 lb lasagna noodle cooked until almost al dente and then cooled.



Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.

To make the sauce: In a large saucepan, saute onion, garlic and carrot in olive oil until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook until reduced. Add tomatoes, basil and sugar plus salt and pepper to taste and cook 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, eggs, shallot, nutmeg, mozzarella and salt and pepper to taste, thoroughly.


Ladle 3/4 cup of sauce along the bottom of
Lay out lasagna noodles on a towel, blotting to dry. Spread noodles with 2 tablespoons filling end to end. Roll up. Place in pan on sauce with the open ends to the side. Repeat until no noodles remain or the pan has one complete layer with little gaping. Ladle remaining sauce over the top, sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake covered in foil for 20 minutes, then remove cover and bake an additional 10-15 or until steamy hot and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Spring this recipe!


My thoughts:
This is one of our favorite dishes we've developed recently. While I am not entirely convinced that lasagna roll ups are necessarily any faster to make than a traditional layered lasagna, they are much easier to serve. The rolls stay together really nicely without the slippery layers of sauce and the density of traditional lasagna while still allowing for a mingling of tomato, spinach and cheese. In fact, my husband says he actually likes this recipe better than traditional lasagna. Not bad for a sudden whim.

December 18, 2005

Spinach Ricotta Phyllo Rolls

Spinach Ricotta Phyllo Rolls
Ingredients

12 oz spinach, drained
8 oz frozen phyllo dough, defrosted
4 tablespoons butter, melted
8 oz ricotta
1/2 cup roasted pinenuts

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine spinach, ricotta and pinenuts thoroughly. Unroll the phyllo onto a cookie sheet. Spread spinach mixture over phyllo, leaving a 2 inch border. Roll into a log and brush on melted butter to seal. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through. Slice and serve.


My thoughts:

I made this as an appetizer for a cookie swap I am hosting. I made the spinach mixture the day before. The day of, I let it warm up a little then rolled it into the phyllo and baked it.

October 26, 2005

Spinach Ricotta Pie

spinach ricotta pie


Ingredients:

1 lb frozen leaf spinach, chopped (defrosted and squeezed dry)
15 oz ricotta cheese
1/8 cup Parmesan
4 oz feta, crumbled
5 eggs
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium tomato, sliced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325. In large pan, saute onion and garlic over low heat in olive oil until soft and fragrant. Add spinach, saute 2-3 minutes or until it looks dry. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. In bowl, combine Parmesan, ricotta and nutmeg. Add the spinach mixture and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. Add eggs, combine thoroughly. Using olive oil, grease a 12 cup baking dish. Dust with bread crumbs, shake to remove excess. Pour in spinach mixture. Arrange tomato slices on the surface, sprinkle with feta. Bake 1 hour or until hot through and golden brown.

September 29, 2005

Chicken and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Ingredients:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup PLUS 4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1/4 balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
salt
pepper
32 oz diced tomatoes
12 oz tomato sauce
2 handfuls of fresh spinach
1 onion, diced finely
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella (divided)
1/2 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (divided)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
jumbo pasta shells, cooked and cooled

Directions:

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt, pepper and oregano. Rub in spices. In a ziploc bag add 1/4 cup olive oil, balsamic vinegar and chicken breasts. Set aside. In a large pan, use remaining olive oil and butter to saute onions and garlic just until the garlic is fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Add both cans of tomatoes, simmer for until sauce thickens, about 20-25 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, grill chicken in a grill pan or saute until cooked though. Finely dice chicken and set aside to cool. While chicken is cooling, place spinach in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute until wilted. Remove excess moisture by squeezing it between paper towels. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan, nutmeg, spinach, chicken and egg. Mix thoroughly. In a greased lasagna pan, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom. Fill shells with 1 tablespoon of the cheese/chicken mixture. Place filled shells in a single layer on the sauce. Shells can be placed very close together. Cover with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover in foil and bake in a preheated 350 oven for 1/2 hour, then remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese melts and the dish looks bubbly and hot.