Spinach Lasagna Rolls

done

So, there’s this girl I know. Well, not a girl, a young lady really. But when I was her age … and yes, I was her age once, I wasn’t born THIS OLD, ya know … being called a young lady made be visibly blanch. She’s becoming very dear to me. In my family, cooking for and feeding people is a way to show (some) love.

There’s a little glitch in showing this Italian, kitchen-esque type of love to this otherwise lovely girl. She’s a vegetarian. Nothing with a face. Nothing with a soul. Hmmm … tricky. Never gave much thought to strictly vegetarian dishes, and fortunately, she’s not vegan, but tricky going for me just the same.

Oh! We need to add another level of cooking angst here … her sister is NOT a vegetarian (but that’s a whole ‘nuther magilla which we will get to in recipes and days to come) and, of course, there’s the carnivore. How do you feed all these different needs with one dish and keeping your hair on your head and not clenched between your fingers having just been torn from your head?

Must be yummy. Must have no faces or soul. Must be hearty. I can do this. I know I can.

I came across this Giada de Laurentiis recipe from Everyday Italian for Spinach Lasagna Rolls. The original recipe calls for prosciutto (oh, you don’t know what you’re missing) and a bechamel sauce. I opted to leave out the prosciutto and swap the bechamel for tomato sauce. Salad. Garlic bread. Dinner is ready.

And while it has no faces, this dish certainly has soul!

  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
  • 1 C plus 2 T grated Parmesan
  • 1 C shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 3/4 t salt, plus more for salting water
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 T olive oil
  • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 C marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and add a tablespoon of oil.

NOTE: I normally don’t add oil when I’m cooking pasta, but with the lasagna noodles it seems to help keep them from sticking together and becoming a massive clump.

Cook the pasta until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange the pasta in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.

Butter or spray with cook spray a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Pour about 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish and spread to cover. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread a large spoonful (about 3 tablespoons worth) of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle.

Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll.

Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, on top of the marinara sauce in the dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Spoon the remaining 1 cup of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls.

Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes.

NOTE: You can gild the lily a bit here and add a cup of shredded mozzarella on top of the marinara. If you choose to do this, after 20 minutes, uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes.

 

 

Mussels in White Wine and Garlic

Ready

“It’s a beautiful day,” says he.

“I know!” I respond, “FINALLY!”

“We really should get out and about.”

“Oh, yes, please! That would be great.”

It’s one of the first truly nice days of spring. The sun is shining, there’s a light breeze, it’s warm(ish). I want to get out and feel the sun on my face. A nice walk in Acadia National Park. Oh, Sand Beach, I haven’t been there yet. My head was filled with places on Mount Desert Island I wanted to explore.

The Dear One, however, had other ideas in mind.

See, there’s a tree. A tree he cut down. A tree destined to be cut and split and stacked and dried for the wood stove for the winter.

THE WINTER? Seriously, Dude? It’s April! I’ve barely had time to recuperate from this past winter much less think about NEXT winter.

Well, you see, he explains, it has to be cut and split and stacked now, and covered in plastic so that it dries out to be ready for next winter.

Now, back to that tree … it’s down a ‘slight’ hill, on the opposite side of the house from where it needs to be stacked, and looked MUCH smaller standing upright.

“Okay, I’ll take the big part of the trunk. You take the branches. Whatever is too small to cut for the wood stove, throw on the wood pile.”

This is when I realized that the man of my dreams is completely OFF.HIS.ROCKER! Has he not seen these delicate, little hands? Has he not seen me struggle to pick up heavy grocery bags? Most importantly, has he NOT SEEN MY TIARA!? A princess, I tell you! A City princess, at that, carrying a tree? Stacking wood? Surely you jest.

Jesting he was not. But I princessed up, rolled up my sleeves and heave ho’d. I threw branches and stems on the burn pile (wait, ce qui es une BURN PILE … oh, I am so new to this planet!), carried big branches up to some God awful contraption so it could be cut into logs, and stacked up wood that Mr. Lumberjack split.

I smelled. I dropped a birch branch on my toe. I dropped a birch log on my ankle. I was covered in sawdust and dirt and YUCK. Every single inch of my body hurt … except, perhaps, a 1/4″ spot on my left ear.

AND I WAS STARVING. I needed a HOT shower and a hot, quickly made dinner.

I sent Simon Legree the Dear One off to the market to pick up dinner … mussels, garlic, parsley … while I stood in a scalding hot shower trying to wash away the memory of the day.

In the time it took to boil a pot of water, shallots were sliced, garlic was minced, parsley was chopped. When the pasta was dropped into boiling water, the shallots, garlic and white wine simmer, after about 5 minutes the mussels were added, another short 5 minutes, added some parsley and butter. Everything done at the same time. 15 minutes from start to finish.

A few slices of toasted Italian bread, glasses of fabulous red wine, and I was a happy, though still sore, camper.

It doesn’t really get easier than this dish. Next time I may add some arugula in, or perhaps halved grape tomatoes, the possibilities are endless.

  • 2 C dry white wine
  • 4 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 pounds live mussels
  • 1/3 C mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil, or basil, chopped
  • 6 T butter, cut into pieces

Rinse and scrub mussels under cold running water. Using your fingers or a paring knife, remove beards (strings that hang from the mussels’ shells), and discard.

In a large stockpot set over medium heat, combine wine, shallots, garlic, and salt. Simmer 5 minutes. Add mussels. Cover, and increase heat to high. Cook until all mussels are open, about 5 minutes. Stir in herbs and butter. Remove from heat. Divide mussels and broth among four bowls. Serve immediately.

NOTE: We were STARVING so I threw this over pasta. If you serve the mussels without pasta toast some bread, rub it with garlic for dipping.

Fresh Pomodoro Pasta, White Beans & Olives

Sorry I have been away for so long! I fried the logic board on my computer (I don’t even know what that means except $1,000) and am completely out of sorts! I am hobbling together things for the moment and just happened to find these photos on my memory stick!

Done

Seems a bunch of my favorite people are vegetarians. To a lifelong carnivore this is truly a travesty.

Well, not really. They are, perhaps, just perhaps, slightly healthier than I. Being a vegetarian does not automatically make you ‘healthy’. At least that’s what my meat sodded brain likes to think!

I have spoken to a number of vegetarians and always ask why. Why have you made the choice you have. I don’t always agree with their answers. Except one … I just can’t eat anything with a face.

I suppose I can understand this. Living in a city and buying everything already prepared and clean and wrapped in plastic you don’t necessarily think about from whence it came.

But now, in talking about chickens and ducks and sheep … the thought process changes. Okay, chickens, but only for laying, not eating! And ducks, well, just to keep the chickens company, certainly NOT to eat! Well, what do you think about sheep. Well, sure, sheep would be great … for WOOL … NOT.TO.EAT! Yes, yes, I know, I know, all the sentimental women in my life.

So, I suppose I do understand more about being a vegetarian than I originally thought. It’s just hard to come up with dishes that will satisfy the vegetarians, semi-vegetarians (don’t ask) and flesh eaters all at once!

This pasta dish really works for everyone. Great ingredients, no faces, filling, fresh, lots of flavors and textures … AND when into two bowls, some poached or grilled salmon mixed in for the flesh eaters.

  • 8 oz whole-wheat pasta shells, tubetti, ziti or rigatoni
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 15 oz cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ripe tomato, diced (about 3 cups)
  • ¼ C oil-cured black olives, pitted (see Tip) and chopped
  • ½ C sliced fresh basil
  • ¼ t kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ¼ C grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Ingredients

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions. Drain.

Beans

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add beans and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until the beans are just heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.

Adding Tomatos and olives

Remove from the heat. Add tomatoes, olives, basil, salt and pepper. Stir gently to combine.

To serve, divide the pasta among 4 plates and top with bean/tomato mixture and grated cheese.

Pasta alla Checca … sorta …

There’s just a last hurrah of summer left. A few lovely tomatoes, definitely some beautiful basil. I wanted to cook something that really showcased the freshness of 2 of my all time favorite ingredients.

And along came Giada de Laurentiiis and her Checca Sauce from Everyday Italian. Granted, this is a very loose interpretation of her original recipe, but the inspiration is all Giada.

Now, according to her recipe in the book, and as I have written below, the sauce is made in a food processor. And I suppose you could make it in the food processor and it would be fine. But I decided to hand cut everything so that it was slightly chunkier.

  • 8 ounces pasta
  • 4 scallions (white and pale green parts only), coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 (12-ounce container) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 (1-ounce) piece Parmesan, coarsely chopped
  • 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 4 ozs fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

NOTE: I used more than a 1/2 pound of pasta. I also used vine-ripened tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes,4 tomatoes should do it. I removed some of the seeds and pulp so it wouldn’t be too watery..

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, 9 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the next 7 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse just until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped (do not puree).

NOTE: I chopped the tomatoes, basil, garlic and cheeses by hand. I really preferred the more rustic approach to this dish.

Drain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta water. Toss the pasta with the tomato mixture and fresh mozzarella in a large bowl. Add some of the reserved pasta water (about 1/4 cup) if the sauce looks dry. Serve immediately.

Orzo with Brown Butter and Parmigiano Reggiano

I know. I know. It’s the evil ORZO. Those that know me know this is the ingredient that strikes fear in my heart and soul.

As soon as it gets a slight bit colder, I’ll make the lamb and orzo dish that has me shaking in fear of ORZO. But for now, let’s just say, when I was a far less confident cook, I followed a recipe my Uncle gave which he mistakenly told me FOUR boxes of orzo. Yes, 4. In a single pot. Naturally, it boiled over … all over everything. Can you say Strega Nona?

But the good folks at Fine Cooking Magazine used two words far too enticing for me to pass up … BROWN BUTTER.

How could I possibly pass up a recipe with BROWN BUTTER, even if it means confronting my demons.

And this was well worth the cold sweats and shaking that went on while measuring the orzo. Nutty, with almost the consistency of risotto but without all the stirring. Great side dish for chicken or fish. Personally, because this is on the heavy and substantial side, the main should be something on the lighter side … but that’s just me!

Enjoy!

  • 1 1/2 C lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 C orzo
  • 1/3 C dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Thinly sliced fresh chives (optional)

In a 1- to 2-quart saucepan, bring the chicken broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer over medium-high heat.

In a 3-quart heavy-duty saucepan, cook the butter over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter turns golden brown and smells nutty, about 2 minutes.

Add the orzo and stir with a wooden spoon to coat well. Cook until the orzo just begins to turn a light golden color, about 2 minutes.

Pour in the wine and stir until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add the simmering broth mixture, stir, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the orzo is just tender, about 12 minutes; the mixture may still be wet but will set up.

Stir the orzo, season to taste with salt and a generous amount of pepper, and mix in the Parmigiano. Cover and let rest 5 minutes. Add the chives (if using) and serve.

NOTE: Okay, so easy was that!? Nothing to be afraid of … they’re just little pellets of pasta …

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

From the time I was a child, Sunday night in my house has always traditionally been a pasta dinner. Truthfully, I get so tired of meatballs and sauce. I also wanted a pasta without meat to satisfy the vegetarians …

It’s also been a slow-ish summer for me cooking-wise. Haven’t reached for the books on the shelves recently – and, after all, isn’t that the whole point of this blog?

So, it had to be pasta, had to be good … running REALLY late (as always), so it had to be quick.

You don’t get quicker, or tastier, than Giada de Laurentiis’ Sundried Tomato Pesto from Everyday Italian. Not many ingredients, simple prep, and delicious. Must have been … every morsel was gone, always the sign of a successful dinner!

This pesto is also great as a spread … yum, bruschetta … just leave out the step at the end adding in the pasta water. Oh, and don’t make or add the pasta!

  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 C (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, blend the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste, and basil in a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are finely chopped.

Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan.

Add the pasta to the pesto and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper and serve.

 

NOTE: And you’re DONE! In the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta, dinner is ready. Add a loaf of bread and a salad and you’re off to the races!

Liebster Award & Pasta with Cauliflower, Bacon and Sage

So here I am poking around my foodie friends’ blogs and what do I see? I was given a Liebster Blog Award by my fellow foodie friend Stella over at Lola & Finn’s Mum. Stella, I am truly touched and thank you from the bottom of my mixing bowl!

The rules are simple. Once you receive the award, you must follow five steps:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
2. Link back to their blog.
3. Copy and paste the Liebster award to your profile
4. Pick 5 blogs that you feel deserve to be in the spotlight (they must have 200 followers or under)
5. Blog about it and leave a comment for your nominations to let them know that you have chosen their blog.

So for my nominations:

1.  Greg from Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide. Great photos and great recipes for food and drink.

2.  Nuts About Food. Lovely photos. Fabulous food. Wonderful stories about life and family and living in Italy.

3. JamieAnne over at A Dash of Domestic. Great cook-alongs and recipes. Love her family and all the tales about them woven into her postings.

4. Geni at Sweet and Crumby. Steal have made many of her recipes with great success. Love her photos and writing style.

5.  Mary at Barefeet in the Kitchen.  One of my family’s fav recipes is from here – untuffed peppers! Great photos and great food. WHat more does one need!

Ever flip through a cooking magazine and just fall in love with a recipe? This one made my heart flutter – pasta, bacon, cauliflower, BACON, quick, BACON, sage, bacon – oh, and I think there may have been bacon in there as well.

Everyday Food Magazine, you have done it again! This recipe is wonderful. May have even turned my cauliflower haters into cauliflower lovers. Well, truth be told, we live by a strict, I make it, you eat it or starve policy in my house. One CLAIMS to not like cauliflower, the other staunchly believes he doesn’t like cauliflower – they both INHALED this pasta!

  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 lb of a short pasta
  • 5 slices of bacon cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, diced small
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 T fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 t red wine vinegar
NOTE: I used mezzi rigatoni. The magazine suggested gemelli (my fav, but we were out!). And without having to say so, I used more than 5 slices of bacon. How many more is none of your beeswax! Also, as we all so often do, I went to the store without my list! No sage! I used dried and it was fine.
 
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. Reserve 1/2 a cup of the pasta water and drain pasta and return to pot.
 

NOTE:I cooked the whole pound of pasta.

IN a large skillet, cook bacon over medium until the fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. ABout 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add the butter, onions and garlic to the skillet and cook until onions are softened. About 10 minutes.

NOTE: Yes, my onions are a LITTLE dark. But not quite cinders. Watch the onions!

Add cauliflower, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender. About 12 minutes.

NOTE: You can substitute frozen cauliflower florets here. Just reduce the cooking time.

Stir in bacon and sage and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Stir in vinegar and enough pasta water to create a thin sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Quick, easy, bacony, delicious. Even the ‘we don’t like cauliflower’ boys loved it! I might roast the cauliflower next time and then add it to the rest … hmmm, just a thought!