Tag: pasta

5 Ideas for Quick and Easy Weeknight Meals

5 Ideas for Quick and Easy Weeknight Meals

 

This is from a newsletter we sent out recently. Subscribe now and get a free Rootsliving
 eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays”  

With work, holiday shopping, social obligations and more, it’s not easy to cook every night. Ordering takeout is easy but it’s not cheap. Here’s something I hope will help you out:

 

Weeknight Meal Planning Guide

 

Steak pizzaiola in a bowl
This is a bowl of delicious “meat candy.”

1.) Monday: Steak Pizzaiola (in a slow cooker)

If you haven’t tried this yet, what’s stopping you? Do you need a slow cooker or maybe one of those Instant Pots that are all the rage?

Seriously, this is the best slow cooker recipe out there, developed by a professional chef who always cooks authentic Italian. He calls this “meat candy.” Take 10-minutes to prepare the ingredients before throwing them in the pot and then wait a couple of hours and you’ll see why.

 

2.) Tuesday: Quick, Easy Turkish Eggplant Casserole

Eggplant dish in pan
If you use a cast iron skillet to make the sauce you can layer the eggplant in it and then bake it in the oven (using only one pan).

This looks, smells, and tastes delicious. It’s like eggplant parm without all the work and without all of the fat. A pinch of cinnamon adds depth and takes this to another world.

 

3.) Wednesday: Mexicali Chicken

Close up of Mexicali chicken
Gooey, delicious comfort food.

Just four simple steps for gooey pseudo-Mexican comfort food.

 

4.) Thursday: Marco’s Fuscilli

How hard and long does it take to boil water? That’s how hard and long it takes to make this. Nothing could be simpler or tastier.

 

5.) Friday: Breakfast for Dinner, Gingerbread Pancakes

Pancakes with melted butter
Save the best meal for last.

Yes, you could just scramble up a couple of eggs, but this is much better, especially around the holidays. It’s the bold flavor or gingerbread in one of the lightest pancakes you’ll ever eat.

 

Bonus: 10-Minute Crostini

Crostini with salsa
These are great for holiday get-togethers.

There’s nothing quicker and easier than this appetizer (of course you could make this a meal if you ate enough of them). Three ingredients: guacamole, salsa, and a good baguette. You know what to do.

 

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

All that blogging about nepitella made me hungry and so for dinner tonight, I whipped up this tasty dish with ingredients I had on hand. If you don’t have nepitella, you’re forgiven this time, and can substitute a mixture of basil and mint. So what is nepitella? Find out here.

Nepitella plant
(Nepitella is in the mint family and the plant looks like mint.)

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

October 16, 2018
: 30 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • One pound of spaghetti
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (a quarter of a cup should do it)
  • Button mushrooms, sliced. (About 12-16 oz.)
  • Capers (about 1 tablespoon.)
  • Nepitella (About 1 tablespoon of chopped up fresh. A little less if using dried.) (A mixture of basil and mint can be used as a substitute.)
  • A pinch of red crushed pepper
  • A half-pinch of nutmeg (this spice is powerful, use caution and add just a little. You can always add more if you desire.)
  • Garlic (one clove, sliced)
  • Butter (About a 1/2 tablespoon for taste.)
  • Parmesano (aka: parmesan) cheese (about 1/4 cup.)
  • Salt (to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Boil water in a large pot. When water boils, add spaghetti.
  • Step 2 While water is boiling, cook mushrooms in about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with nepitella and salt.
  • Step 3 Half-way through cooking, add the red pepper to the mushrooms. Add the capers too.
  • Step 4 Cook mushrooms until well done. During the last five minutes, add the garlic (be careful not to burn). And add a half pinch of nutmeg (be careful, this spice is strong).
  • Step 5 Drain the spaghetti and put it back in the empty pot. Add the mushroom mixture and stir. Add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the butter. Sprinkle on the parmesan cheese. Add salt to taste and serve.

Recipe Videos From Boston’s Best Chefs

This is one of my favorite recipes from the weekly Dorm Room Chef series I produced for the Boston Globe. (more…)

Caponata, aka: Sweet and Sour Eggplant

Caponata, aka: Sweet and Sour Eggplant

(Above: Caponata on slices of Italian bread makes crostini.)

This recipe is one of the best I found in a very long time. It is a delicious blend of sweet and sour flavors with a mingling of soft and crunchy textures that melts in your mouth creating a desire for more and more. It is addictive.

The recipe, first printed in the 2005 edition of Gourmet Magazine, got the highest score on Epicurious.com: four forks, and the 18 people who reviewed it said they would make it again.

So what is caponata and what can you do with it? It’s a blend of bite-sized eggplant, tomatoes, celery, green olives, and red bell peppers that have been enhanced with some garlic, onion, parsley, basil, sugar and red wine vinegar.

The original recipe called for salting and draining the eggplant presumably to make it less bitter. I don’t believe in this procedure and find that picking a fresh eggplant that is dark purple and firm and with few, if any scars, works better. I also suggest peeling off the skin to create long white and purple stripes.

It is delicious, by itself as a side dish, or when mixed with pasta. It also makes the best crostini when spread generously over toasted ciabatta slices. It’s very versatile and can be used imaginatively in a thousand different ways. I just put the last of it on some lavash bread, along with some goat cheese and arugula to create a roll-up sandwich. It was better than an eggplant (or chicken, or veal) parm sandwich on a braided roll.

This recipe takes a little work but it’s worth it. It makes a big batch that you can enjoy for several days or even a week. Enjoy!!

CAPONATA, AKA: SWEET AND SOUR EGGPLANT

September 20, 2015
: 20 min
: 1 hr 30 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 lb eggplant (preferably small but not Asian)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (preferably Sicilian)
  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 11 garlic cloves (from 2 heads), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (preferably from a tube)
  • 1 (28-oz) can whole Italian tomatoes, finely chopped and juice reserved
  • 5 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup large green Sicilian olives (6 oz), pitted and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup drained bottled capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Directions
  • Step 1 Peel the eggplant to create long purple and white stripes. Then cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Step 2 Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté three fourths of garlic, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute.
  • Step 3 Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  • Step 4 Add tomatoes with their juice, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Step 5 Bring 2-3 cups of salted water to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart saucepan, then cook celery until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking.
  • Step 6 Heat 1/4 inch oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until it’s hot but not smoking and then fry the eggplant in 4 batches, stirring and turning constantly with a slotted spoon, until browned and tender, 3 to 5 minutes per batch. (Heat oil between batches.) Transfer to paper towels.
  • Step 7 Pour off all but 2 tablespoons oil from skillet, then reduce heat to moderate and cook onion, bell pepper, and remaining garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes.
  • Step 8 Add tomato sauce, eggplant, celery, olives, capers, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and remaining teaspoon sea salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
  • Step 9 Cool to room temperature, uncovered, then chill, covered, at least 6-8 hours. Just before serving, stir in parsley and basil. Serve cold or at room temperature.

 

Stracciatella Soup

Stracciatella Soup

(Above: This soup is great all year, but much appreciated on a snowy day.)

This is soup season. And with more than two feet of snow dropping in the Boston area in less than 12 hours, we’re in the thick of it.

What better soup is there to help weather the storm than stracciatella, sometimes referred to as Roman Egg Drop soup? My mother used to make a version of this.

Here’s a quick recipe for Spinach Stracciatella Soup (Serve with grated parmesan cheese on the side.):

STRACCIATELLA SOUP

February 9, 2013
: Medium

To make homemade chicken soup, I usually buy a roasting chicken and cook it for dinner one night and then after a day or so (when most of the meat has been picked off clean), I use it to make the chicken broth.

By:

Ingredients
  • Chicken broth (About 8-10 cups. Use your favorite. Homemade is easy and economical. See recipe below.)
  • Pasta for the soup (I like cheese or meat tortellini for this soup, but you can use any short pasta such as bow ties or fusilli.)
  • Chopped fresh spinach or a 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained)
  • Eggs (2 large, beaten)
  • Parmesan cheese (About one cup, grated. Please, use the imported. Or at least freshly grated Romano or Pecorino. The stuff you buy in a jar in the supermarket isn’t cheese. It’s more like plastic.)
Directions
  • Step 1 To make homemade chicken soup: Drop the carcass into a large soup pot. If it’s a tall pot, cover it with about four inches of water. If it’s a wide pot, cover it with about 2 inches of water. Add a carrot, a celery stick, maybe an onion, some salt and pepper. Boil it for an hour or more. Take out the carcass and strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a large plastic container. Put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning skim off the fat. You can now use the broth as you see fit.
  • Step 2 Bring the broth to a slow boil. Drop in the tortellini (or short pasta of your choice) and cook until nearly done. Then drop in the frozen spinach and about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.
  • Step 3 Cook until spinach and tortellini are done and the broth is just simmering.
  • Step 4 Stir soup and slowly pour in the beaten egg in a continuous stream. Continue stirring until the egg is cooked.
  • Step 5 Add salt and pepper as needed.

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

(Above: This gnocchi dish can be served as an appetizer or as a main course.)

In most anything in life, you have to work with what you have. And in cooking, the seasons dictate what ingredients are best or available. On a recent trip to Calareso’s Farm Stand in Reading, Mass. I was intrigued by one pound packages of pumpkin gnocchi.

Now I’ve cooked gnocchi before, usually in a tomato sauce, but the savory pumpkin flavor needed something else. So I brainstormed. Pumpkin pie is good with whipped cream so I opted to go with a cream sauce and a little hint of nutmeg.

But this wasn’t going to be dessert. I had to keep it (dinner) real. Cheese would help keep the dish on the savory side and I decided the nutty taste of fontina, combined with some freshly grated imported parmesan cheese would do the trick.

I then imagined all of this gooey, sweet, savoriness melting in my mouth, but it was missing something: a healthy clean foil to the heavy richness. I decided it needed some greens. I had some broccoli rabe on hand and decided to give it a go.

The result was a sweet, savory, gooey piece of heaven, offset by the bitterness of a good healthy green vegetable. The icing on this savory cake? Thinly sliced almonds.

Note: This will serve four as a main course. Gnocchi is very filling. You don’t need much for each serving.

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

October 4, 2012
: 4

This doesn't take long to make, perfect for a weeknight supper. However, it will impress guests too.

By:

Ingredients
  • Pumpkin gnocchi (1 pound)
  • Fontina Cheese (4 ounces, chopped up)
  • Imported parmesan cheese (1/3 cup or to taste)
  • Heavy cream (About 1/4 to 1/2 cup)
  • Scallions (About five or six, chopped)
  • Broccoli Rabe (1 small bunch, cleaned of leaves and stems. Keep only about an inch or two of stem after the floret. Cut florets in half length-wise.)
  • Almonds (About 1/8 cup, sliced thin)
  • Nutmeg (A small dash, just a few specks. Be careful.)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Steam broccoli rabe until done, but not soggy. Don’t overcook. It should have some bite. (I used a large pasta pot with a colander insert and steaming basket. It’s one of my favorite and most used cooking tools. )
  • Step 2 Cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling water for about three minutes (just until they float). Don’t overcook.
  • Step 3 In a saute pan cook the scallions until translucent and then add the cream, heating it up, but don’t let it boil. Add a small dash of nutmeg: we’re talking a few specks here. Nutmeg is very strong and can easily overpower a dish. Taste it. You just want a hint of nutmeg flavor. You can always add more if you like, but once you put it in, you can’t take it out. Be careful!
  • Step 4 Add cream sauce, fontina cheese, parmesan cheese, sliced almonds, and broccoli rabe to the cooked gnocchi and stir until cheese melts and everything is well blended.
  • Step 5 Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a side salad.

Marco’s Fuscilli

Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy
the Holidays.”  

This is a quick, easy pasta dish I created several years ago (probably 10 or more). It’s an old favorite around the Rootsliving kitchen.

It’s great for an easy, weeknight meal and it’s quicker than ordering take-out. You can make this dish as fast as it takes you to boil a pot of water.

The first thing you do is put a good size pot of water on the stove. I use this pasta pot with built-in strainer.  It makes boiling and serving pasta hassle-free and safer. And you can even steam vegetables at the same time. It’s one of my favorite kitchen utensils.

While the water heats up, cut the grape tomatoes in half, put them in a bowl and add the other ingredients.

 

Tomatoes in a bowl
I use grape tomatoes because here in the Northeastern part of the U.S. you can’t get good tasting tomatoes year round. These are always sweet and good.

 

Once the water comes to a boil, put the fuscilli in and cook it until it’s al dente, which means “to the tooth” in Italian. That means cook it until it’s still a little firm when you bite into it. With dried fuscilli, this could take about 10 minutes. With fresh fuscilli, it will only take a minute or two.

 

Marinated mozzarella balls
I usually use a knotted bar of marinated mozzarella and cut it up but when I can’t find that, I use marinated mozzarella balls.

 

You then put the fuscilli in a bowl and while it’s still piping hot, add the mozzarella cheese and stir. The cheese should melt into the pasta as you stir. Once it does that, add the tomato mixture and you’re done. See detailed recipe below.

 

Pasta in a bowl with tomatoes and mozzarella
The colors in this dish make it perfect for a holiday meal.

 

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)

 

Marco's Fuscilli

September 21, 2012
: Super Easy

This takes minutes to make but tastes like it took a lot more care.

By:

Ingredients
  • Fuscilli (1 pound box)
  • Grape or cherry tomatoes (1 pint, chopped)
  • Fresh oregano (About 1 tablespoon
  • or 1/2 teaspoon if using dried oregano)
  • Dried basil (About 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Wine (A healthy splash, about 1/4 cup. I usually use red wine, but white would be fine too.)
  • Olive oil (About 1/4 cup)
  • Butter (About 1/4 – 1/2 stick)
  • Marinated mozzarella cheese (8 oz. It’s available at most supermarkets.
Directions
  • Step 1 Cook fuscilli in a large pot of salted water. Drain, put in a bowl and add butter, oil (about 1/8 cup), salt and pepper (to taste).
  • Step 2 Chop up tomatoes, put in a small bowl. Add olive oil (about 1/8 cup), salt, pepper, fresh oregano, and a healthy splash of wine. Mix it up.
  • Step 3 Add mozzarella pieces to pasta and stir, letting it melt evenly.
  • Step 4 Pour tomato mixture over fuscilli. Add dried basil and stir. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with a salad.

 

Pasta Carbonara (aka: Breakfast Pasta)

Pasta Carbonara (aka: Breakfast Pasta)

Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy
the Holidays.
” 

This is one of the first dishes I made when I started getting serious about cooking. It’s a traditional and authentic recipe from Italy and it’s easy to make: all of which makes this a good dish to make for novice home cooks.

This is Italian comfort food. It’s as warm and fuzzy and comfortable as a glass of brandy on a cold day.

 

Ingredients for pasta carbonara
You can use American bacon to make this dish but traditionally it’s made with pancetta, which is available in most supermarkets in the deli section.

 

I call it “breakfast pasta,” because you use bacon and eggs to make it. The traditional recipe calls for pancetta, which is often referred to as Italian bacon, but to be honest, I always made it with good old American bacon and it’s wonderful (some might say even better). I now often make it with whatever pork product I have on hand.

This time I had some leftover pancetta (from the Ribollita soup I made last week) and some Italian sausage (left over from the tomato sauce I also made last week). So I decided to use both and the combination gave it more flavors to savor.

 

Pancetta and sausage cooking.
Whatever meat you use be sure to cook it thoroughly and it turns a little crispy.

 

If you make it using pancetta, you get wonderful, juicy pieces of pork and fat; crumbled Italian sausage adds depth and a smoky flavor; while American bacon gives it a crispy, salty, sweetness that is like heaven on your tongue.

 

A bowl of pasta carbonara.
Save a little grated cheese to sprinkle on top of the dish.

 

Yes, this dish is fatty and oily because you use the bacon/pancetta/sausage drippings to flavor the pasta, but you’re not eating it every day. Save it for a special weeknight meal when it’s cold and rainy, or snowing. And pair it with a good bottle of red table wine or even a bold, heavy white.

As the Italians say, “cin cin” (pronounced, “chin, chin”), which is a toast meaning “to your health!”

 

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)

Pasta Carbonara

March 18, 2012
: 6-8
: 20 min
: Easy

This comes together quickly and would make a good, easy, weeknight supper.

By:

Ingredients
  • Butter (1 tbl.)
  • Linguini (1 lb.)
  • Bacon or Pancetta and/or Italian sausage (minced, 1 lb.)
  • Onion (1 small)
  • Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese (grated, 2 tbl.)
  • Eggs (2, large)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • Parsley (a small bunch, minced)
Directions
  • Step 1 Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook linguini until “al dente.” While water heats up, do the following:
  • Step 2 Saute the onion in butter until soft, just turning color.
  • Step 3 Add minced bacon or pancetta and/or sausage and saute until soft, just a little crispy.
  • Step 4 Beat 2 eggs, add grated cheese and mix well.
  • Step 5 Add pepper and 1 tbl. of minced parsley to bacon and onion in the pan. Stir to cook.
  • Step 6 The rendered oils from the bacon or pancetta are a major flavor ingredient of this recipe so do not remove the oil from the pan.
  • Step 7 Quickly drain the linguini and place in a large bowl.
  • Step 8 Add egg-cheese mixture to saute pan (removed now from heat) and stir well.
  • Step 9 The heat of the ingredients and the pan will cook the egg somewhat, so keep the mixture moving.
  • Step 10 Taste, add salt or pepper if needed.
  • Step 11 Add mixture to linguini and serve immediately.

 

 

Vegetable Lasagna Masterpiece

Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy
the Holidays.”  

I’ve been perfecting this recipe for years.

It’s based on a simple spinach lasagna recipe I got from a restaurant in Boston’s North End neighborhood. I added some techniques I learned from America’s Test Kitchen and added some tricks of my own –the addition of tomato sauce to the béchamel sauce and the addition of pine nuts to the spinach mixture — to make the perfect lasagna masterpiece.

 

Tricia with lasagna
Tricia was very happy to come home and see this vegetable lasagna waiting for her in the Rootsliving kitchen.

 

The techniques from the test kitchen involve using “no-boil,” or “oven-ready” lasagna noodles. Instead of using them right out of the box, the technique calls for pouring hot water over them and letting them sit for about 5 minutes.

This makes the consistency of the noodles velvety, more like homemade noodles. It also prevents the lasagna from being soggy or too dry.

Another tip from the test kitchen that I use when assembling the lasagna is to make sure the sauces are not hot. Room temperature is best but warm works too.

 

Bowl of chopped carrots and onions
You can get porcini bullion cubes at Italian speciality stores and some supermarkets.

 

I created the tomato sauce for this recipe based on a family recipe from my cousins in Italy. The carrots make the sauce sweet and the porcini bullion cube gives it some savory depth.

 

A pot of tomato sauce
Adding the tomato sauce to the béchamel sauce turns it orange.

 

This recipe takes a little time and some cooking knowledge but don’t let that scare you. Watch the video above and read the recipe below and you’ll be fine.

 

A slice of lasagna
Textures and flavors mingle to create a masterpiece lasagna.

 

Using these techniques and tips, here’s how you can create your own masterpiece.

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)
 

Vegetable Lasagna Masterpiece

February 22, 2010
: 6-8
: Medium

This recipe takes some time and some skill but don't be scared. Watch the video and then follow this recipe and you'll create your own masterpiece.

By:

Ingredients
  • For the white (bechamel) sauce:
  • Butter (3 tbsp.)
  • All-purpose flour (3 tbsp.)
  • Milk, heated (2 1/2 cups)
  • Nutmeg (1/8 tsp.)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • For Red Sauce and Spinach Mixture:
  • Onions (2 cups diced, about two large onions)
  • Carrots (2 cups diced)
  • Tomato paste (1/2 can)
  • Sun-dried tomato paste (Several squirts from a tube)
  • Porcini bullion cube (1)
  • Kitchen Ready Tomatoes, chunky-style (1 can)
  • Olive oil (2 tbsp.)
  • Frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water squeezed out (2, 10 oz. packages)
  • Part-skim ricotta cheese (1 pound)
  • Parmesan cheese (8 tbsp.)
  • Dried basil (1 tsp.)
  • Dried Oregano (1 tsp.)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Pine (pignoli) nuts (2 oz.)
  • No-boil lasagna noodles, Barilla works well (12)
  • Part-skim, mozarella cheese, shredded (1 cup)
Directions
  • Step 1 To make the red sauce: Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a pot and add 1 cup of the onions and 1 cup of the carrots.
  • Step 2 When onions and carrots are tender, add 1/2 can of tomato paste and 1/2 cup of water. Add several squirts of the sun-dried tomato paste and the can of kitchen ready tomatoes.
  • Step 3 Crumble the porcini bullion cube into the sauce and stir. Add 1/2 tsp. of basil and 1/2 tsp. of oregano, salt and pepper and stir.
  • Step 4 Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and then take off the heat.
  • Step 5 To make the white sauce: Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium sauce pan.
  • Step 6 Add the flour and stir with a wire whisk for about 1 minute. Gradually stir in the hot milk.
  • Step 7 Increase the heat to medium-high, cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil. Lower the heat immediately and cook, whisking occasionally, for five minutes. Whisk in nutmeg, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
  • Step 8 To make the spinach mixture: Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Step 9 Add 1 cup of the onions and 1 cup of the carrots and cook until tender (about four or five minutes).
  • Step 10 In a large bowl, mix together the spinach, ricotta, onion/carrot mixture, 1/3 cup of the white sauce, four tbsp. of parmesan cheese, pine nuts, 1/2 tsp. of basil and 1/2 tsp. of oregano, salt and pepper.
  • Step 11 To Assemble and Bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Step 12 Place the no-boil lasagna noodles in the 13 x 9-inch pan and cover with hot tap water for five minutes (agitating the pan occasionally so they don’t stick). Place the noodles on a kitchen towel and pat dry.
  • Step 13 Empty water out of the 13 x 9-inch lasagna pan and dry the pan. Drizzle olive oil in the pan and grease the pan using a paper towel. Make sure to coat the sides and top of the pan so nothing will stick.
  • Step 14 Spread about 1/2 cup of the white sauce in a thin layer over the bottom of the pan.
  • Step 15 Add enough red sauce to the remaining white sauce to make the white sauce turn orange (I used all of the red sauce except for 1 1/3 cups. Put the 1 1/3 cups of red sauce in the refrigerator and save for another day.)
  • Step 16 Place three strips of lasagna noodles over the thin layer of white sauce at the bottom of the lasagna pan. Cover with about 1/2 of the spinach mixture and three more of the lasagna noodles.
  • Step 17 Then cover the lasagna noodles with half of the remaining spinach mixture and enough of the white/red sauce mixture to cover completely. (Note: The white/red sauce will dribble over the sides.)
  • Step 18 Cover with three more lasagna noodles. Add remaining spinach mixture and enough of the white/red sauce mixture to cover.
  • Step 19 Top with remaining three lasagna noodles and remaining white/red sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and remaining four tbsp. of parmesan cheese.
  • Step 20 Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes.
  • Step 21 Remove foil and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until the top starts to brown and the lasagna is bubbling hot.
  • Step 22 Let stand at least 5-10 minutes before serving.

 

Tomato Sauce (Basic Recipe)

Tomato Sauce (Basic Recipe)

Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy
the Holidays.
” 

Here’s my standard tomato sauce recipe. I got this from my mother who was an excellent cook. I’ve changed a few things over the years, adding touches of my own and some embellishments from my cousins in Italy.

 

Tomato sauce over pasta
Italians never drown their pasta in tomato sauce. Instead, they coat it with a thin layer.

 

This sauce can be used on most anything that requires Italian tomato sauce. It’s great to use when making chicken, beef or veal parmesan (which I’ll write about later in another post). For pasta, I often choose to make a much lighter sauce without the meat. I’ll write about that another time. However, this works well on pasta too.

 

Vegetables and sausage
Some vegetables and a little sausage flavor this sauce.

 

Inside Tips: Something to Think About While Making a Good Tomato Sauce

Making a good tomato sauce is an art, not a science. You have to continuously taste it while it cooks and then decide if it needs a little more of this or little more of that. Sometimes it may need only a tsp. of basil, other times, it may need more than twice that. So what follows is a good guide, but follow your taste buds and have fun.

 

Sausage and vegetables cooking
Be sure to cook the sausages until they’re done and cook the vegetables until they’re tender before adding the tomatoes.

 

When I cook, I like to think about music. I often have music playing (and a glass of wine poured) but I’m not talking now about the music I’m listening to. Instead I like to think about bass notes and treble notes or low notes and high notes.

Different flavors elicit different types of notes. Example: salt would be a high note and black pepper would be a low note or bass note. When cooking a red sauce, I often strive to have the flavors balanced between high and low. And adding dried oregano pushes the sauce into the high-note territory and adding dried basil takes it down into the bass category.

 

Tomato sauce cooking
Adjust the heat beneath the pan and continuously stir the sauce so that it doesn’t splatter too much.

 

You also have to be careful about making it too bitter or too sweet. The red wine, depending on what type you use, can make the sauce a little bitter. And if you choose to use carrots, you won’t need to add the optional sugar, as the carrots usually make the sauce sweet enough.

 

A bowl of pasta and a glass of red wine
Nothing goes better with pasta than a glass of wine. Cheers!

 

So stir and taste and ask yourself, is it on the high-note side or the low-note side? And then adjust the seasonings as needed. Everyone has their own opinion on what the perfect red sauce is, so use your judgement, make it to your liking, and you can’t go wrong.

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “9 Recipes to Help you Relax and Enjoy the Holidays,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)

Tomato Sauce (Basic Recipe)

January 31, 2010
: 1 hr 30 min
: Medium

It's not difficult to make this sauce, but you do need to think about it and pay attention to the flavors by continuously tasting it.

By:

Ingredients
  • Large onion (1, chopped fine)
  • Carrots (2, chopped fine) (optional)
  • Celery (2 stalks, chopped fine) (optional)
  • Italian sausages (2, sweet, not hot)
  • Kitchen Ready Tomatoes (1 28 oz. can)
  • Tomato Paste (1/2 – 1 small can, plus 1 small can of cold water)
  • Olive oil (2-3 tbsp.)
  • Salt, pepper, basil, oregano to taste. A shot of tabasco (optional)
  • Splash of red wine (optional, about 1/4 cup)
  • Sugar (optional, about 1/2 tsp.)
  • Butter (1-2 tbsp)
  • Nutmeg (just a speck, about 1/8th of a teaspoon.)
Directions
  • Step 1 In a medium to large pot, cook the onions over medium-high heat in olive oil until translucent (not brown).
  • Step 2 If desired, add the carrots and celery and cook until tender.
  • Step 3 Crumble and add the sausages. Cook until brown.
  • Step 4 Add the can of tomatoes. Stir, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides.
  • Step 5 Add tomato paste and one can of water. Stir, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides.
  • Step 6 Add spices and tabasco (if desired). Stir, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides.
  • Step 7 Cook for about 20 minutes to 1/2 hour on low heat, partially covered, stirring occasionally.
  • Step 8 Taste periodically and add more spices if necessary, but remember, the longer you cook it, the stronger the flavor of the spices will be.
  • Step 9 Add the splash of red wine (optional) and stir. Cook for another 20 minutes to 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and if you like, you can add a 1/2 tsp. of sugar.
  • Step 10 Turn the heat off and add the butter. Add the nutmeg and gently stir until the butter melts. Cover the pot and let it sit until you’re ready to use it.