Lasagna Rolls

There is something that gets me about individually packaged items – string cheese, cupcakes, even bananas. It tells me the portion I’m supposed to eat. Most importantly, it’s all mine, not meant for sharing.

Lasagna rolls are another individually packaged item. There is no dividing and conquering of the baking dish. You only need to scoop out the delicious little lasagna packages.

Ricotta and spinach are wrapped in a long lasagna noodle and blanketed with tomato sauce. Melty cheese is the final layer, as if you need more incentive to make this.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, more if you like sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

How To:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Thaw spinach in a microwave safe bowl and squeeze dry. Mix the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup of the Parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.

Add a tablespoon of oil to a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil the noodles until just tender but still firm to bite (al dente). Drain the noodles and lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent sticking.

Spray a 13 X 9 inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Pour 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Working on the baking sheet, lay out 1 lasagna noodle. Spread about 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture evenly over the noodle and starting at 1 end, roll each noodle up. Lay the lasagna roll seam side down, without touching, on of the marinara sauce in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Spoon 2 cups of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls and sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan over the marinara. Cover tightly with foil and bake until fully heated through (sauce will be bubbly), about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 minutes; the cheese will become golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Serve your individual lasagna rolls, and feel free to have more than one.

Bolognese Sauce

It’s freezing out, which brings me to the subject of pasta with meat sauce; possibly one of the most hearty meals you can have. And on a day when the weatherman said “there is no chance of precipitation” while I am looking out my window to see what I would call a heavy snow shower, I knew I could count on something: Pasta Bolognese.

Bolognese sauce is not your typical red (from tomatoes) sauce. It actually has a fairly low ratio of tomato to other ingredients. I’m convinced that what gives it a truly delicious color is red wine. I can feel  my cheeks getting rosy already.

You can serve Bolognese sauce with any pasta shape you wish. Some pastas hold sauces better than others, but I say do what you like or use what you have. Who wants to go to the grocery to get a specific pasta shape in 5 degree weather? I prefer to use ground chicken (a mix of ground chicken breast and ground chicken thigh) as opposed to beef, but beef makes an excellent sauce.

Bolognese Sauce

Ingredients:

  • salt
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 slices pork or turkey bacon, chopped
  • 1 lb. ground beef, ground chicken or ground turkey
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated (you can also finely chop this)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon 
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano for serving

How To:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and pasta. Cook until just tender, or al dente.

While the pasta water comes to a boil, heat olive oil in a medium sauce pot over medium heat, add bacon and let cook for about 3 minutes. Add meat and break up as it browns (ground chicken or turkey will not get as brown as beef). After about 5 minutes or when meat is no longer pink, add carrot, onion, garlic, allspice, salt and pepper, and the remaining seasonings. Cook 3 to 4 minutes more until onions are soft. Stir in tomato paste, mixing thoroughly. The sauce will start to come together and turn to a nice red color. Then stir in the wine. It will steam for about 1 minute. Add stock, mix, cover and reduce heat to simmer. The sauce will reduce a bit and become thick. I tend to add chicken stock tablespoons at a time until I reach my preferred consistency.  

Serve sauce over pasta and top with parmesan cheese. After the first bite, you’ll most likely start speaking Italian.

Pumpkin Pasta

If you bought one or two small pie pumpkins and happened to save them from turning into jack-o-lanterns, have I got a recipe for you! But I highly recommend even if you did carve your pumpkin (like me), you run out to the store and purchase a can of solid pumpkin. Pumpkin Pasta is delicious and tastes sinful- but is not. This recipe is perfect for a cold, cloudy day, which we seem to be having more and more of lately.

I used ground chicken as the protein, but you can definitely substitute ground turkey, sausage, or go meatless. I also mixed the light and dark meat- about 3/4 pound ground chicken breast and 1/4 pound ground chicken thigh.

If you are using a fresh pumpkin, here is what you do to get the equivalent to one regular-sized can:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Take about 2 smallish sugar pie pumpkins. Wash the pumpkins, cut off the ends and cut them in half.
  • Scoop out the seeds and save for roasting, if desired. 
  • Lay the pumpkins cut side down in a sprayed or oiled baking dish. Cover with foil and bake until tender, about 45 minutes.
  • Cool, then scoop the filling out into a bowl or food processor. If using the old fashioned method, use a potato masher to smash pumpkins. 

This should give you about 2 cups, depending on the size of your pumpkins. Now onto the pasta!

Pumpkin Pasta

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta, shape of your choice (can also substitue gluten-free pasta)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 pound ground chicken or ground turkey or a mix of the two
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree (or your fresh pumpkin above)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Dash nutmeg (this is a powerful spice so really only use a dash)
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup carmelized onions*
  • 3 to 4 leaves fresh sage, thinly sliced
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked and chopped (may use turkey bacon)
  • How To:

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta and a few pinches salt. Cook until al dente and drain.

    While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skilliet over medium heat. Add the ground chicken, garlic, pinch of salt and cayenne. Break up chicken bits with your spoon, as if you were making sloppy joe. Once the chicken is no longer pink, add the broth, pumpkin, and cream and stir to combine. Mixture will become creamy. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.

    Stir in the sage. If the sauce appears to be dry, add more chicken broth tablespoons at a time. Add the pasta and cheese and toss. Top individual portions with more cheese and the bacon bits.

    * To make carmelized onions: Slice one large sweet onion. Heat small skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onions and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to keep onions from sticking. If the skillet looks dry you can add oil (or I add water) 1 teaspoon at a time.  When onions are very soft and have browned/carmelized you can remove from stove. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to use.