Tag Archives: baked pasta

Today’s post is brought to you by the letters C, S, and A.

This week’s haul from the CSA:

  • Roma tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Green beans
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic
  • Chives
  • Callaloo
  • Bell peppers & jalapeños

 

First up? A stir fry. I cook stir-fry’s all the time, but it always – always – tastes so much better with actual fresh veggies. I can’t help but notice, every time I bring in the goodies from the CSA pick-up, that the veggies are so oddly shaped. I wonder, are they so visually unappealing that the local grocery stores wouldn’t carry them?

CSA veggies pre-stir fry

CSA stir fry finished

*          *          *          *

The tomatoes from the farm had been picked at such a perfect time that when I picked them out, they were already perfectly soft, so I needed to go ahead and use them quickly. Having just finished off several quart-sized freezer bags full of chopped tomatoes I’d frozen a while back, I was very eager to make some homemade pasta sauce from scratch. So I did.

tomato sauce

We made tomato sauce in a similar way with the kids at cooking camp last week, but when I went to write it down for the cookbook we gave them at the end of the week, I couldn’t even bring myself to reveal my favorite, sorta-secret ingredients! So this sauce – one of my very favorite things in the world – has been on my mind a lot lately. Imagine my delight at seeing those ripe, delicious-looking Romas sitting in those crates!

Making my favorite sauce tonight must have also caused the whimsical feeling that made me decide not to just scoop the sauce onto some pasta on a plate. I found a covered ramekin somewhere in the dark recesses of my cabinets and made myself a mini baked pasta casserole, with rosemary-olive oil breadcrumbs (I made those, too) and Parmiggiano Reggiano.

baked pasta

The cuteness of this dish has made me all sentimental, so I’ll be spending the rest of the evening curled up with a bit more wine and a very sappy, (and also a favorite) movie, trying not to think about how soon I’ll be back at work …

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Sunday dinner, when you don’t feel like cooking Sunday dinner.

I have very, very mixed feelings about casseroles.

I realize that as a native of the American South (doesn’t that sound fancier than just being a Southerner? 😉 ), casseroles are a staple of most home-cooked Southern cuisine. But, as a kid, my family went through a string of closely-timed tough times, and as Southern culture also dictates, one makes a casserole for the family in need. We had more spaghetti casseroles, chicken casseroles, and cheeseburger casseroles than we could eat. Literally. (My parents just recently moved out of our old house last year, and there might well have been a frozen cheeseburger casserole still in that freezer, and it might have finally been tossed out with the fridge itself. In the South, one does not say “no” to the gift of a casserole.) And so, as anyone else might have done, I got quite sick of eating casseroles.

This has continued into my adulthood as far as my not even owning a true, presentable casserole dish (one must have a presentable casserole dish if one is to present it to the neighbor in need, after all). I am a huge geek when it comes to all sorts of kitchen implements, tools, and utensils, regardless of utility. But a “good” casserole dish is not something I own. Since I don’t own one, I don’t make casseroles.

However …

For the last couple of months I have been driving to and from Charlotte (almost a 2 hour drive, each way) every Sunday for work for my 2nd job. This means I typically have been getting home after 7 or so on Sunday evening, often to a depleted refrigerator. Cooking dinner, after working for three hours and driving for nearly four, is not something I have looked forward to on these Sundays.

Tonight was no exception. I hadn’t made my weekly trip to the supermarket, and didn’t have a lot to cook with. Picking up fast food wasn’t an option, since I needed to have something for lunch tomorrow. What I had a lot of was cheese (of various varieties) and pasta – two ingredients I can always enjoy. I also had some chicken & garlic sausage, of which I also used some earlier this week for some pizzas.

I’m not sure how the decision to make a baked pasta actually happened (see? I won’t even call it a casserole). But at some point I turned the oven on to preheat while I walked the dog, and then came back to the kitchen and put it all together: half-cooked the pasta, browned the sausage, tossed them together with cheese, olive oil, black pepper, red pepper flakes, fresh oregano and fresh basil, and dumped in the whole mess into a small baking dish.

What I ended up with was, surprisingly, very good.

I have to say, I know it’s weird, and I might be the only one who thinks this, but I really like crunchy baked pasta. There’s a pizza place here that does a baked spaghetti pizza, and it is one of my favorite things to eat not least because of the crunchy-pasta texture.

I enjoyed a chunk of the not-casserole with Sunday Night Football and a yummy beer, Great Lakes Brewery’s Oktoberfest. I had thought wine would be better, but I didn’t have any, and this turned out to complement the comfort-food taste of the pasta really well. Plus, I am a big Cleveland fan, and after my Brownies finally got a win today, it seemed appropriate to have a Cleveland-brewed beer.