Sunday, September 10
If you love to cook, Sundays are the most anticipated day of the week. A full day to prep, season, and saute away! I love to plan for the week on Sundays, sometimes preparing soups to eat for the week, or just cleaning out the fridge and making the kitchen sparkle, so that when I get home from work, it's a pleasure to spend time in the kitchen preparing dinner.
As much as I love to cook on Sundays, I also don't like to be stuck in the kitchen all day long, so our Sunday night meals are usually something simple and comforting, something to help us finish off the week in a good state of mind, preferrably something that goes well with some red wine (there aren't many things that don't go well with red wine if you're a dedicated daily indulger).
I have had Donna Hay's Book, Off the Shelf: Cooking From the Pantry for about 6 years now, and never had I made one thing from it until tonight. Why? I really couldn't say, because I've flipped through it a million times, the photos are so enticing, and everything is dead simple. When I pondered what to do with my leftover ricotta (why is there always this dilemma of leftover ricotta? I actually like it enough to eat off a spoon, but usually try to refrain from doing so), I decided to finally give old Donna a try. This Ricotta Spinach was simple and pretty satisfying, but I altered the recipe quite a bit, and found that I needed the full amount of pasta called for in the recipe, but only half the ricotta spinach topping, which caused me to have to go back and boil another pot of water for pasta, since it was obvious that I had WAY too much topping for half a box of pasta, even though I had halved the recipe for it.
This is a great base recipe, and uses some ingredients that I'm usually looking to use up after days of sitting in the fridge with no purpose ahead of them. I will certainly use this as a basis for future baked pasta dishes, but I will probably never make it exactly the same. I think a layer of roasted cherry tomatoes would have done wonders for the overall impact of the dish, visually and because it would provide an extra layer of texture and brightness that was missing here. As for Donna's book, I'm not sure I could make a judgement just yet... I'll have to do some more testing and report back.
Ricotta Spinach Pasta Bake
Based loosely on a Donna Hay recipe
5 fl. oz sour cream
3/4 lb ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, grated
1 bunch Spinach, stemmed and washed thoroughly
1 clove garlic, minced fine, and smashed to a paste with your knife
1 handful Italian parsley, chopped
1 handful basil leaves, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
1 pound penne or rigatoni
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put a large pot of water on to boil ( you will use this for blanching the spinach and cooking the pasta. Prepare a oven safe baking dish, about the size of a large pie dish, or deep casserole; whatever you choose, just keep in mind that thick you want your layer of noodles - probably about 3 inches or so.
In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, ricotta, eggs and parmesan cheese. Season with a pinch of nutmeg, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and set aside.
When the water reaches a boil, blanch your spinach and remove to a colandar to drain and cool. Bring the water to a boil again and cook the pasta to al dente. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze well to drain, and move to your cutting board to chop. Add the spinach, garlic, parsley, and basil to the ricotta mixture and stir to combine.
When the pasta is finished, toss with a little olive oil and place in your baking dish, pressing the noodles into the dish to remove air pockets. Spoon the ricotta mixture over top the noodles and smooth the top.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, and the top is set. If necessary, turn up the oven at the end to achieve a more golden crust.