Monday, July 29, 2013
Then 5:30PM rolled around. Realizing that my wonderful husband would be home in less than an hour, I quickly wrangled the kids into the car and drove home. We got home at 5:45PM and I had 30 minutes to figure out dinner. Still not having much of a plan . . . I started cooking and came up with this pasta. It was ready by the time my hubby is usually home (6:15-ish) even though my brave husband never made it home. (He's a wildland firefighter, so this is not an unusual occurrence. There are many summer nights when he never comes home and can't call. It really makes me cherish the time we have together, when I realize that every morning when he leaves for work -If I'm lucky enough to see him before he goes- it might be the last time I see him for days or weeks. But, I digress.) So, dinner was done on time and it only took roughly 20 minutes from start to finish. The kids and I enjoyed a wonderful meal that hits all the flavor notes as lasagna but only took a fraction of the time. I love it when a plan (even half baked) comes together. :)
Here's what I did:
I started by putting a large pot of hot water on to boil. Then I started browning up 1 pound of mild Italian sausage in a large skillet with 1 small onion (from my garden of course). I like to use my potato masher to break up and ground meat while it cooks. It's much faster than trying to chase the meat around the pan with a spoon or spatula.
When the meat is all broken up, I turned the heat to high and browned the meat as much as I could. ("Brown food tastes good." - Anne Burrell)
When the water was boiling, I generously sated it and added 1 pound of Rigatoni pasta. (Any shape would work, but when I have big pieces of meat, I like to have big noodles too.) Stir the pasta and let it do it's thing. According to the box, it was ready in 12 minutes (I always taste as I go and drain the pasta when it's at the texture I prefer.)
While the pasta was cooking, I added 1 can of pasta sauce. (Marinara sauce, spaghetti sauce, what have you. Sometimes I used canned, sometimes I used jarred. I like to make my own, but when I'm in a rush I usually grab a pre-made one from the pantry.)
I always dress it up with a little herbs. Today it was 1 tsp of dry basil (fresh is best, but I always have dry on hand).
I let everything simmer together, over low heat for about 5 minutes. Then I added 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese. (This is to taste. If you like more, add more.) I just stirred it in and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.
While I was waiting for the noodles and sauce, I cut up some mozzarella cheese. I just cut a block of it into slices, then planks and then cubes. Nothing too exact. I think I used about 4 oz total, but again, we're talking about cheese. Cheese, in my book, is always "to taste." ;)
When the pasta was done, I reserved 1 cup of the pasta water (which you should always do when making pasta). I add it back into the finished dish to help everything meld together. I've heard pasta water be referred to as the "magic glue that makes the sauce stick to the noodles." (I accidentally scooped up 1 noodle too. Haha. No big deal, it will go in with the other noodles in a minute.)
I drained the noodles . . .
And then added them to the meat sauce on the stove. NEVER rinse the pasta! Just drain it and dump it into the sauce. I also added in 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water.
I stirred the noodles, sauce and water together. Then I turned heat off and added the cheese cubes I cut earlier.
All that was left to do was to stir everything together and finish it will a little parsley. Again, fresh is best. If I had any Parmesan cheese, I would have added about 1/2 cup of that as well, but I'm fresh out. :( Oh well. Next time.
Wanna know my favorite part? When the cheese cubes get all melt-y and stringy.
In the words of my three year old, "Oh yeah, baby." :)
Just scoop and serve. Let me know what you think!
1 pound mild Italian sausage (or hot Italian sausage if you like it spicy)
1 small onion, diced
3 cups marinara sauce
1 tsp dry basil (or 2 Tbsp fresh)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (I used whole milk, but any is fine - to taste)
1 pound Rigatoni Pasta
salt (to generously salt the pasta water)
1 cup reserved pasta water
4 oz Mozzarella cheese, cubed (to taste)
parsley (and fresh basil if you'd like) for garnish (to taste)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (to taste)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While waiting for the water, brown up the sausage and onion, breaking up the sausage into small pieces. Cook the sausage over high heat, to get a nice brown color. When the water is boiling, salt the water generously and add the pasta. Stir and cook according to the package directions (should be done in about 12 minutes). When the sausage is brown, add the marinara sauce and turn the heat to low. Add the basil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the ricotta cheese, stir and simmer for another 5 minutes. When the pasta is done, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the noodles. Add the noodles to the meat sauce along with 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Stir and add the mozzarella cheese. Stir again. Add the remaining pasta water, if the noodles are soaking up too much of the sauce (if it looks dry). Garnish with the parsley (and more basil if you like) and the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot.