Saturday, February 5, 2011

Baked Pasta with Pesto

Ok so tonight Brian was all, "pesto" and I was all, "We need to use up the ricotta I opened two days ago."  Because I'm practical.  Responsible even.   And I've had bad experiences with thinking the ricotta in the fridge was still ok, and finding out it wasn't, and ordering in.

"Oh, ok," I said.  "Like baked ziti, but with pesto?  Sound good?"  And he grunted a little, so I assumed I had permission to move forward with the plan*.
So I started with sauce.  If you have sauce already, use that.  I didn't. I have soup, I have stock, I even have a bit of garlic scape pesto, but I had no sauce.  So I cut up some onions and shallots.
you might think i have only one cutting board.  you'd be mistaken.
The extra bits on the ends went to the stock bag in the freezer.

And I threw them in with like a tablespoon of oil until the onions were translucent.
i can't take pictures one-handed.
And I added a can of tomatoes. I thought chunky was the answer tonight, but you can go smooth if you want.  Whatev.
yeah, that's tequila in the background.  and?
And some sugar, because I'm a sweet sauce person.  And salt and pepper and garlic powder and onion powder.  Onion powder is the key to everything.  Yeah, I added a ton of onion, but onion powder is sweet-ish, and it pulls things together in a way that onion itself doesn't.   So I brought that JUST to a boil and then down to a simmer while I worked on the rest.

The rest.

You know, pasta and ricotta and the rest.   So I got some water to boil (I think I have shitty pots, this takes for freaking ever) and threw in some tiny shells.  Penne would have been fine.  Orecchiette would have been awesome.  I had shells handy.  Like half a bag (8 oz).

So, I'm not an al dente person. I want my pasta slick. This is a conundrum for baked pasta dishes, because I don't want to end up with mush. Also, I'm all contradictory because I make my lasagna without boiling my noodles. So I was torn. But I cooked the pasta all the way through, and (spoiler alert) it worked.

I put the rest of my container of ricotta in a bowl (damn near a cup), and mixed in pesto.
in the summer, i make my own, but i can't keep a basil plant (or any plant) alive indoors, so i rely on the jar.
Dear god, have you ever read the back of the label of pesto? So I added like a quarter of this jar, and then read the nutrition facts, considered my cheese needs, and melted four cubes of basil because I'm not in it for the olive oil and pine nuts, thanks. I'm in it for the basil.

this looks huge, but the "baking dish" is a 2-inch square.  it's cute because it's little.

So pesto, extra basil and ricotta are in a bowl, mixed well, and everthing is sort-of green-ish and I'm all like, "I need greens." So I go into the veggie freezer (yes, I have that) for spinach and pull out something green.

Remember when I was like "don't freeze your squash all together"? Well, freezer rule 2 needs to be "Label the shit in your freezer." It's not spinach.

So I defrosted it. And I still have no fucking clue what it is. Dandelion? I know what it's not. Not spinach, not collards, not beet greens, not chard. Probably not mustard greens. I don't know, but I'm betting it's food because it's in my freezer.
it's a vegetable, at least, in the sense that its not an animal or a mineral.
Whatever, greens are greens. I mixed it in with the pesto and ricotta.

When the pasta was cooked through (again, choose your own adventure here) I drained it, put it back in the pot, and added the ricotta-pesto-mystery greens mix, because the pot was hot and would add a bit of heat to the whole thing, giving it added meltiness.  I added some parmesan here too.  You have to do your own math... cheese is delicious, cheese is not health food, so figure out the balance.  I might have added about an ounce and half of parmesan.   I stirred as vigorously as was feasible with cooked pasta.

i haven't even started thinking about washing this pan yet.
Then I spread a layer of sauce in a baking dish, piled in the pasta, and topped with a thin layer of sauce, and threw it in at 350 for 20 minutes.

After a while (when it smelled hot), I pulled it out and tore up some fresh mozzarella for the top. Our first purchase from Plenty on Passyunk Ave.

15 minutes more in the oven to get it's melt on, and we're set.

This made six big servings. Like, we both scooped some onto a plate and felt reasonable about it, and then ate it and went back for more, and there are four of those left.

*If I didn't get permission, he could just have cereal, now couldn't he?

click the thing you want to read about