Baked Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

ImageImportant: This is my dream of a baked pasta dish — not too heavy, not to rich or gooey, tons of crunchy edges. As you might see in the photos above, it’s on the firm side. If you’d like a baked pasta with more sauce, which I expect most of you will, you’ll want to use 1 1/2 times the bechamel and cheese below.

Broccoli rabe (also called raab or rapini) is a leafy green vegetable with buds that somewhat resemble broccoli. It’s slightly bitter and holds up well to cooking. If you can’t find it, regular broccoli or broccolini will work here as well; they will only need 3 and 2 minutes respectively of boiling time with the pasta to keep it semi-crisp. If you’d like to make this without meat, the sausage can definitely be omitted. You could add some lightly sauteed chunky brown mushrooms for extra bulk, as well.

The pasta shape I used here is called toscani and it’s from the brand Seggiano. I have found it at Whole Foods and, if you’re in the East Village, Commodities Natural Market on 1st Ave. (plus I’m sure other stores). When I can’t get, it I use Barilla’s similar campanelle or seriously any chunky pasta you like to bake with.

Pasta and assembly
1 pound chunky pasta of your choice (I love bell shapes; see above for details)
1 bundle broccoli rabe (see above for options), stems and leaves cut into 1-inch segments
1 pound Italian sausage (sweet or spicy pork or chicken), casings removed
2/3 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
6 ounces mozzarella, cut into small cubes

Bechamel
2 cups milk, full fat is ideal
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
Few gratings fresh nutmeg

Cook the pasta and rabe: Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta and five minutes before its cooking time is up, add the broccoli rabe. It will seem like too much for the water, but with a stir or two, the rabe should wilt and cook alongside the pasta. Drain the broccoli rabe and pasta together and place in a large bowl.

Cook your sausage: Meanwhile, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide saucepan (you will use this for the bechamel in a few minutes; you could also use your pasta pot, once it is drained) over medium heat. When hot, add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about five minutes. Remove with slotted spoon or spatula, leaving any fat behind. Eyeball the drippings (pork sausage will leave some; chicken usually does not) — use one tablespoon less butter next if it looks like there’s a tablespoon there. Any less, don’t worry about adjusting the butter.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Make the bechamel: Melt your butter in same saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add your flour and stir it into the butter until smooth. Cook the mixture together for a minute, stirring constantly. Pour in a small drizzle of your milk, whisking constantly into the butter-flour mixture until smooth. Continue to drizzle a very small amount at a time, whisking constantly. Once you’ve added a little over half of your milk, you’ll find that you have more of a thick sauce or batter, and you can start adding the milk in larger splashes, being sure to keep mixing. Once all of the milk is added, add the salt, garlic, nutmeg, and few grinds of black pepper, and bring the mixture to a lower simmer and cook it, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Assemble and bake: Add the sausage and bechamel to the bowl with the pasta and broccoli rabe. Stir in mozzarella and half of grated parmesan or pecorino until combined. Pour into a lasagna pan, deep 9×13-inch baking dish* or 3-quart casserole dish and coat with remaining parmesan or pecorino. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the edges and craggy points are nicely bronzed.

Eat warm. Reheat as needed.

 Source: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2013/09/baked-pasta-with-broccoli-rabe-and-sausage/

World’s Best Lasagne

ImageINGREDIENTS:

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
12 lasagna noodles
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:
In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Source: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Worlds-Best-Lasagna/Detail.aspx?evt19=1

Creamy Shrimp & Mushroom Pasta

  • Image4-8 oz fettuccine or linguine
  • 10 tbsp butter, divided (I know, but I’ve tried it with less and it’s just not the same)
  • 8 oz fresh, sliced mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped (you can use dried herbs if that’s all you have)
  • 2/3 cup boiling water (from your noodle pot)
  • 1 lb cooked shrimp (feel free to buy frozen-gasp!)
  1. Boil and salt a large pot of water and cook your pasta.  I usually only use about half of an 8 oz box, preferring fewer noodles.
  2. While your pasta is cooking, cook your shrimp if necessary and reserve.  If your shrimp are pre-cooked and frozen, quickly thaw them under running water.
  3. In a large skillet melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat and saute mushrooms until soft and brown.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Reserve cooked mushrooms and melt remaining butter in the skillet.  Add minced garlic, cream cheese, and herbs.  At this point, I generally feel like something has gone terribly wrong.  The cream cheese doesn’t really melt and starts to look almost curdled, don’t worry about it!  It will all smooth out and be wonderful when we add the water. I promise.
  5. Simmer cream cheese mixture until well blended. Get a scoop of boiling pasta water from your noodle pot and mix it in, stirring quickly to smooth out the sauce.
  6. Keep sauce hot and add shrimp and mushrooms, mix well and simmer (stirring often) until everything is hot and thickened, about 10 minutes-you wont ruin this sauce by accidentally boiling it so don’t worry.
  7. Toss sauce with cooked noodles and serve.

Source: http://chaosinthekitchen.com/2008/10/fast-food-creamy-shrimp-and-mushroom-pasta/

Hearty Shells & Cheese

ImageIngredients

  • 8 oz shell pasta
  • 12 oz broccoli florets
  • 8 oz cooked chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 10 oz freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ tsp dry mustard
  • big pinch of garlic salt
  • big pinch of black pepper

Directions

  1. Bring the pasta to a boil in a large pot until tender. While the pasta is cooking, steam broccoli in the microwave by zapping it for 2 minutes, stirring halfway through. The broccoli should be bright green and just slightly tender.
  2. Drain the pasta and set aside. Set the steamed broccoli aside as well.
  3. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir continuously until the mixture is slightly lighter than the color of peanut butter. This is called a roux and it’s used to thicken the cheese sauce.
  4. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking while you pour. Continue whisking until no lumps of roux are left. Stir continuously for about five minutes, until sauce thickens. Add the cheese, dry mustard, a big pinch of garlic salt and pepper. Keep stirring until all the cheese melts.
  5. Add the steamed broccoli and chopped chicken to the cheese sauce. Stir well. Add the cooked pasta and mix until well combined and heated through. Season again with more garlic salt and pepper and serve!

Source: http://www.pbs.org/food/fresh-tastes/shells-cheese-chicken-broccoli/

Ranch Pasta Salad w/ Broccoli, Spinach and Green Peas

ImageIngredients
16 oz dry pasta {I used mini penne}
2 cups fresh broccoli, chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen peas {I used frozen}
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 packed Ranch dressing, prepared as directed

Directions
Cook the pasta according to directions on the box, drain, and set aside to cool.

Mix up the Ranch dressing according to the package directions and set aside.

In a large serving bowl, combine the pasta, broccoli, peas, and spinach. Pour the Ranch dressing over the pasta and stir until all the pasta is coated. Refrigerate until ready to serve.