May 13, 2010 § Leave a comment
While contemplating a simple yet hearty meal I could make with a pile of homemade ricotta that resulted from a failed batch of yogurt (which does, sometimes, happen to the best of us), yet not having any lasagna noodles on hand or willing to go through all the work it usually involves, I remembered my friend Elizabeth mentioning that she was making a spaghetti pie a few days back. Spaghetti pie, however, posed one obvious problem: the thought of a crispy crust that some people like didn’t sit well with me – I like my food mushy, gooey, and very, very moist, so anything crispy or crunchy – the two quintessentially American, in my mind, textures – are something I try to steer clear of. As a result, I decided to make a dish that would be the marriage of that and lasagna – or, essentially, a lasagna with spaghetti instead of the traditional lasagna noodles. Also, a good lasagna normally takes over an hour to bake, while this, I decided, could be done in 30 minutes. Plus, I didn’t have any mozzarella, and decided to use cheddar instead, which, to me, has more flavor anyway.
Of course, this is the season for nettle, which I find to be a wonderful substitute for cooked spinach, especially since it grows everywhere in abundance without any effort on my part. For a pain-free way to harvest and prepare nettles consult this handy guide.
In this not-so-attractive picture, I blanched the nettles and chopped them pretty coarsely.
I then mixed them with the ricotta, which, for the reason of my draining it of whey for too long, has come out a little dry – the condition that was remedied by the addition of a splash or two of milk.
I then mixed the nettles and the ricotta together.
To this, I added a dash of nutmeg and black pepper and some grated Parmesan cheese (I use my micro-plane grater for this).
By then I had already prepared my Bolognese sauce. The only thing I did differently here was omitting the milk and adding some asparagus, cut to 3/4″ to 1″ pieces, which I simmered in the finished sauce for about 4-5 minutes, or until al-dente. The thing about asparagus is that it is easy to overcook, by which point the sweetness turns to bitterness – the point which you wish to avoid. Asparagus is in season right now, so I stick it into every dish that I can. In the above picture, I spread about 2 C of thus modified Bolognese sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish.
Next, I topped it with some fully-cooked spaghetti.
I then not-so-elegantly spread the nettle-ricotta mixture on top. As you can see, it didn’t quite make it everywhere, but, for me, that’s good enough.
Next goes the grated cheddar cheese…
Top it with some sauce…
And sprinkle the remaining cheddar on top.
Now stick it in the oven at 350 degrees and bake for 30 min or so.
Lasagna Meets Spaghetti Pie
Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook
- I recipe Bolognese sauce, omitting the milk and adding 1/2 lb of asparagus cut to 3/4″ to 1″ for the last 4 min of simmering (you might have some sauce left over in the end)
- 1 tub ricotta (or 1 batch of failed yogurt ricotta, based on 1/2 gallon of milk)
- 1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese
- a dash of nutmeg
- a dash of pepper
- a handful of cooked, chopped nettles or spinach
- 3 C of grated cheddar cheese
- 1 lb spaghetti, cooked according to the package directions
Stir nettles, Parmesan, nutmeg, and pepper into ricotta. Spread 2 C of Bolognese on the bottom of a lasagna pan. Spread a layer of noodles on top, followed by a layer of ricotta and cheddar. Repeat the layers of sauce, noodles, ricotta, and cheddar. Spread the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with the rest of the cheddar. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 min.