Snowed-In Pasta Bake
So, now I have seen it, and I I believe it. Two feet of snow in Central Park! Our section of the island was hushed all day, blanketed in white. And I really felt like I had achieved a New York Moment during yoga this morning in the living room, high above the city, surrounded by endless snowfall.
Now, the stores were open here; it wasn't that bad a storm. But I liked the idea of making something comforting and defiantly rich without leaving the snugness of the apartment. Plus, each time a clump of icicles crashes past our windows from apartments above, the kittens bolt for the nearest lap and even when both humans are home, that's a 1:1 ratio. So I perused the shelves, and here's what I came up with. It's not fancy or original, but it oozes cheese, radiates warmth, and filled us to the brim. Without leaving the house!
Baked Penne with Faux-Bolognese
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Pasta
Serves a whole heck of a lot. Probably 8 at least.
1 c. part-skim ricotta
1 egg yolk
1 c. grated pecorino romano, divided equally
mega pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb. penne rigate
4-5 c. faux bolognese (see below)
0.5 lb part-skim mozzarella, cut into small cubes
Heat oven to 425 F. Oil a large baking dish with olive oil and put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
Mix the ricotta, yolk, 0.5 c. pecorino, and nutmeg together in a very large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. For me, this means a lot of pepper, but go easy on the salt; you're going to be adding plenty of that with the sauce and additional romano later.
Cook the penne until slightly shy of al dente. Drain, then add the pasta to the bowl with the ricotta mixture. Stir well to coat the pasta with the ricotta. Now pour in the faux bolognese and the mozzarella, and again stir well.
Pour everything into your baking dish and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the romano over the top, and drizzle with additional olive oil. Bake 20 minutes or until bubbling and lightly browned. Let it sit 3-5 minutes before you scoop into it.
* I made a faux bolognese by (a) sauteeing a minced onion and two fat minced garlic cloves in olive oil until soft, (b) adding a minced carrot and celery stalk and cooking a little longer, (c) adding 14 oz. of browned "Gimme Lean" pseudo-ground beef, 28 oz. crushed tomatoes, and several generous shakes of dried oregano and thyme and heating over low heat for thirty minutes, then (d) stirring in 0.25 c. grated romano and salt and pepper to taste.
* You could substitute real bolognese or another tomato sauce, of course. I prefer not to use ground beef -- Gimme Lean makes a great vegetarian substitute.
* Next time I'd add some toasted fennel seeds and some fresh parsley to the pasta mixture.