Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What's For Dinner: Dinner Experiment Pasta Bake

It's the great dinner experiment. I bought ingredients to make manicotti and I had the idea to try adding pesto to the usual ricotta filling, but I can not locate my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator -which is what I use to fill manicotti. (Did I loan it to you? If I did please let me know where my baby is. LOL!) So I was trying to figure out what else I could make with the perishable ingredients for the manicotti. I thought I could make lasagna, but I hate layering those wriggly noodles and hoping they don't break or stick together before I can get everything assembled. And besides that I didn't have enough mozzarella for a lasagna. Then inspiration struck I remembered a baked spaghetti dish called "Bird's Nest Pie" that Becki Smith made. This is a kind of a hybrid of Bird's Nest Pie and a lasagna without the wriggly noodle handling.

OK it's after dinner now and I thought it turned out really well. I like the
Campanelle a lot, it's shape traps and holds onto those tasty bits and the
frilled edge is reminiscent of lasagna. (It's 3 days later and Ethan has had THREE dinners of this pasta and tonight at bedtime he said he hoped there was still enough for tomorrow.)

Meat Sauce:
Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey (couldn't find ground chicken at
the market)
2 cans Spaghetti sauce

Pasta Layer
3 Eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
a little less than 1 Pound Campanelle Pasta (spiral tube with a frill)
1 tub low fat cottage cheese

Cheese Layer
1 Egg
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
1 tub prepared basil pesto
Mozzarella (less than 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 and put a large pot of water on to boil.

1) In a deep skillet, cook ground turkey, breaking up into pieces with a spoon. When meat is cooked, pour in 1 can spaghetti sauce, cover, bring up to a bubble then turn off. If 2 cans will fit put them both in together. My pan wasn't big enough so I had to add more sauce to the pan after I had ladled out the bottom layer of the casserole.

2) In a medium bowl beat 1 egg, add 1 1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, mix together. Dump in one tub prepared basil pesto, stir to combine, set aside.

3) Cook Pasta according to package directions. While pasta cooks... Beat 3 eggs in a large bowl, beat in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. When pasta is cooked, drain in colander. While pasta is hot quickly mix into egg and cheese mixture, the heat of the pasta will begin to cook the egg and it will coat the pasta keeping it moist. Stir in tub of cottage cheese.

4) Assembly
Spray a 9x13 (or larger as it was overflowing my dish) baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place 1 or 2 ladles of meat sauce into bottom of dish and spread to cover. Layer a little less than half of the pasta on top of the sauce and spread to cover. Spread all of the ricotta mixture on top of the pasta and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Top with remaining Pasta mixture, top with remaining meat sauce.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in 350 oven until bubbling and 160 degrees in the center (food safety guidelines say eggs need to cook to 160 degrees to be safe) about 60 minutes (more if ingredients were not already hot going into the oven.) Remove foil, sprinkle with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and return to oven until cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. I'd use a spoon to serve this, I don't think it's going to come out in squares.

Whadya think? Sound good?


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