Cooking For One, Two, Three: Pasta Repurposed

Posted by on Tuesday Feb 3rd, 2009 | Print

DISHES: Meghan’s Turkey Lasagna; Whole Wheat Rigatoni with Turkey and Cremini Mushroom Bolognese
MAIN INGREDIENT: Ground Turkey, Pasta

TYPE:
Repurposing Leftovers

When I haven’t hijacked the kitchen for one of my weekday experiments, my roommate Caitlyn can usually be found there whipping up one of her sister’s recipes for hardy, yet healthy comfort food. But what her dishes lack in fat (Meghan is a nutritionist), they make up for in serving sizes that defy the rules of portion control. Caitlyn’s brother-in-law is a former football player, and judging from the family lore, eats more in one sitting than my entire high school field hockey team.

To the same effect, Caitlyn’s boyfriend, Matt, when given double the time it takes a normal person to finish a meal, has also been known to really pack it in. But despite who’s over for dinner, when Meghan’s recipes enter the scene, there always seem to be pounds of leftovers.

Now, having grown up in a Jewish household with my father consistently wheeling out on Thanksgiving morning to buy a fourth turkey, I find this awesome. Because much like my childhood refrigerator, when the kitchen has cleared out and I get back to the weekday experiments, there’s always a plethora of ingredients to re-appropriate, in this case, the sauce, a main component of Caitlyn’s meal.

The recipes below are Meghan’s original take on a killer, incredibly waist-friendly lasagna (so long as you do not attempt to polish off the pan), and then a dish (Turkey Mushroom Bolognese) that the quart of leftover filling inspired me to make later in the week.
From my kitchen, small but full of healthy appetite, to yours,

Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

Meghan (tiny) and Justin (not) with their son, Sander


Meghan’s Turkey Lasagna
Makes 4 – 7 servings, depending on whether or not Justin is at the table

Ingredients

1 box lasagna noodles
2 lg containers cottage cheese (one low fat, one regular)
1 lg container ricotta cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 bag shredded mozzerella cheese
2 lbs ground turkey
2 25 oz jars tomato sauce (if you have time, you can make your own)
1 box frozen spinach
2 tsp oregano
Salt
3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped olive oil

TIP: Meghan and Caitlyn use “no boil” lasagna noodles, but they soak them in warm to hot tap water for a few minutes before layering them in the pan.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Defrost the spinach in the microwave until fully thawed. Drain well using a colander or dish rag to squeeze out excess moisture.

In a large saute pan, brown the meat over medium heat. Add all but a 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce, the oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes, until it’s just beginning to thicken. Remove the sauce from the heat and mix in the spinach.

In the meantime, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, and cottage cheese in a large bowl. Add the parsley and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.On the bottom of a large baking tin or dish, spread the remaining 1/2 cup of sauce, making sure to cover the whole bottom in one thin layer. Line the pan with lasagna noodles, cutting pieces to fit if needed.

Spoon the meat mixture over the noodles in a thicker layer. Add another layer of noodles and cover these with the cheese mixture and a smaller amount of meat sauce.Repeat with remaining noodles, meat sauce, and cheese until you reach the top of the pan, making sure to end with one layer of noodles. Sprinkle the top of the lasagna with mozzarella cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Test the lasagna with a fork to make sure the noodles are tender. Remove foil and bake for ten more minutes, allowing the cheese to brown.The inevitable leftovers will last for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Whole Wheat Rigatoni with Turkey and Cremini Mushroom Bolognese
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1 16oz box whole wheat rigatoni (or any small, tubular pasta)
1 quart of leftover meat sauce (recipe above)
2 cups cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
crushed red pepper flakes

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until all moisture has been released, and the mushroom are tender and reduced to half their original size.

Combine the leftover meat sauce and the extra can of tomatoes and add to the pan. Simmer for 10 – 20 minutes to allow all flavors to combine and the acidity of the fresh tomatoes to cook off. Season to taste with salt and red pepper.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and toss the rigatoni with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil to prevent the pieces from sticking together.

Spoon mushroom bolognese sauce over the pasta. Serve with a simple salad (in this case, I chose baby spinach, diced tomatoes, and a balsamic-dijon vinaigrette).

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