Chef Shay’s Pasta Casserole – A Football Favorite

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One of the foods that my family loves is Spaghetti. I almost feel that my husband could eat it every day. However, I find that, as a chef, it could get boring really quick. I guess you could go back to Lady and the Tramp and romanticized the passionate coming of the lips between lovers, but with a family of five plus there not much call for that at the dinner table.

Spaghetti does have a way of being able to feed the masses relatively cheaply and elegantly, if you are creative. The dish that I prepared the other night was a break away from the traditional spaghetti. It began with leftover sauce.   On Sunday last we had the family over to watch a football game (Dallas lost another one). I prepared a Spaghetti Squash dish with sauce. My brother-in-law is a vegetarian so I prepared one sauce meatless and one with meat. The focus of the dish was the sauce. Needless to say I made more sauce than was needed (recipes are below). Into the refrigerator they went. So, fast forward a couple of days and I needed a quick and delicious meal. Easy enough! Out came the sauces! I looked through a variety of pastas that I keep in my pantry (in a future blog I will discuss the well-stocked Pantry) and got started.

Never truly liking to make the same dish twice, I decided to make a casserole using Mafalda Pasta (they look like tiny lasagna noodles). Since part of the meal is the result of leftover sauces the cost of this dinner was very cheap and fed five people with more lovely leftovers for the next day lunches.

Ingredients:

  • Leftover meat and meatless sauces – recipes are following. (Now you can also take a bottle/can of spaghetti sauce, brown some meat, saute some vegetables to make a quick sauce; remember this dinner started out wanting to use leftovers)
  • 16 oz. package of Mafalda PastaMafalda Pasta
  • 6-8 oz. of fresh Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 Bag – Blend of Italian Cheeses (or more if you like)
  • Dash of Salt (boiling water for pasta)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

I took the two sauces and mixed them together (my grazer brother-in-law was not present for this meal) into one beautiful sauce. For the pasta, bring water to boil, add salt. Now comes the tricky part. Since you will be baking this dish you want to prepare the pasta a bit undercooked, rather than the usual firm to the bite (Al-dente) otherwise the pasta will be too mushy – remember it will continue to cook while it is baking. Take all of the ingredients; sauce, pasta, mozzarella and mix it all together into one gorgeous concoction. Put mixture in to a 9”X12” casserole dish, spread evenly and put a layer of the Blend of Italian Cheeses on top (I don’t like to bury dishes in cheese). Put into the oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove when the cheeses is fully melted and slightly brown (it really neat to have a slight crispness on top). Let rest for about 5 – 10 minutes, then serve.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 can (14-16 oz.) of diced tomatoes
  • 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup Mirepoix (I cheated – I used Trader Joe’s pre-diced Mirepoix)
  • 2 tbsp. Olive oil
  • 2-4 Garlic cloves (pending on your tastes) – chopped
  • 1 tsp. Dry Italian Herb Blend (Oregano, Basil, Parsley)
  • ½ cup of red dry wine
  • ¼ tsp of baking soda (to cut the acid, if necessary)
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

Mirepoix – a mix of carrots celery and onion in small dices. I added chopped garlic cloves because I like garlic.

Place olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat and add vegetables. As you are sautéing the vegetables for about 5 minutes, add in the Italian herbs to release the essential oils of the herbs. After another minute or so add the red wine. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Put in the diced tomatoes and the jar of spaghetti sauce, and simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes. Taste and determine if you need to add the baking soda and / or sugar. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer an additional 30 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.

Meat Sauce

My meat sauces are always different. For this one I used all the same ingredients as above along with:

  • 3 Italian sausages

All prepared the same way as the vegetarian sauce above except adding the crumbled sausage along during the sautéing of the vegetables.

Foodistory

The Maflada Pasta – Mafaldine, also known as Reginette (Italian for “little queens”) is a ribbon-shaped pasta. It is flat and wide with wavy edges on both sides. Mafalda paste was named in honor of Princess Mafalda of Savoy (2 November 1902 – 27 August 1944) was the second daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and his wife Elena of Montenegro.

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Unfortunately her story is a tragic one. Being of Italian royalty she was very much involved in humanitarian efforts during WWI and became beloved by her people. Her husband, Prince Phillip became an intermediary between the Italians and the Nazi Party. During WWII Hitler believed Princess Mafalda worked against the German war effort. She was arrested by the Gestapo and was confined to the Buchenwald concentration camp. During an allied air raid she suffered severe burns to her arms. She was not properly treated and during an operation to attempt to arrest an infection she bled profusely, never regained consciousness and died. In 1997, the Italian government honored Princess Mafalda with her image on a postal stamp.

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