Archive for the ‘pasta casserole’ Category

Well, I guess if you have one noodle it’s lasagna; if you have two or more, it’s lasagne. And you’re one happy camper. Same with “spaghetto” or “spaghetti”. No one ever prepares “spaghetto”.

Anyway, that’s what I made for dinner last night, with an “a”. I had some leftover meaty spaghetti, with an “i”, sauce and all the ingredients necessary for that delightful Italian specialty lasagna. So, I was good to go.

Thank God for whoever let the world know about using dry, uncooked lasagna sheets. I suppose it should have dawned on me at some point that it isn’t necessary to bring a huge pot of salted water to boil, drop in the pasta, time it carefully so the pasta doesn’t overcook (and then fall apart as one is trying to manhandle it into submission and into the baking dish), cool the individual sheets without burning one’s fingers, etc., etc., etc. Anyway, God bless the unboiled lasagna innovators every one,whoever they are.

My local “Foodtown” grocery store makes a mean hot Italian bulk sausage. I picked up about one third of a pound of that, a few slices of Genoa hard salami, and used about 10 thin slices of pepperoni I had in the frig. As the sausage was browning on the stove, I minced the pepperoni and salami and added them to the skillet after I removed the rendered fat from the sausage. With the ground beef that was already in the leftover spaghetti sauce on hand, I knew I had enough of a meaty base for the lasagna.

The package of Barilla “no-boil” lasagna has a recipe on the back.  That’s the basic recipe I follow, adding a few things here and there as I see fit. I use lowfat ricotta, about moreParmesan than they call for, adding another 1/4 cup on the top over the last layer of mozzarella.

I usually add cooked spinach to the cheese and egg mixture, sometimes chopping a couple handfuls of fresh spinach and microwaving or sauteing it and squeezing as much moisture as I can out of it before adding it to the mozzarella.  Other times, if I have planned ahead, I use leftover creamed spinach or spinach souffle (about 1 cup) instead of fresh.

To make more of a vegetable lasagna, I add some grated or minced carrots, zucchini, or even a handful of frozen peas, sprinkling them between the pasta layers in no particular order. It’s kind of a random thing. I like to look at it as an art!

If you can’t find the Barilla recipe, here it is. It’s hard to read on the box anyway. I revamped it to make it easier to read. (I have it taped on the inside of one of my kitchen cupboard doors, right above the counter where I make lasagna and occasionally lasagne.

Morgana’s Revised Barilla Lasagna Recipe


16 no-boil Barilla lasagna sheets

52 oz. spaghetti sauce

1/2 lb. ground beef

1/4 lb. Italian sausage

1/4 c. diced hard salami, diced

8-10 thin pepperoni slices, diced

2 eggs

4 c. shredded mozzarella

15 oz. ricotta

1/2 – 3/4 c. parmesan, shredded

Optional vegetables: (any or all)

cooked spinach (squeezed to remove excess moisture) or creamed spinach

handful of frozen peas

1 carrot, peeled and shredded or minced

1/2 med. zucchini, or 1 small, shredded or minced

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Brown ground beef and Italian sausage in a medium skillet. Drain fat. Mix in the salami and pepperoni. Set aside to cool a bit.

2. Mix the eggs, ricotta, 2 cups  mozzarella, and 1/2 cup parmesan. (Add the spinach and any other vegetables.)

3. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking dish with cooking spray if desired. (If your baking dish is shallower, only make 3 layers instead of 4. I use a Pyrex 9 X 13 pan that is nearly 2 inches deep and it works well.) Spread 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the pan.

4. Assemble layers: (BIG HINT: spread each dry lasagna sheet with the cheese/egg/vegetable mixture before laying in the pan. It’s much easier!)

     Layer 1:  4 pasta sheets (spread with 1/3 of the egg mixture)

                       half of the meat mixture

                       1 c. mozzarella

                       1 c. sauce

     Layer 2:   4 pasta sheets (spread with 1/3 of the egg mixture)

                        1 1/2 c. sauce

     Layer 3:    4 pasta sheets (spread with rest of the egg stuff)

                         rest of the meat

                         1 c. sauce

     Layer 4:     4 pasta sheets

                          the remaining sauce

                          last cup of mozzarella

                          1/4 c. parmesan

5. Cover with foil and bake 50 – 60 minutes, 375 degrees F. Uncover and continue baking for 5 minutes more. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 – 15 minutes before serving.


I like to use the no-stick aluminum foil made by Reynolds when baking lasagna. The cheese topping comes right up to the top of my baking dish and might stick to regular foil. With the no-stick foil, I have no trouble at all. It is also heavy enough to reuse to cover the leftovers, if  there are any leftovers.

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I know I described the way I usually fix Johnny Marzetti in the last post. Today I used a different recipe and it is extremely good. A few years ago, I was really interested in Italian cookbooks and read many from the library and bought quite a few, too many, probably. I began to notice recipes for a pasta sauce or casserole that called for blue cheese, or gorgonzola. I thought that sounded rather strange (remember, this was two decades ago, and I was really just getting involved in cooking at a level more than basic). After I had seen a number of them, I decided to give it a try.

Man, oh man! What a revelation! If I don’t convince you to try anything else in this blog, I will be happy if I get you to try adding crumbled blue cheese to a more or less standard pasta casserole recipe. Let me tell you how I did it today.

I started with leftover spaghetti sauce from a few days ago. It was just regular spaghetti sauce, ground beef, tomato sauce, some onions, garlic, herbs. Nothing out of the ordinary. I had about 2 cups leftover and decided to make Johnny Marzetti.  I began by sauteeing a chopped carrot, celery stalk, small onion, and half of a zucchini, chopped. When those were tender, I added the leftover sauce and heated it. Then, while I was boiling about a half pound of campanelle pasta (shaped like little horns or bells – but I could have used penne, or anything), I poured into the sauce about a half cup of heavy cream. Then I put in about a half cup of crumbled blue cheese and stirred all that to combine the cream and incorporate the melting cheese.

After draining the pasta, I put both the pasta and the sauce in a casserole and mixed them. I sprinkled some parmesan over the top and put it in a 325 oven for about 15 minutes to melt the cheese on top. During that time I tossed a salad and sliced some fresh bread.

The blue cheese adds a tangy taste that makes the dish rather different from most pasta casseroles. I have made it before with Italian sausage instead of ground beef. It is actually quite a bit better with sausage. The two tastes are complementary somehow. Give it a try, even if you don’t like blue cheese.

Here’s the recipe, as best as I can quantify the ingredients. Remember – I used leftover homemade spaghetti sauce. You can use whatever kind you like, with meat or without.



2  to 2 1/2 c. spaghetti sauce

1 T. olive oil

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 celery stalk, halved lengthwise and chopped

1/2 c. onion, chopped

1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and chopped

1/2 lb. pasta (penne, macaroni, campanelle, whatever), prepared according to directions on package

1/2 c. heavy cream, or whipping cream

1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese

1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated or shredded

1. Preheat oven to 325. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the chopped vegetables and saute until tender.

2. Add the leftover spaghetti sauce and heat medium heat. Add the cream, lower heat to medium low and stir to combine.

3. Add the blue cheese and stir to incorporate the melting cheese.

4. Put the cooked pasta and the warm sauce into a casserole and mix together. Sprinkle some parmesan on top and bake in the oven until bubbly, about 20 minutes.

5. Serve with more parmesan if desired. 

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