Spaghetti squash, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna

photo (7)

It’s been a looong time readers!  I apologize for my absence, but life gets in the way sometimes.   Over in our household, things have changed radically!  In November our little girl was born, and you know what newborns mean!  Amazement, happiness, wonder, lack of sleep and no time.  Yet, I have to say that we are lucky, she sleeps through the night already and is a pretty easy baby, so that has freed up some time for me to be able to cook again.  Granted, not much time, but on weekends I get to make nice comfort food because the hubby and my eldest daughter are around to give me a hand.

Since the birth of our little one, I have started to eat more vegetables, in preparation for starting her off on the right foot.  What I didn’t expect, is how much better I feel, and how heavy and bloated I get when I eat meat.  Now, don´t get me wrong, I looove meat, but I think I am going to do weekday vegetarianism and save the meat for the weekends!

Just recently I started seeing spaghetti squash at the market, and its been two weeks in a row that I cook it at home.  This recipe was inspired by a Jamie Oliver show I saw last week, but he used butternut squash instead.  This recipe is mine, because I know he didn’t use any béchamel and his was a sort of rotolo, like a rolled up pasta.  I don´t get to watch too much tv now and when I do, I usually don’t get to see the whole program!

I wasn’t sure about this combination of veggies, but it works marvelously and is going to be a repeat offender in our house!  My daughter who only ate spinach in spanakopita, now loves this dish and bonus she gets squash and  spinach!  This is a sunday type meal, since it does take a little bit of extra time to make it.  But please, do try it, I guarantee you will not miss the meat and will keep this recipe to use again and again!

Spaghetti Squash, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna

Serves 8

12 sheets precooked lasagna sheets

1 recipe garlic spinach (below)

1 small spaghetti squash, roasted and seeded, peeled and mashed

1 recipe tomato sauce (below)

1 recipe béchamel (below)

1 small tub of ricotta cheese

1 mozzarella, chopped

2 tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano

To make the lasagna, preheat your oven to 190C (375F).  In a large bowl, mix the squash, spinach and ricotta, try it to see if it needs any more salt or pepper. In a baking dish, spoon some of your tomato sauce on the bottom so the pasta sheets won’t stick.  Then lay 3 lasagna sheets down, and top each with a large spoonful of the squash mixture, a little bit of the mozzarella, béchamel sauce, and then some tomato sauce.  Repeat 3 times until you get to your last layer, which you only top with the remaining béchamel, tomato, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  Take off the aluminum foil, raise the heat to 200C (400F) and cook for another 10 minutes.  Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving (or you WILL burn your tongue off!)

For the garlic spinach recipe:

300 g frozen baby spinach

1 tbsp of olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

water, to defrost spinach

In a large sauté pan, add the frozen spinach, garlic, oil and water (just enough to cover the spinach, like half a cup).  Over medium high heat, cook the spinach until it defrosts and the water has evaporated.  Add salt and pepper and then place in a fine mesh colander to strain the cooking water out of the spinach.  Place in a large bowl to cool, set aside.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce…

Tomato Sauce recipe:

2 400g tins of pureed tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 dried red chili pepper

1/4 tsp of oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp of olive oil

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic, chili, and oregano.  Heat until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, 3/4 of the can full of water, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile make the béchamel sauce….

Béchamel Recipe:

4 tbsp unsalted butter

4 tbsp flour

3 cups cold milk

dash of white pepper

dash of freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low heat, add the butter and melt.  When foamy, add the flour and whisk until completely incorporated and let cook for about 4 minutes, whisking constantly.  In a constant drizzle add the cold milk and keep whisking until added.  Continue to cook, whisking to make sure you have no lumps until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.  Take off heat and add the pepper, nutmeg and salt.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Stracotto Al Barolo – Braised Beef in Red Wine

Stracotto al Barolo

I know, I know.  I suck.  Not having posted a thing since October is terrible.  But, sometimes life gets in the way, holidays, etc. etc.  But, I am back!  This year, I wanted to do something that I had read about a year ago, it was a group of people who chose a cook book and did a recipe or two from it.  I really can’t remember the fundamentals, but at home I decided it would be a great way to expand my knowledge, and to actually crack open my cook books and magazines.  It also think it will be quite fun because it’s a great way to involve the whole family.  My way of doing it is this: Every month, one of us chooses a cookbook.  I chose this months, “Italy – The Beautiful Cookbook”.  Then, we choose 9 recipes, 3 recipes each, to make in one month.  Obviously, I am going to try to stay true to the ingredients, but will omit or swap some ingredients that I simply can’t find here.

So, today is one of my recipe choices, only because its Sunday and it is a time-consuming recipe, the beef has to marinate overnight.  I chose this recipe because the picture in the book looked divine and the ingredients were promising.  This recipe hails from Piedmont, a northern region in Italy bordering France, so I am not surprised that it is basically like a Beef Bourguignon, but with Barolo wine and different herbs and spices.  That suits me just fine, I basically kind of wanted something heart and belly warming since I am sure we all can agree that this is one helluva cold winter!  This dish is simply delicious.  As the beef is cooking, your house will smell incredible, really mouthwatering.  I could hardly wait until the beef was done!  Rich and complex, it is a perfect sunday lunch meal.  I am absolutely positive it will become a favorite of yours too….my family devoured it!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

2lb (1kg) braising beef (I used eye of round)

2 carrots, cut into several pieces each

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

2 celery stalks, cut into several pieces

1/2 cup parsley

2 bay leaves

1 tsp juniper berries (which I didn’t find)

1/2 cup diced lard

1/2 bottle aged Barolo wine (or any other full bodied red you have on hand, I used Rioja)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

Combine the meat, all the vegetables, the herbs, and the wine in a large bowl.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

Remove the meat and dry well; reserve marinade.  Make little cuts on the surface of the meat and fill them with lard.  Brown the meat thoroughly in the butter and oil in a flame proof casserole.  Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Lift out the marinade vegetables with a slotted spoon and add to the meat.  Add 1 cup of the wine and salt to taste.  ( I added all the wine from the marinade).  Cover and braise in the oven for about 3 hours, adding more wine as needed to keep meat from drying out.  Halfway through the cooking time, take out the meat, slice thinly, and put back into the wine, with any juice on the cutting board.

Remove meat when done and place on a platter.  Put the vegetables and wine through a food mill or grind to a textured purée in a food processor.  Reheat this and pour over the meat.  Serve at once,  with potatoes, but I chose polenta.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla