Baked Spinach-Mostaccioli

In Recipies on December 12, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Not every good Mediterranean-style dish has tomatoes in it.

Whenever I make lasagna, the stuff at the corners and edges of the pan become hotly contested and are pursued with vigor. Of course, the center is “good”, but the edges and corners have a crisp top and an al dente firmness that we find “great”.

I solved the great dispute over the best parts by using mostaccioli instead of lasagna noodles.

One of the more challenging aspects of cooking for home chefs and pros alike, is solving the “What do I do with…” question of food on hand. There is always a “bit of this” and a “bit of that” in the corners of the pantry and fridge and making something out of it is 100% necessary if you are cooking on a budget.

A few weeks ago, I opened the pantry and found about a pound of mostaccioli. In the fridge, I found the last few ounces of my “Bargain Bag” of organic spinach, about a pound of cottage cheese, and two carrots.

What to do?

Here is what I did:

1 lb uncooked mostaccioli

2 carrots, peeled and thick sliced

½ C onion, finely chopped

10-12oz fresh spinach leaves, washed and dried

2 tsp garlic, minced

2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, minced

1 TBS olive oil

2 eggs

3 C cottage cheese

½ C pecorino Romano (divided)

2 TBS dried parsley flakes (divided)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 chicken breast (optional), poached and shredded

 Cook the carrots in a pot of water large enough to accommodate the pasta.  Cook the carrots about 5 minutes, leaving them firm to the bite. Remove them and set them aside.  Cook the mostaccioli in the large pot of boiling (carrot) water to which you have added 1 TBS kosher salt to al dente (about nine minutes).

While the cooked items (including the chicken breast if using) are cooling, mix the onion, garlic, oregano leaves, eggs, cottage cheese, half of the Romano, and half of the parsley flakes in a large bowl. Toss the pasta into the mixture and then the carrots. Give a couple of twists of freshly ground pepper. Toss well to combine.

Pre-heat the oven to 375F.  Lightly oil a covered casserole with the olive oil. Gently, spoon in half of the pasta-cheese mixture, covering the bottom of the casserole thoroughly. Spread the spinach leaves, in a smooth layer, on top of the pasta-cheese mixture and give the whole deal a couple of light twists of pepper. Now, spoon the remaining pasta-cheese mixture over the spinach. Sprinkle the remaining Romano on top and then sprinkle with the rest of the dried parsley flakes. Gently dust with a bit of salt and another couple of twists of pepper.  Cover, and bake, for 45-55 minutes…or until the top just begins to turn golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-12 minutes before serving.  Serve with hot, crusty bread and a chilled crisp, white wine.

It just does not get much easier!


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