Monday, May 9, 2011

Pasta, pasta and more pasta

I didn't realize until I scrolled through my recent food photos that I forgot to blog this pasta dish from a few weeks back - vegan Italian sausage marinara. 

I was inspired by the occasional offering of real Italian sausages in marinara sauce in the hospital cafeteria where I work as well as the fact that we had some Morningstar fake Italian sausages in the fridge from a recent camping trip.  (They're supposed to be kept frozen, so it seemed like a good idea to hurry up and use them.)  So, I cut the fake sausage into big chunks, browned them, set them aside and then made the marinara and the pasta.  I made what seemed like a mistake when I added the fake sausage to the sauce before it was all the way done, because the fake sausage started breaking down in all the hot liquid.  It still turned out well, though, because the parts that broke down ended up giving it a meat sauce-like texture that I hadn't enjoyed in a long time.  Suffice it to say that the leftovers weren't around for long.

Saturday night, while we (or at least Steve) spent two and a half hours watching the live coverage of Derby hats and Jimmy Fallon rapping in his jockey getup, I whipped together what was essentially a replay of the green olive pesto with chardonnary mushrooms recipe from a few months ago, only this time I used the walnut parsley pesto from the other day and used sauvignon blanc (the usual white wine on hand) for the sliced baby bellas. 

Just as delicious as before, and I thoroughly enjoyed the leftovers at work the next day!

Boo to the fact that said next day at work was Sunday, but such is life when you work in a hospital.  Oh, well - it was still nice to see visitors bringing flowers to the patients whose special day it was.  Anyway, when I got home yesterday, it turned out that Steve had cooked in my absence and that I had a yummy dinner to look forward to! 

We also had some asparagus that wasn't going to last much longer, so he saved me having to figure out what to do with it.

Steve's Macaroni and Asparagus Bake:
10 oz. elbow macaroni
3 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup flour
1 cup water (reserved from macaroni cooking water)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup white wine (he used sauvignon blanc)
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound asparagus cut in 1 inch pieces, tips cut off and reserved
1 pound shredded medium cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the elbow macaroni according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt Earth Balance and olive oil over medium-low heat and stir in flour.  Stir until blended and then slowly stir in water.  When mixture begins to bubble, add all the asparagus except the tips.  Stir in the milk and continue to simmer.  Once the milk has heated through, add the wine.  Gently cook the white sauce with asparagus, stirring often so that it doesn't burn on the bottom, until it reduces down to a thick sauce (up to 30 minutes).

Grease a 9 X 13 inch baking dish.  Add one-fourth of the macaroni.  Cover the macaroni with one-third of the white sauce and asparagus followed by enough cheddar cheese to cover (about one-third).  Repeat the layers two more times, including the aspargus tips in the top layer of the white sauce, followed by the remaining cheddar cheese.

Bake until heated through and bubbly, about 30-40 minutes.  Raise the temperature to 400 degrees and set the pan on the top rack for about 5 minutes, until a crust begins to form on top.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving. 

In our case it was more like a couple of hours before we sat down to eat, so the pan spent some time in the fridge and we reheated portions in the microwave for about a minute.  Yum!

And without having had any of the leftovers for lunch, I can say for sure that it's just as good the next day! See, after my brisk 7-miler with the Ninjas this morning, I needed more sustenance than a bowl of yogurt and some ground flaxseed could provide.  When I opened up the refrigerator door to grab the orange juice and saw the leftover macaroni and asparagus staring me in the face, I couldn't help cutting out another slab and heating that up for breakfast!  Just what the doctor ordered.

In the very near future - fun with radishes!  I started growing them from seeds last month, and they'll be ready to harvest any day now.  I'm also trying to figure out what do do with all the lemon balm growing beside the basil.  Tea?  Stuffed shells?  Perhaps another pesto?

Stay tuned...

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