FRESH, not from a CAN-nelloni!
We have been splurging on fast and processed food way too much lately. It’s just so convenient! When I work all day and then pick Ryley up from the sitter, it’s too easy to throw on a pot of Top Ramen or pop through a drive thru for her. And I’ll admit, even I have a craving for some Chicken McNuggets and Hot Mustard or some Chalupas with 3 packets of Fire Sauce each every now and then. Oddly enough, since we don’t eat junk fast food very often, it actually makes me feel sick afterward (making me believe even more that we should severely limit our intake).
Since we’d had gluttonous amounts of drive thru meals this month, I pulled a guilt trip on MYSELF and made the conscious effort to prepare dinner from scratch the last few nights. And I literally mean FROM SCRATCH! Since I’ve been on this fresh pasta kick lately, I searched the Internet for recipes using the ingredients that needed to be eaten soon in my fridge – spinach and zucchini. There were tons with the items simply cooked into the sauce, but I wanted something more, a way to make them the stars of the show. Every once in awhile I hit up the Food topic of WordPress to find new interesting blogs and I came across Kristine’s Kitchen (even cooler that I actually found her WordPress blog when I googled zucchini spinach pasta!). It had the right idea, but I often take a recipe and manipulate it in my own way, and her ingredients seemed like they would fit perfectly INSIDE a pasta. After my last ravioli adventure, I had vowed to attempt shaping them myself in order to fit more filling in, so I considered making those, and then out of nowhere I had this great idea – TUBES!
I ended up just taking the items and throwing them together. I could attempt an exact recipe for you, but it’s honestly just like any other meal I make: eyeballed and guesstimated. You could definitely try Kristine’s measurements, even though I only looked at the ingredients for inspiration, not the numbers. So, first I chopped one zucchini into small squares with my Color Coated Utility Knife, finely chopped a large shallot with the Food Chopper, and sliced lots of garlic (like 3 or 4 cloves!) using the Garlic Peeler and Slicer Set. Sautéed them in my 8″ Sauté Pan with a little oil, salt and pepper, and threw a few handfulls of fresh spinach leaves in at the last second just enough to wilt them. I didn’t notice until after cooking that they still had stems and would make stuffing pasta difficult, so I cut each individual stem out of the pan like a dummy. Once the veggies were cooled and drained of excess oil, I tossed them into my Classic Batter Bowl and added ricotta (about a pound), mozzarella (8-10 ounces?), and freshly grated Parmesan (roughly a cup’s worth), then took my Professional Shears and snipped a healthy amount of fresh basil and parsley from my new plants for the mix as well (after washing, of course).
The pasta machine I bought (Consiglio’s Kitchenware and Gift) has been awesome, so I made some dough mixed with both all-purpose flour (for the flavor) and semolina/durum flour (for the texture and heartiness). Rolled it through until I reached the #5 setting, because all the pasta I’ve made so far was slightly uncooked in the center. Then I sliced it into squares with a simple butter knife and spooned a row of the cheese/veggie mixture down the center. I had only used about half the filling, so I threw the lid on the Batter Bowl and refrigerated it for the next day’s adventure. Since this process took me some time, the edges of the pasta were hardening, and I was worried it wouldn’t stay closed during cooking. I quickly grabbed a Prep Cup with a little water and rubbed the edges like nori seaweed paper to seal them shut (pasta envelopes without the licking!). Layered them into my Square Baker (with the outer glaze of the stone baker in a cranberry color, it would be perfectly lovely for table presentation after baking) and poured my sauce over the top, covering all the ends thoroughly.
I had red wine that we wanted to use up before summertime (it tends to boil in the bottle on my kitchen counter), so I found a red wine pasta sauce on the website for The Chicago Sun Times. For obvious reasons, I omitted the pasta and butter part of their recipe. The meal was different and tasty, but a bit heavy (even though I didn’t make wine soup like last time), and might have been a better sauce with meat. Next time I’ll try it with white wine or add ground turkey to the sauce. The noodles were also so thin this time that they basically melted into the meal. I was able to scoop separate cannelloni tubes, but couldn’t taste the noodles at all when I ate them.
The following night I took the other half of the mix and made the same cannelloni, but added about a tablespoon of the pine nuts that I had forgotten the night before (which I later decided might have been better in the red sauce version, or I should’ve used less/made pesto first) and only rolled my pasta to a #3. I found a simple Alfredo sauce recipe on allrecipes.com (all I added was a little lemon zest with my Fine Microplane Adjustable Grater) and poured that on before baking. It called for a ridiculous amount of Parmesan cheese, but luckily I’m still the cheese-aholic I always was. Truth is, I probably would’ve grated that much on after serving anyway, so it just saved me the trouble! This was absolutely delicious! Seriously, Jeremiah wanted bread so he could sop up the extra sauce.
So, apparently my next fresh feat will have to be bread baking! Then we can have the whole shebang! Although my meals weren’t exactly what you’d call healthy, they were totally fresh, organic, and tastefully vegetarian (if you don’t mind a few eggs in the dough). I’m quite happy with how they turned out, and with a bit more tweaking, I’m sure I can make them even better. The cool thing with pasta is that there are endless possibilities from noodle choice to sauce to veggies and protein… It’s always an adventure!