Sunday, November 21, 2010

Baked ricotta rolls - a random name for a really good dish

Dear friends (well, those who read this blog), I've missed you! I've been away for far too long and out of the many reasons, one really stands out - I've been cooking boring food that I did not deem worth sharing.  For me, the boring (but good!) foods are fried ham with eggs, all manners of roasted vegetables (450 degree oven, salt, pepper, olive oil, maybe cumin or paprika, lemon juice to finish), lentil soup. Yeah, I want to fall asleep reading this too.  At some point, though,  I had to write something, so I give you a dish that is simple, but not boring, easy, yet makes for an impressive dinner and excellent leftovers.  It has no good name (feel free to suggest in comments), but I love it nonetheless.  This week, especially, as you anticipate swimming in turkey, mashed potatoes, and squash, the baked ricotta rolls maybe a reprieve,  a connection to another place and, frankly, an entirely different season.  Soft ricotta, fresh herbs, and a little pasta baked in tomato sauce.

These rolls do not follow a seasonal philosophy. They shamelessly use canned tomatoes and I'm sure would be delicious made with fresh tomatoes in the middle of August.  However, I accidentally made ricotta by overheating my yogurt mixture last week, so I just pretended that it was the middle of August now.  I made this batch with basil, but any soft herb (parsley, chives, even thyme) would be good.

Baked ricotta rolls
2 cups of ricotta cheese
8 dried lasagna sheets
1 28-oz can of whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed with your hands
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup of basil or parsley, chopped and divided, plus whole leaves for baking
Salt, pepper, olive oil, nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, put a medium pot of water on heat to bring to the boil, and start heating a large saute pan for the tomato sauce.  Peel and lightly crush 2 of the garlic cloves, drop them in the pan to be used for the tomato sauce, and saute them in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. When both sides of the garlic have gotten a golden brown color, add the tomatoes (watch for splatter) and let the sauce simmer for 15-20 minutes until slightly thickened.  Stir in salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup of basil.

Your pasta water should be boiling by now.  Salt it well and add 8 sheets of lasagna pasta, stirring to prevent sticking. Cook for 8-9 minutes, or until cooked enough to be pliable, but not fully cooked. Take the pasta out of water and let rest, separated from each other, on a plate (pasta sheets will want to stick).

Mix ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup of Parmesan, a finely chopped remaining clove of garlic, and remaining basil, salt, pepper, and a few swipes of freshly-grated nutmeg.  Position the lasagna sheets a short end in front of you.  Put 2-3 tablespoons of filling on one end of the sheet, then roll gently.  Pour the tomato sauce into a baking dish and nestle the pasta rolls into the sauce.  Top the rolls with 1/2 cup of Parmesan and put a basil leaf on each roll, if you would like.  Bake, covered for 20-25 minutes.  Then uncover and broil for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling and lightly toasted.  Let cool for 5 minutes, serve and enjoy, perhaps with that boring roasted broccoli.

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