Last week I spent several days with my family in the Madison-Bouckville area attending a large, outdoor antique show. My family’s gone to this show every summer for almost as long as I can remember. My grandfather brings up his camper and we all (some combination of my parents, brother, grandfather, aunt, husband and myself) stay at a nearby campground for several days. This year Greg wasn’t able to come, so I ended up sharing a tent with my brother like we used to when we were kids.
Since Greg was going to be home alone for a few days I knew I could either leave him to fend for himself for dinner, which means either fried eggs or frozen dinners every night, or make him something ahead of time that he could quickly, and easily reheat in the microwave. I opted for lasagna.
In the past I’ve made this lasagna using store-bought dried pasta and sauce, but this time I decided to go all out and use homemade pasta and sauce, because that’s just how I roll. It actually wasn’t as complicated as it might sound though since I already had homemade sauce in the freezer. Any time I make sauce, I always double the recipe so I can have extra on hand in the freezer whenever I might need it.
I’d made pasta plenty of times before, but I’d never used homemade pasta in a baked dish and so wasn’t sure if I’d need to boil it before baking like you have to with dried pasta. Knowing that they sell “no-boil” lasagna sheets in the grocery store, I decided to assemble the lasagna with my raw pasta and hope for the best. It worked out perfectly!
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This dish is inspired by the best meal I’ve ever eaten. Greg and I were eating dinner at a small, off the beaten path, restaurant in Rome while we were on our honeymoon. We were outside on the patio with a bottle of wine, eating delicious food, and an Italian man came around and serenaded us while playing his accordion. It was just like the spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp!!! (Which happens to be one of the most romantic movie scenes of all time in my opinion.) I don’t know if I was just swept up in the moment, or if those ravioli actually were the best thing I’ve ever eaten, but I’ve been trying ever since to recreate those ravioli at home. Several years, and multiple attempts later, I think I’ve finally gotten it right! After tasting how these came out, I’m pretty sure those ravioli I ate in Rome could have claimed the title, “best thing I’ve ever eaten”, even without the singing Italian man. Pumpkin, sausage, ricotta, hazelnuts, butter, sage– all wrapped up in one pasta dish? It doesn’t get any better than that!
Making your own pasta from scratch, and then using it to make ravioli is pretty time consuming, but these ravioli are totally worth it. Even though it takes some time, there’s something I find really soothing about running pasta through the pasta machine. It’s a rhythmic, repetitive process, and I love feeling how the pasta gets thinner and more smooth with each pass through the machine. Supposedly I’m not Italian, not even a little bit. But there are times when I seriously think there must be an Italian somewhere in my family tree that we just don’t know about.
If you’re not a wannabe Italian like me, and aren’t crazy about the idea of making your own pasta, don’t let that keep you away from this recipe. Some grocery stores sell fresh pasta sheets, and if you can’t find them, you could always use refrigerated wanton wrappers instead of pasta. If that’s still too much work, you could combine the filling and sauce ingredients and use it as a sauce over a pound of your favorite store bought pasta.
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I made this dish for dinner for my family’s Father’s Day celebration. This recipe is great because it will serve a lot of people, and you can make it in advance and just pop it in the oven a half hour before you want to eat.
This recipe is about as close to a guilt-free pasta dish as you can get. I make it with whole wheat penne, and it’s loaded with so many vegetables that there’s almost more veggies than pasta. With all those hearty vegetables and the smokiness from the smoked mozzarella, this meal will please vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
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