Quick Italian Something

After spending most of the day in the kitchen, cutting vegetables and cooking sauces, the last thing I wanted to do was make an elaborate dinner.  But, I wanted a meaningful and heartfelt meal to end the day.  Since I still had fresh tomatoes and basil on the kitchen counter, I decided to make something Italian-ish. 

Most of the time, when dinner time rolls around, I don’t have anything planned, and this was no exception.  So I did what I normally would do.  I stared at the contents of my refrigerator and started grabbing things that would go well together.  Some ground beef, some cheese and oh, the little tub of ricotta that I kept overlooking.  I considered making spaghetti but I thought it might be a little boring so, I opted for a the partial bag of wide egg noodles in my pantry that looked particularly lonely. 

I had just finished cleaning a bunch of dishes, bowls and pots and pans and I didn’t want to do a lot of clean-up after dinner so I made the entire dish with one large ovenproof skillet and two bowls. 

Ingredients:

If preparing homemade marina:  2 cups cut, fresh tomatoes, ½ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp dried oregano, ¼ tsp dried rosemary, pinch of red chili flake, pinch of salt

2 cups marinara sauce (store-bought or homemade)

8 oz egg noodles

1 Tbs olive oil

¼ cup diced onion

1 lb ground beef

3 oz mozzarella

3 oz parmesan cheese

15 oz ricotta cheese (almost forgot, even though it was the reason I made this)

Directions for the marinara sauce:

Core and remove the seeds from 5 or 6 medium sized tomatoes.  Cut the tomatoes into 1” pieces.  Cook tomatoes in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic powder, oregano, rosemary, chili flake and salt.  Mash the tomatoes every so often and reduce to about half, or until the tomatoes are completely softened and the sauce has thickened.

“Reduce the sauce and add spices to make the marinara”

While the sauce reduces, cut the mozzarella into bite-sized chunks and shave the parmesan.  Cut the basil in thin strips (chiffonade).  Set aside.

Pour the finished sauce into a bowl and set aside. 

Directions for preparing the Italian Something:

Fill a skillet with water, about half way.  Bring the water to a boil and add the noodles.  They will cook quickly…maybe 8 to 10 minutes.  Strain the cooked noodles and put them in a bowl and set the bowl aside. 

Heat the oven to 350°.

Return the skillet to the stove and add heat the olive oil.  Add the onions and soften the onions for a few minutes.  Add the ground beef and sauté until the meat has browned. 

Add the marinara and noodles to the beef, in the skillet and mix.  Top with mozzarella and parmesan.  Bake in the oven at 350° for about 15 minutes, until mozzarella has melted.

Now here’s the interesting, and somewhat embarrassing part.  One of the main reasons I made this dish was to get rid of the ricotta cheese that had just recently passed its “Best if Used By” date.  I couldn’t stand for that so, I pulled the skillet from the oven and plopped the ricotta cheese on top and gently swirled it with a spatula.   

In case anyone might be concerned, such as the people who ate this dish, the “Best if Used By” date is not the same as an “Expiration” date.  “Best if Used By” means that the food might have lost some of its freshness, aroma or taste.  If it has passed its expiration date, don’t use it. 

Either way, I unsealed the ricotta and, after checking the aroma, I deemed it worthy!

Return the skillet to the oven for another 5 or 10 minutes.  Remove , top with basil and serve in the skillet. 

Serve with a glass of nice red wine.  You deserve it!

If I make this again, I will probably introduce the ricotta during the last few minutes again because it allowed the ricotta to stay slightly firm, instead of dissolving into the sauce.

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