Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pasta Timbale in the Kitchen

Here's where we put together our knowledge to make a meal. You can all do this and the recipe tonight is a simple one that I've tried to simplify even more.

You'll find that your oven is your friend after this recipe, trust me. But remember that oven temperatures are not always what the dial says they are so please check your oven with a thermomenter and, if that's not possible, keep a close eye on the dish as you cook.

Pasta Timbale
12 ounces string pasta of choice
12 ounces sweet Italian sausage, crumbled (vegetarians may omit this)
3 cloves minced garlic
1 medicum onion, chopped
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces monterey jack cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1/4 cup chopped parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a pan (butter, olive oil, spray) an 8 1/2 to 9-inch pan.
Boil water and cook pasta according to package directions. I prefer "string" as opposed to shells. I think it binds the dish better. Angel hair is my preference but you can use whatever is your favorite.
While the spaghetti boils, use a medium skillet to heat the sausage. Stir until the sausage is no longer pink (this step can be dropped if you're going for a meatless dish).
Drop garlic, onion into skillet and stir until onion is tender (approximately 3 minutes).
Remove from heat, drain juices and set aside.
Pasta should be done cooking (or nearly). Turn off the water and drain the pasta.
Now you need to mix the cottage cheese until it's smooth. You can do this by hand. If you have a food processor or blender, you can use that. Add the sour cream, eggs, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper. If using you a blender or food processor use the "pulse" button.
You need a big bowl or you can use the skillet that you cooked in. Blend what you cooked (pasta and what you cooked in the skillet) with the cootage cheese & sour cream mixture. Add 1/2 of the cheese and parsely (if you're using parsely) and mix.
Put this mixture into the greased pan and and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 of cheese on top. Cover pan will foil and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5 minutes more.
Remove dish from oven and allow to stand for five minutes. (Place it on stove burners but never on a countertop.)

That recipe is from my friend Anna and we've adapted it here. She uses the broiler for one step. We're skipping that because the dish is fine without it and we're using our ovens. We're also not flouring or using a spring foam pan. This is a delicious dish and we've simplified steps to make it more user friendly but we haven't simplified the taste.

All you have to now is slice and serve.

For entertaining, make the Brushetta from last week as appetizers and serve the timbale as the main dish with a green salad on the side.

For those who are worrying about oven space, you can make the Brushetta and put the mixture in the fridge to chill. You can set the (cooked) bread aside. Then begin cooking this dish. Once you have it in the oven, you can pop the bread in the microwave in a bowl with a damp hand towel on top of it. Then you serve the bread and mixture as an appetizer. When the bell goes off letting you know the timbale is done, you're ready to begin the main course.

That's called "putting it all together." A meal doesn't just emerge, you add to it. The big picture.
What was the big picture this week?

I'm afraid that it was while Bully Boy reached new lows in the polls, Democrats still couldn't stand up collectively. They didn't stop the Patriot Act, they didn't do a very good job in the NSA hearing Tuesday.

So what's it going to take for them to put it all together? That's what missing. A vision. They're serving us side dishes and we're craving a meal.

For more on the hearings, see C.I.'s "NYT: Republicans seek a 'bridge' (Brooklyn, so they can sell it to you?)" and let me also encourage you to read Kat's latest music reviews "Kat's Korner: Cat Power's Greatness" and "Kat's Korner: Nina Simone -- Golden"

Next week? I haven't thought that far ahead. I'll probably decide based on the e-mails.