Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tortellini & Spinach Pasta Lasagna - Basic, Simple Comfort Food for my Big Boy

I have a son who just turned 21 years old.  He's living on his own, since last September, sharing a very small apartment with a friend.  While I miss his presence at home, my son  was ready to leave the nest.  Come to think of it, I was 18 years old when I moved away from home, and I never looked back!  It's the best of both worlds, really.  Brian comes to visit, fairly often.  He always goes home with care packages-- cakes and cookies I've baked (and I don't need sitting around for me to indulge in), homemade soups (I make enough to feed an army) and a share of the Costco booty that I stock up on-- I mean, who needs twin packs of ketchup?  My son has quickly learned that eating fast food at drive-thru places is very expensive.  Much to my relief, Brian is learning how to cook-- and he is loving it!  He calls, often, asking me how to make one of his favorite dishes. This is one that I created on a whim.  So, I got to thinking-- I'm going to print a book of recipes that I think should be pretty easy for him to make!  This recipe is one of them.  I made this dish a couple of months ago, but never uploaded it. This is such a simple dish to make, and odds are, you've probably made this yourself!  For you, Brian, I am sharing how to make this-- and the cookbook will happen very soon!

Preheat the oven to 350F. You need one package of tortellini or ravioli.  I am using four-cheese, but choose what you like.  You need a package of fresh spinach-- you don't need baby spinach (a little more expensive and best for salads).  At Costco, the total cost of these ingredients are about $6.00.  Start a pot of water boiling, and be sure to season the water with lots of kosher salt; when the water boils, cook the pasta according to package directions-- yes, I've cooked frozen pasta without any problems.  In the meantime, heat a little olive oil and a couple of large cloves of garlic on LOW heat.  We want to infuse the flavor of the garlic into the oil, but we don't want to burn the garlic.  (Yes, you can thaw a package of frozen spinach, but you fresh is easy to work with and not that much more expensive).  Wait about 5 minutes, or so, and then add the whole package of spinach-- it looks like a lot, but it will wilt down to a fraction of what you put into the pan. Cook it on medium heat, and move the spinach around, a bit, with tongs-- until it's all wilted and limp.

 
 There ya go!  I toss the garlic, but go ahead and eat it if you want to.
 
 
You need marinara sauce.  This is my own quick version that I make will be posted at the bottom. Otherwise, I buy canned marinara sauce carefully. Trader Joe's makes a Tuscan brand that I like a lot-- including the ingredients. Otherwise, use a bottle of spaghetti sauce (crinkles nose at the thought of it).

Drain the pasta in a colander; I love my "spider" gadget. Either way works.  Start with a layer of marinara, then a layer of cooked pasta.  Add a layer of spinach.  You can add cheese, at this point-- mozzarella is good. I didn't this time, only because I had just enough cheese for the top.  You can repeat the process, depending on the size of your dish or how much pasta and sauce you have. Finish the top layer with cheese and bake for about 20 minutes or so.  You can everything bubbly and the cheese to be all melted.

 
This is not about perfection.  I used a blend of Cheddar, Jack & Mozzarella, because it's what I had. Let this sit a minute or two...

See? The sauce is a little runny. I probably didn't drain the pasta completely, or the spinach has a lot of moisture in it.  It doesn't matter, because it tastes good.



Dig in!

 
Now, doesn't that taste better than fast food in a paper bag that was handed to you from a drive-thru window?  Of course it does!  We made this together and you loved it-- and it cost about $2.00 a serving. 

Thank you all, for watching me teach my son how to make fast food, at home.  Brian and I made another  version of this dish, where we cooked cremini mushrooms in a little butter, garlic and a splash of white wine. We added a layer of mushrooms and spinach and it made a lot of food!   Over the next few weeks, I'm going to post what might appears as super simple meals-- and hopefully recipes without processed foods.  I've already posted Sloppy Joe's, which both of my boys love.  That's an easy meal to make, and a whole lot better than the canned stuff. This is Mama Love for my boy-- and anyone else who is just starting to learn how to cook.  I honestly believe that it is much cheaper to cook at home, and definitely a whole lot healthier.  The real bonus is if you get hooked on cooking and baking-- which is exactly why we food bloggers spend hours doing this, every single week!

 
 I love you son-- and I bet you miss hogging the couch... all 6'3 of you! It's mine now!

Love, Mom
aka to my Foodie Friends,





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18 comments:

Big Dude said...

Way to go mom, the dish looks delicious

Joanne said...

I love this dish! Perfect even for those of us who know how to make lasagna...but just don't have enough time.

It's so cute that you and your son cook together.

George Gaston said...

What a terrific one pot meal! And the ingredients are easy to find. I am definitely passing this on to a niece who, like your son, is just learning to cook.

Many thanks....

Kim said...

How sweet Debby! I can't imagine my son (who is only 3 now) turning 21 and being 6'3". You must be so proud of him:D This is a perfect recipe for him or anyone else to make at home.

Claire (Culinarygoddess.com) said...

looks great!

Stacey Snacks said...

Happy birthday 21 year old!
Your mom is a great cook!

Bellini Valli said...

Happy birthday birthday boy!!!! My own daughter will turn 23 this year. I started my blog to record recipes she could use at university. Thing is she has far surpassed her mom in creativity and healthy eating.I would love this dish!!!!

TKW said...

Happy birthday to big boy! He is quite the tall and slender one! I bet he can eat like a trucker!

The pasta looks so comforting and gooey...mmm.

cookeaze said...

This looks really, really great. And easy too. I will have to try it. Thanks for the tips..

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Great meal for a rainy day, which we're having as I write.

Happy birthday to your son. Turning twenty-one is a big deal.
Sam

Cheryl said...

What a sweet post, he is a tall one isn't he! Great recipe to boot!

Monica H said...

Oh I love this post. A boy and his momma in the kitchen together. I hope for that one day.

And the idea of the cookbook is really sweet too. I can just picture him cooking out of it for his wife. so lucky.

Zion And Missy said...

Happy Birthday to your son! I made this dish last night for my husband and I. I changed a few things (added ground beef, basil diced tomatoes instead of mashed, and added less than 1 tablespoon italian seasoning). I put your homemade sauce in the pan, ravioli, spinach, sauce, meat, then cheese. My husband and I loved it! He said it is one of the best pasta dishes I have made. Thanks so much for this easy, fast, and simple recipe. Love your site. Keep it up!

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Awwwwwwww, that just makes my heart go pitter patter! I've thought about adding Italian sausage, or even ground beef. Basil is wonderful, and I can't wait until summer when I can pick it fresh from the garden.
The sauce is always a winner and super easy. It's my go-to sauce for fast dinners.

Karen said...

Great idea to make a cookbook for your son and this is a great recipe to put in it!

Muneeba said...

Whoa ... look at the tall, handsome fella .. looks like all your cooking did him good! You're an awesome mom, and a fab blogger buddy ... have I told u that recently??? I should keep saying it to u, 'coz it's true!

jamie oliver lasagna said...

thanks for the recipe, this looks so delicious.

Jenn Nahrstadt said...

we've been dissatisfied with all the jarred pasta sauces we've tried over the years, and this is my new go-to sauce!!! thanks so much for sharing it. love that it comes together quickly and tastes so fresh.