The lasagna that followed me to a second location

Slow cooker sausage lasagna

You're coming with me, friend!

You’re coming with me, friend!

Welcome to March!  …nervous laughter…  To make up for my delay in getting to March, I’m going to start my posts for this issue off with an amazing recipe that you’ll want to try as soon as possible.  This is a bookmark it, pin it, print it, laminate it, share it, love it recipe.  I promise.  It’s so good that when faced with the idea of leaving some of it behind for a weekend trip to my parents’ house or bringing it with, we packed it.  J ate this stuff like it was his job.

A few notes about the recipe.  First, this is one of those times that an oval slow-cooker really comes in handy.  When is the other time?  Um, the Consumer Reports thing I read about slow-cookers said they are good for giant roasts.  I’m not sure I’ve ever made a roast in the slow-cooker that was so big that I couldn’t have gotten away with a round one, but I’ll give it to them.  What they should have said in the article was that oval slow-cookers are good for making lasagna.  The magazine has a picture of all of these little broken shards of lasagna noodle stacked on top of each other looking haphazard at best.  It says “To fit lasagna noodles into a round slow cooker, break of corners as needed.”  For an oval slow cooker, that meant busting maybe a couple noodles here and there.

Second, this recipe is bland as written.  Even with the Italian sausage.  What you see pictured with the lasagna below is the jar of Rachael Ray italian seasoning that I ground very liberaly on to my lasagna.  It needed something.  If you make this recipe, excuse me, WHEN you make this recipe, add a couple teaspoons or two of Italian seasoning or just a mix of your favorite Italian dried herbs.  I’m a fennel seed fanatic myself.

Resisting cheesy Rachael Ray catchphrase caption...

Resisting cheesy Rachael Ray catchphrase caption…

Bon appétit!  You know,  I don’t feel nearly so bad writing about March when it’s 45 degrees out at the end of May…

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Italian for “why am I buying these?”

Pasta with turkey meatballs and bocconcini

The best pasta is shiny pasta

The best pasta is shiny pasta

This recipe is delicious.  It is such a great comfort food choice.  It has the turkey meatballs that are tasty without being so rich and heavy as meatballs made with pork.  It has grape tomatoes, which really do take on a nice flavor when you heat them.  It has pasta.  It has butter.  It has cheese.  Sold.

Let’s talk about the cheese.  This recipe is a “have you tried” recipe.  So I felt compelled to follow the instructions and use bocconcini.  Well, I think for this one I used one of the other sizes of tiny mozzarella balls.  I think maybe it started with “C.”  Like I said in my last post about the mini pizzas, I just can’t see why you couldn’t cut fresh mozzarella into cubes to use in these recipes.  Even the introductory information in the magazine says that these are just small pieces of fresh mozzarella.  Yeah, they’re cute, but so what?

Another substitution note:  The recipe calls for orecchiette or other short pasta.  They had pipe rigate at Aldi (or at least I think I remember that’s what it was.  This website seems to confirm it.  How much fun is a pasta shapes dictionary, by the way?).  B called them “little snails.”  They were very good with the recipe.  The one drawback was really my fault.  I like to test pasta by taking pieces out of the boiling water and eating them.  Well, these little guys, like a lot of tubular pastas, hold a fair amount of water.  I scalded my tongue a couple times.  Oops.  I think shells would have been fine too.  I’d be hesitant to go much smaller with the pieces of pasta, like macaroni or something, because I think you’d wind up chasing a lot of little pieces around the plate.  This pipe rigate or the orecchiette snuggle in nicely with the meatballs and tomatoes.  Nothing beats a nice snuggly pasta.

No, YOU make the lame pizzas!

Mini spinach and cheese pizzas

I'm no food critic, but I know what I hate.  And I don't hate this.

I’m no food critic, but I know what I hate. And I don’t hate this.

B and I fought over this one and not in a good way.  We both strongly believed that it was the least inspiring recipe in the entire issue.  I thought it looked like the kind of junk meal that I come up with when I’m feeling lazy and I need to use up a bunch of ingredients.  B theorized that it was in the issue because this is Lucinda Scala Quinn’s “feeling lazy” recipe.  I fell on my sword and made it, reluctantly.  It’s worse than that.  D made it for me.

But.  But!  We were wrong about these pizzas.  They aren’t mind-blowing, but they aren’t bad either.  I think D came up with the secret.  He added way more garlic.  The recipe calls for 1 clove of garlic crushed through a press.  That is combined with ricotta and oregano and spread on the split pitas before you top them with spinach and the mozzarella balls.  D probably added 3 cloves of garlic.  I knew I married that guy for a reason.  It made all the difference.  It took it from a bland pizza-like mass, to a garlicky pizza-like mass.  Will I make it again?  Probably not, but it wasn’t anything to dread.

This recipe, like pretty much all of the bocconcini recipes begs an important question, “Why do I need to buy these fussy little cheese balls?”  They are more expensive than buying a ball of fresh mozzarella, and they taste the same.  If you want to try one of these recipes, just buy a big ball of fresh mozzarella and cut it into cubes.  It’s not as picturesque, but neither is this recipe, if we’re being honest.

I Really Went Off Target On This One…

Marinated Bocconcini

www.marthastewart.com/332743/marinated-bocconcini

September 2007, pg. 138

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Now, when I say I went off target, I mean I very slightly modified the recipe to accommodate the ingredients I already had in my kitchen.  The first difference was that I used a sliced up ball of fresh mozzarella.  One of our favorite summer meals is fresh sliced tomatoes layered with slices of fresh mozzarella and then drizzled with pesto, balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil.  We had recently come across a sale on fresh mozzarella so stocked up (as much as you reasonably can with fresh mozzarella).  So anyway, I cut the remainder up into lovely little triangle.

The second major difference was my laziness when it comes to fresh herbs.  I somehow find that I can never get through a batch from the little packages they sell at the supermarket before it gets a little funky. However, I had recently bought some thyme for several other recipes in the issue and thought that would probably make a decent substitute.

Anyway, I was super pleased with the outcome, even with all my changes.  And I have to say, this will probably be on my appetizer menu for the next time I entertain.  It really was very simple to prepare.  The hardest bit was peeling the lemon rind. It was also really delicious with the recommended salami and tomato.  I put all three on a skewer together and was quite satisfied.

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Next from me: Shrimp Fried Rice!!