I’m not even going to complain about the snow.
And the cold.
And that it’s almost April and it’s not 60 degrees and sunny.
Oh, and did I mention the snow?
No, I’m not going to do that to you.
Complaining is unladylike.
BUT let’s talk about others complaining, that just might make me feel a tiny bit better about (not) complaining myself. Because I’m totally not.
So, you know how some people have the problem where they repeatedly make the same meals over and over?? And people (kids, spouses, even pets!) in the family complain that all meals are boring and consequently beg for something different in the weekly rotation?
Well, I have the opposite problem –it totally irks me out to have repeat dinners close to one another. My mind is constantly running with new ideas for meals, and I think in any given ten minute period I have about a million different food-related ideas running through my head, so it only makes sense for me to put those thoughts into reality.
You would think this wouldn’t really be problematic but rather welcomed and celebrated – but it is. My future husband is a creature of habit – he loves Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, pasta, burgers, plain chocolate chip cookies, beer and the occasional whiskey. Although he doesn’t shoo anything away, he could happily live off of those things the rest of his life. So rather than a spouse or kid complaining that we need some variety in our meals, Kevin complains –well complain is a strong word – Kevin gently informs me that he’d be happy if I made some of his favorite dishes a little more frequently – and you know what? I kind of would too.
I easily forget about the power of the go-to meal. It’s a meal that puts a feeling of comfort in your body; a meal that can cheer you up even on the worst of days; and a meal that comes together so effortlessly you barely even have to use your brain. Ahh – I forgot what those were like…
I’m not saying I don’t ever cook the same things twice, because I do – just not in the same month…err or maybe two months. I’m working on changing that, so I’ve been trying to make dinners that both Kevin and I love one day a week.
I make this dish slightly different every time (shocking!), but the heart is always the same – rigatoni, red sauce, and LOTS of fresh mozzarella cheese. Usually I’ll add in some type of meat – chicken, spicy Italian sausage, or turkey sausage, but this time in sticking with my “healthy” pledge, I decided to go vegetarian. I added diced carrots to the red sauce to bulk up the usually bare tomato sauce, roasted up some hearty eggplant to fill in for the absence of meat, and then threw in some spinach for good measure.
Now, the key to the ooey gooey cheesy nature of this rigatoni is to use fresh mozzarella that is cubed NOT shredded – this is an absolute MUST. Otherwise, the cheese will melt, but will be rather disappointing in the ooey gooey cheesy-ness (totally technical terms by the way).
This is one meal we never get sick of – maybe it could end up in your weekly rotation too…
- ½ cup diced onion
- ½ cup diced carrot
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ cup red wine
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Assemble Pasta:
- 17.5 ounces rigatoni
- 1 eggplant, cut into bit size pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt to taste
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 slices of white American cheese, from the deli counter
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a large casserole dish.
- Heat olive oil over a medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion, carrot, and garlic. Cook until softened, about five minutes. Season with a little salt.
- Pour wine in the pan; simmer until reduced, about two minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, garlic powder, basil and salt. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Set aside.
- Roast Eggplant: Drizzle chopped eggplant with olive oil and roast in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.
- In the meantime bring a large stock pot of water to a boil. Add a liberal amount of salt and then the pasta. Cook until just under aldente (it will cook more in the oven.) Remove eggplant from oven and season with a little bit of salt, set aside. Turn heat down to 350 degrees.
- Combine pasta with sauce, eggplant, spinach, and mozzarella cheese, transfer to greased dish. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and dot with pieces of white american cheese.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until cheese is melted and hot all the way through.