I hope you’ve all stayed safe and dry over the last couple of days as Sandy has been pounding on the East Coast. While Washington, D.C. hasn’t been hit too hard, I won’t downplay the hype around this storm — I’ve seen the coverage of New York and New Jersey, and the death toll around the Mid-Atlantic is rising.
We never ended up losing power, although we did discover that we don’t have heat. Our house stays quite warm wedged between two other townhouses, so we hadn’t turned the heat on yet this fall. Well yesterday, I was going to jack the heat up a few degrees just in case we lost power. When it didn’t work, Courtney called Washington Gas. Turns out that the day they came to turn on the gas, they were for some reason unable to do so. Yet they felt no need to inform us that they had been unable to do so. Why? ”We don’t contact costumers about things like that” was the explanation they gave over the phone. Awesome. So instead they offered to come in two days, sometime in the narrow window of 7:00am and 5:00pm. You know, because we just sit around the house all day.
Actually, we pretty much have been sitting around the house all day, since work has been cancelled for both of us and the metro has been closed down. I can’t say I haven’t appreciated the downtime, since I didn’t get much of it this weekend. Our (haunted) housewarming party on Friday night transformed our living room into a costumed dance floor until about 5:00am. By 9:30am, I was in Richmond canvassing for President Obama. By the time our work was done at 2:00am Sunday morning, I wasn’t entirely sure if those were actually costumed bar-goers heading home at last call, or if I was just having really slutty hallucinations. Luckily, I have a ‘reserve’ tank for these situations and I made it through the weekend with a smile and home in one piece.
Best of all I made it home to find a warm penne casserole waiting for me, which we have been enjoying throughout the storm. The recipe is an old favorite that has been in our repertoire for nearly four years, and it makes an excellent nasty-weather comfort food. The first time we tried it out, we were housebound by choice, celebrating our third anniversary (of dating) in a snow-covered cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. My gift to Courtney was two Italian cook books and the promise to make him whatever he’d like.
He chose this penne casserole, layered with ground turkey, Italian sausage, spinach and three types of cheese. I stocked up on groceries and made it in our cabin at Primland. We ate it in our bathrobes and played Rock Band. It became an instant favorite. However, Courtney was at Virginia Tech, and I was in D.C. If he wanted to enjoy this dish on a whim, he would have to learn to make it himself. Luckily, this recipe is really quite simple, and it fed him many meals in college. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that Courtney can’t cook (or at least follow a recipe). But while I like to constantly experiment with new recipes, rarely repeating one unless I really love it, Courtney tends to find a recipe he likes and make it over and over again. This is a good recipe for occasional cooks who want to add a new option to their rotation, or for nights that you are cooking for a group and you need something fairly easy, consistently tasty, and difficult to mess up. Did I mention we’ve been eating it every night, and going back for seconds?
Layered Pasta Casserole
Adapted from Favorite Brand Name Made Simple: Italian
- 8oz uncooked penne (we use wheat)
- 8 oz ground Italian sausage (or Italian sausages with casings removed)
- 8 oz lean ground turkey
- 1 (26 oz) jar tomato sauce
- 1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 cup fat free ricotta
- 2 cups (8 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 2 T chopped fresh basil or 2 t dried basil
- 1 t salt
- Preheat oven to 350 F and coat a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray. Cook pasta according to package and drain. Transfer pasta to prepared baking dish.
- Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and ground turkey; cook until browned stirring frequently to break up. Drain the fat.
- Add pasta sauce and mix well. Add half of the meat sauce to the pasta and toss to coat.
- In a medium bowl, combine spinach, ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, parmesan, egg, basil and salt. Spoon spinach mixture evenly over pasta mixture and spread evenly with the back of spoon. Top with remaining meat sauce and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
- Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Switch oven to broil and cook an additional few minutes until cheese is golden-brown and bubbling.