For the past ten days, my cousin Meghan has been visiting the family. For many various and complicated reasons, we have been out of contact with Meghan for the better part of the past ten years, and we were finally reunited with her at my sister's wedding in May. So, now that we finally became in contact with her again, we invited her up to stay with us for a week. She was here to help out during the Dessert Extravaganza '09 (aka: My mom's 50th birthday), and ever since then, she has told me how awesome my desserts are, but just because you can make good dessert doesn't mean you can cook "real" food... So I took her challenge, and decided to make dinner for the family!
Now, I had to set out to make the perfect dish for this event. We'd had a different meal every night Meghan had been here (which is strange for my family, since we tend to recycle meals quite often), and we'd already done burgers, grilled chicken, Chinese food and other such things, and the one thing I knew we hadn't had yet was pasta.
My cousin loves pasta, so I had to find a recipe that would accommodate a love for pasta, but also would accommodate my un-love for most vegetables. So I went back to my first love, Food Gawker and looked up some different pasta recipes, and I found..... Drum roll, please..... LASAGNA ROLL UPS. It's pretty much like lasagna, just the lasagna noodles are filled and rolled up and baked in with the sauce... So in essence, they are pretty much fancy pasta shells, but I wanted to try out the recipe so I bravely set foot into the local Kroger to purchase my ingredients.
Ingredients list ;;
(note ;; I doubled the recipe because I was cooking for 6!)
1/2 lb. of beef
4 tblsp. of chopped onion
4 minced garlic cloves
2 16 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of dried oregano
2 dashes of cayenne pepper
2 1/2 cups of ricotta cheese
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
2 (lightly beaten) eggs
2 tblsp. of dried parsley
1/2 tsp. of onion powder
12 cooked lasagna noodles
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Now I am going to preface this series of pictures and just let you all know that this was the hardest thing I have ever made. Trying to do all of the different pieces of the dish simultaneously was pretty difficult for me, so the pictures aren't pretty and the stress level was incredibly high. So keep in mind that in these pictures, pretty much everything was happening at the same time so I just stood in a circle with the flash going off in all directions while I took pictures :P
First, I began to brown my meat in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil. I added in the chopped onion (which I chopped in the food processor because I hate onion and wanted the pieces as small as possible) and the minced garlic and let it cook until browned.
While that was happening, I had started boiling a pot of water to cook my pasta in. I was afraid the noodles would all stick together if I cooked all 12 of them at the same time, so I decided to cook 6 of them at a time.
While the meat and the pasta were cooking, I decided to go ahead and mix up the filling. So I took my ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, onion powder, parsley and eggs, and put them all in the bowl to prepare for a mixin'
Since I had a bit of spare time, I mixed up all the ingredients to make my filling and then set it aside while I finished up some other stuff.
Once the meat was finished cooking, I drained the fat/oil out of it, then added in my crushed tomatoes, cayenne pepper and oregano, covered it and let it simmer for ten minutes.
Now, I couldn't go any further until my sauce was done cooking, so here goes a ten minute intermission where I cleaned up the disaster area that the kitchen had become in the last 25 minutes.
When the sauce is done, pour half into the bottom of 2 greased baking dishes (I used two because I had a double batch of the roll-ups).
By this time, I had already taken out my first set of pasta noodles and set the next set in to start cooking. Now that the pasta sauce was ready, I started making my roll-ups. You just lay out the pasta noodle, take a big glob of the filling and spread it out all over the noodles until it is coated. Then, starting at one end, you roll it up the way you'd roll up a sleeping bag.
Then you place your roll seam-side down in the pan in the pasta mixture. Repeat this step until all of your noodles are used and the pans are full.
This is where my problems came from. I used too much of the cheese mixture for the first 6 noodles and didn't have enough for the last 3 or 4, so I decided to mix up half of a batch of the cheese mixture since I had plenty of the ingredients leftover, but I kind of messed it up and couldn't get it to the right consistency. I have no idea how they turned out because those went in with the leftovers. I can't imagine they'll be bad, they just had too much egg in them so I imagine the consistency will be a little more solid and a little less creamy.
So once all of the roll ups are in place in your cooking pans, you will spoon some of the sauce over the top of them so that the noodles don't dry out in the baking process and become crispy/chewy.
Don't they look yummy all getting ready to go into the oven? Mmm!
So you put them in the oven at 350 degrees and for 30-35 minutes, though 5 minutes before they are done, pull them out of the oven and top with the shredded mozzarella cheese and put back in for the remaining 5 minutes.
The finished product! Complete with garlic bread, a Caesar salad and of course, the ever-classy Classic Coca Cola to drink. ;)
So let me just tell you, along with being the most complicated recipe I have ever made, it was also the most expensive. The recipe said you could use cottage cheese instead of Ricotta, but my mom insisted on the ricotta so that is what I used. It was about $20 for the ingredients (which is really expensive for me since I've only spent MAYBE half that on the other meals I've made). I just think this was too much effort to put into a meal for the family... It was really really tasty, but very tine consuming and stressful. I'm sure I would make it again if the family asked me to, but I wouldn't make it for myself at school. It was just a "special-day" dinner!
Thanks for reading!
Until next time