Nelson Mandela once said “there can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to helping others without expecting anything in return.” Last year, in June of 2015, I experienced this first hand as family and friends selflessly stood by our side as we supported my mother through her last days while on hospice at home. This was a transformative experience in my life, and one that has shaped me in ways beyond what I even know.
While this of course was a time of tremendous sorrow, I also cannot help but look back and celebrate the outpouring of love and support that came our way! Now, as friends experience the turbulent waves of life, it is my hope that I am able to provide them with even an ounce of what we received. This pasta is heading to a friend who had twin boys earlier than expected and her days are currently spent driving to and from the NICU (where the boys are receiving tremendous care!) I hope that this warm, gooey, cheesy pasta dish comes as a comforting treat to her heavy heart and mind.
Overall, this dish was easy to prepare, and something I’m glad to have in my back pocket. What other dishes do you share when providing a meal to a loved one?
- 1 pound of pasta
- 1 pound of ground sausage (I used sweet Italian)
- 1 jar of marinara sauce
- 1 large onion – diced
- 4 garlic cloves – diced
- 1 Tablespoon basil
- 1 Tablespoon italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
- 1/2 pound of mozzarella
- 1 large cup of ricotta
- 1 cup of grated parmesan
- Black pepper
Steps and Notes:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook the pasta al dente according to the directions on the box – then drain, place in a bowl, and mix lightly with some oil to prevent sticking
- As the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. First, in a large skillet, heat some oil and then brown the sausage so that it is fully cooked through.
- Add the onion and cook for another 4-5 minutes until they are translucent.
- Add the garlic, basil, italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir well and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer
- I also rinsed the jar out with a bit of water and added that to the sauce as well
- Add one spoon of sauce to the pasta in the bowl and mix until evenly combined
- In a 9×13 pan, layer in the following order:
- A base layer of sauce
- Some ricotta cheese dotted evenly around the pan
- All of the pasta
- The rest of the sauce
- The remainder of the ricotta cheese
- The shredded parmesan
- Some freshly grated pepper!
- Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes until the cheese is melted.
Thoughts for next time:
- Mix fresh basil into the sauce for a deeper basil flavor
- Bake the pasta in muffin tins for bite sized/freezer portions
- Incorporate some small diced veggies like carrots or mushrooms