One of the fun things about cooking, we think, is that you can develop riffs on favorite dishes that always keep them fresh and interesting. Even if everyone loves your brownies, potato salad or whatever, try variations on it (like adding contrasting flavored baking chips or different nuts to the brownie batter, or minced jalapeño or a fresh herb medley to the potato salad).
Look at what you’re cooking tonight and see how you can do a variation—divide the recipe in half and serve both. See what everyone thinks.
Here are two riffs on that family favorite, lasagna. The one at the bottom is actually “faux” lasagna, called pasta al forno.
RECIPE: SPINACH LASAGNA
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
How to get your family to eat more spinach: spinach lasagna! You can substitute kale. Photo and recipe courtesy Westside Market | NYC.
2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed of excess water
2 cups non-fat ricotta or cottage cheese
8 ounces part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg
8 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles (make it “double spinach lasagna” by using spinach noodles)
1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.
2. HEAT olive oil in skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté for 2 minutes. Add spinach, oregano and basil. Set aside.
3. MIX ricotta/cottage cheese, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses in a large bowl with parsley, salt, pepper and egg.
4. SPREAD half of the spinach mixture in 8 x 8-inch ovenproof baking dish. Spread half of the cheese mixture on top. Add one layer of lasagna noodles. Repeat. Cover with foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
5. REMOVE foil and bake another 15 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
Pasta al forno: lasagna without the lasagna noodles. Recipe and photo courtesy Westside Market | NYC.
RECIPE: PASTA AL FORNO
Pasta al forno, which means “pasta in the oven” or baked pasta (and defines lasagna), is a variation that provides the flavor and relative appearance of lasagna without the effort of cooking and layering lasagna noodles.
1 pound sweet or hot fresh Italian sausage
8 ounces pasta, such as ziti or penne, cooked and drained
1 25-ounce jar or homemade marinara sauce
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1 10-ounce package frozen peas
1 cup ricotta
6 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 tablespoons Pecorino Romano
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. PREHEAT oven to 375°F. COAT a 2-1/2-quart baking dish with vegetable cooking spray.
2. REMOVE Remove from casing, break up into pieces and sauté in a skillet until sausage loses its color.
3. COOK pasta. While the pasta is cooking, combine marinara sauce, 1-1/2 cups mozzarella, peas, ricotta, 6 tablespoons Pecorino Romano/Parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in pasta and sausage, and pour mixture into the baking dish.
4. STIR together in a small bowl 1-1/2 cups mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano and oil. Sprinkle over top of pasta. Bake until hot, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let pasta sit for 10 minutes before serving.