Italian Pasta Bake

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I had a rather stressful and somewhat traumatizing trip to Pier 1 yesterday afternoon. I was in a rush and ran in for chopsticks, which they didn’t end up having, for the noodle soup I was cooking for dinner. Not surprisingly, I ended up coming out with several other items. Pillows, some greenery, and some really cool, over sized ramekins. Cool because they are just the right size for a personal serving of all kinds of good things. They are 5 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches deep. Tonight I did the pasta in them and next week I think I’ll focus on personal sized chicken pot pies.

The stressful and somewhat embarrassing part…well, I broke two things while I was in there…on two separate sides of the store! EEK! The greenery I had picked out had very long stems and when I bent down to pull another one out of the pile I knocked a small vase off of a shelf. You know when those types of things happen it all goes in slow motion? Well the vase bounced on the tile floor and I thought I was out of the woods, but on the second bounce it shattered all over the place. They of course, said it was no big deal and cleaned it up right away while I apologized profusely. The people standing next to me made a big deal out of it by saying, “Oh my gosh, that almost hit us!” Honestly? It was a three-inch vase lady, give me a break. Then, if you can even believe my bad luck, I had the greenery and three pillows in my arms while I was looking at the super cool over-sized ramekins on the other side of the store, turned around, and sure enough the top of one of the stems whacked a small bowl on another shelf and there it went…straight to the tile floor. It was a complete nightmare. I was stuck in an episode of Seinfeld. Unfortunately, this would not be the first time I have been stuck in an episode of Seinfeld in my lifetime, but, those are stories for another time.

Now, in my defense, those of you who have been to Pier 1 know how cram packed that place is with stuff. Honestly, it’s not that hard to run into something while you’re there…right? I figured pillows, some greenery, and cool ramekins were enough at that point and skedaddled up to the front counter to check out and hope that I didn’t see anyone I knew. My teenage son, luckily, had decided to wait for me in the car and missed the whole circus.

Well, such is life. I may be able to cook, but it’s obvious I’m not very graceful. The pillows don’t look as good on our couches as I thought they would, I bought the greenery to match the pillows, so I guess those will have to go back when I feel they’ll no longer recognize me as “the crazy lady who kept breaking things”. The positive part? We get to have an Italian Pasta Bake in those really cool ramekins tonight.

*This recipe will fill 1 9 1/2 x 11 baking dish or 6 five-inch ramekins.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Italian Pasta Bake

1 lb. Lean Ground Hamburger

1 lb. Gluten & Dairy-Free Ground Italian Sausage

1 Cup Total, Chopped Fresh Basil & Oregano

1/2 Sweet Yellow Onion, chopped

1 Cup Spinach, packed

About 10 Cremini Mushrooms, sliced

1 Whole Jalapeno, diced with seeds

2 Tbsp. Garlic, smashed & chopped

1 Cup Good Red Wine

2 Jars of Newman’s Pasta Sauce ( I used marinara, and roasted garlic)

About 1 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

About 1/4 Cup Dairy-Free Parmesan

About 1 Cup Dairy-Free Mozzarella

1 1/2 Pkgs. Tinkyada Spiral Gluten-Free Pasta

Preheat oven to 350°

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet. Brown sausage and hamburger. Add the garlic and chopped jalapeno. Saute for about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to plate or bowl and set aside.

Leaving the drippings in the skillet, add the onions and mushrooms and saute until they start to carmelize.

Once the onions and mushrooms have browned a little bit, add the herbs and spinach. Toss until combined and then add the red wine to de-glaze the pan. Simmer until spinach and herbs are wilted.

Add the pasta sauces, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes. Boil pasta for 13 minutes, rinse with cold water when done and set aside.

Pour the rinsed pasta back into the pasta pot and toss with the sauce.

Sprinkle with the dairy-free Parmesan and mix carefully. Fill ramekins or baking dish of your choice, sprinkle with more dairy-free parmesan, and top with dairy-free mozzarella.

Place ramekins on a parchment covered baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Lasagna

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Having to be gluten-free and dairy-free no longer bothers me, at all. Can you believe it? I actually like it. I like that I’m eating healthier because I’ve introduced more nutritious grains into my diet that I wouldn’t otherwise have known about.  And of course, I feel better which is the most important thing. I love taking on a traditional food like lasagna and making it fit my needs. Don’t settle for what’s pre-made in the gluten-free freezer section all the time (if you can even find many things worth eating anyway). Venture out and try to create a family favorite every once in a while that fits your dietary needs. Oh, and by the way, my husband who doesn’t have to live allergy free and who can be quite picky…ate three pieces of this lasagna  for dinner. Ora questo è ciò che mi piace vedere! Urrà!

This can also be assembled a day ahead and kept in the fridge until needed.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Lasagna

Pre-heat the oven to 350° (12 servings)

1 – 10 oz. Pkg. Tinkyada Lasagna Noodles

For The Tomato Sauce:

1 lb. of Lean Ground Beef

1 lb. of Hot Italian Ground Sausage

3 Cloves of Garlic, smashed & minced

1 1/2 Tbsp. Basil, chopped

1 1/2 Tbsp. Oregano, chopped

3 Sun-Dried Tomatoes, chopped

2 cans Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Liquid

2 – 6 oz. cans Tomato Paste

1/4 tsp. Sea Salt

For The Cheese Sauce:

1 1/2 pkgs. Sheep’s Milk Cheese

1 – 12.3 oz. pkg. Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, Extra Firm

1/4 Cup Galaxy Nutritional Foods Vegan Grated Topping, Parmesan Flavor

2 Tbsp. Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped

2 Beaten Eggs

1 lb. of Dairy-Free Mozzarella

1 tsp. Garlic Powder

1 tsp. Sea Salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Brown the hamburger and sausage in a large skillet, drain off fat. Add the minced garlic, basil, oregano, salt, canned tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and tomato paste. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat. Place Sheep’s cheese, tofu, dairy-free parmesan, chopped parsley, garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and crumble with fork until mixture resembles “ricotta”. Add beaten eggs and stir with fork until ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Next, boil noodles until al dente. Follow directions on box, I cooked mine for 13 minutes and rinsed with cold water. Lightly spray an 8 1/2 x 11 pan with cooking spray. Layer the first layer of noodles in the pan.

Spread 1/2 of the cheese mixture over the noodles in the pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the mozzarella. Spread 1/2 of the meat sauce over the mozzarella. Place a second layer of lasagna noodles over the meat sauce, layer with the other 1/2 of cheese sauce, sprinkle with 1/2 of the leftover mozzarella, and cover with meat sauce. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the meat sauce.

Cover and place in refrigerator until ready to use. Bake in a 375° oven for 45 minutes if cold, 30 minutes if room temperature.