Tag Archives: italian

Fast and Easy Duck Breast Ragu

By using leftover duck breast, from a duck roasted back in February, I cut down on some of the cooking and preparation time for this dish. And it ended up being a very economical meal, as one large duck breast made enough ragu for three servings.

Duck Breast Ragu

Duck Breast Ragu – serves 3

300 gm dried fettuccine or spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

NOTE: For a low/no-carb version, substitute well drained/squeezed spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles or cauli-rice for the pasta.

1 tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil
1 large leftover duck breast
1/2 cup (1 medium) onion, finely diced
1/2 cup (1 medium) carrot, finely diced
1/2 cup (1 stalk) celery, finely diced
1 cup crushed tomatoes*
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
1 dried bay leaf
1-2 fresh sage leaves, or 1 large dried sage leaf
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp apple cider vinegar**
2-3 cups of water, divided
salt and pepper to taste
~1 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

* About a cup of tomato products may be used in the ragu. ie. 2 large fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced or 1 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes with liquid, 1 cup marinara sauce or 1 cup of crushed tomatoes. For an extra hit of tomato, add a tablespoon of tomato paste as well.

** In place of 1/4 cup of white wine, I added the apple cider vinegar to the chicken stock

If your duck breast was frozen on the bone, remove it and cut the breast in half horizontally, to minimize the thickness of the breast, and reduce cooking time.

In a large saute pan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter and saute the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until the vegetables are softened and the onion is transparent. Add the crushed tomatoes (start with the tomato paste first, if using, and cook a couple of minutes to bring out the maximum flavour) and then add the chicken stock and apple cider vinegar scraping the bottom to free up any bits stuck to the pan.

Add the dried bay leaf, the sage leaves and the duck meat, including the bones that the breast was attached to for extra flavour.

 

Add another cup of water, or as much as is needed to cover the meat. Add about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp of ground black pepper. The amount of salt added depends on how salty your chicken stock was. Remember, the liquid will reduce so go easy on the salt. Bring the contents to a boil, cover and then reduce the heat so that the ragu mixture is just simmering. Simmer for one hour, checking after half an hour and then every 15 minutes to make sure that there’s still some liquid left. Stir to prevent sticking as the contents reduce. Add more water if need.

After one hour, test to see if the meat is tender enough to be shredded. If it is, remove to a shallow bowl, shred, and then return the meat to the saute pan. Discard the bones. (If there was any meat left on the breast bone and ribs, pick them off and return to the saute pan … or eat it. It’s the cook’s treat.) If not, simmer for another 10-15 min and check again, adding more water if needed.

NOTE: Bring a pot of water to the boil, season with a generous tablespoon of salt and cook your pasta, until it still has a bit of a bite to it (al dente). Drain, rinse with cold water, return to the pasta pot and cover.

Continue cooking the ragu, with the lid off, until it’s as thick as you like. Taste for salt and pepper level.

Add the reserved cooked pasta to the ragu, stir through and serve.

Garnish with a teaspoon of grated Parmesan cheese.

Advertisements

Italian Easter Ham Pie

This Italian Easter ‘pie’ has many names and several variations as to crust and fillings. This is the version that I decided to make, but if you want to look for others, here are some names to look for:  Italian Easter Ham pie, pizzagaina (or chiena,chena,cena), pizza rustica, pizza ripiena, pizza piena.

Italian Easter Ham Pie for Two – makes 2 4-inch diameter mini deep dish pies

pastry for a pie crust bottom only

140 gm dry curd cheese or cottage cheese or ricotta**
40-50 gm grated Mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten, 1 tbsp removed for egg wash
1/2 tsp dry parsley
1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6-8 slices diced deli meat (pepperoni, Genoa salami, capocollo or smoked ham)

Egg wash – 1 tbsp beaten egg and a splash of cream or milk

** Home made paneer cheese (an Indian dry curd cheese) was used. I got 290 gm (10.44 oz) of drained cheese from 2 liters (8 cups) of milk and 1/4 cups of white vinegar.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out two bases (8 inches in diameter) and two tops (5 inches in diameter) and line two deep dish disposable aluminum pie tins with the bases. Set aside the tops.

Mix together the filling ingredients and fill the pie tins. Press down a bit on the filling to compact it.

Moisten the edges of the bases, put on the tops, seal and, with the tines of a fork, seal again. Place the pie tins on a baking sheet for convenient transfer to the oven.

Brush the top of the pies with the egg wash and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the two pie tins to a cooling rack. Cool for 30 minutes to set the filling.

The pies may be eaten warm, room temperature or cold with a salad for a complete meal or on their own for a snack.

Creamy Avocado Pasta and a Quick Asparagus Spaghetti Carbonara

Cooking for one can be a chore, but these two pasta dishes need few ingredients, and can be made at the end of a tiring work day. In fact, waiting for the water to boil takes longer than actually cooking/assembling the dish. You can use leftover pasta warmed in very hot tap water if you’re in a hurry. (Or heat 2 cups of water to a boil in the microwave and dilute with a cup of tap water.)

The creaminess of the sauce for this dish owes nothing to cream, butter or even cheese, just a whole avocado mashed with a fork, a bit of lemon juice to cut through its bland richness, and salt and pepper to taste. I’ve seen recipes that add whole kernel corn, diced whole or halved cherry tomatoes but I was too lazy to thaw the corn and didn’t have (nor do I like) raw tomato.

Avocado Pasta

Creamy Avocado Pasta – serves 1

100 gm/3.5 oz dry fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti pasta, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water, barely warm
1/2-1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of garlic powder
1 small avocado
1 green onion, top only, thinly sliced on diagonal (for garnish)
2-3 cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
2 tbsp fresh corn kernels, or thawed and drained (optional)
dry red pepper flakes (optional, for garnish)

Slice the avocado in half, pit and scoop out the meat into a medium sized bowl. Add 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, a pinch each of salt, pepper and garlic powder and use a fork to mash the avocado into a fairly smooth paste. (I like to leave some smaller chunks for texture.) Add the cooked pasta and 2 tbsp of the reserved pasta cooking water and stir together. Taste. If the sauce seems bland, add a bit more lemon juice. If it’s too thick, add some more reserved pasta cooking water. Adjust salt and pepper amounts to taste.

Sprinkle the tomatoes and corn over the pasta and stir in. Sprinkle on the green onion and red pepper flake garnishes, if using.

Serve immediately as it will not keep.

I’ve made spaghetti carbonara before but am repeating my ‘recipe’ for one person, with the addition of asparagus, cause I had some in the fridge. Delicious, creamy without using ANY cream and fast to put together.

Asparagus Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara – serves 1

100 gm/3.5 oz dry fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti pasta, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water, barely warm
6-8 asparagus stalks, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
3-4 strips bacon**, fried until crispy and cut into 1/2 inch pieces, reserve some of the fat to cook the asparagus  and add to sauce
1 tbsp bacon fat**
1 egg yolk
2-4 tbsp ground Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

** Vegetarian Option: In place of the bacon/bacon fat, use 1/4 cup coarse seasoned breadcrumbs and olive oil to saute the asparagus and toast up the bread crumbs.

Cook the pasta just before assembling the dish or rewarm by dipping in some very hot water, if using leftover pasta. Drain.

In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 tbsp bacon fat and a couple of tbsp of the cooled pasta cooking water.

In a large saute pan, over medium high heat, saute the asparagus, just until tender using the remaining 1/2 tbsp of the bacon fat. Sprinkle some salt and freshly ground black pepper over the asparagus.

Add the diced bacon strips and re-crisp if using leftovers.

Add the warm pasta and stir to combine and to warm through the pasta.

Take the saute pan OFF the heat and pour the yolk mixture over the hot pasta. Stir well to coat the pasta with the mixture. The grainy mixture will smooth out and become creamy and slightly thickened. Add additional warm pasta cooking water if needed. Season with more salt if needed.

Serve immediately with additional freshly ground pepper over the top.

February Wrap-Up Pt. 2 – Roast Duck and 3 Pepper Pasta

Yes, I know … I thought I was done too. And then I remembered there were a couple of dishes that I forgotten to share.

Spatch-cocked Roasted Duck

I spent $12 for this frozen duck and after thawing and spatch-cocking (remove the backbone and flatten), I sprinkled the top and underside with salt, pepper and some paprika for colour, and roasted using the cooking instructions/time on the package. Both the breasts were removed, wrapped up well and frozen for the future.

While roasting the duck, the fat was drained off periodically so I ended up with a bit over a cup of clean duck fat for future roasting and baking. BONUS!!!

Roasted duck leg, asparagus and boxed stuffing with duck gravy made from pan juices.

Home Made Semolina Pasta

I remembered I had some dried home made 3 pepper pasta noodles in the pantry so I cooked them up. The sauce was jarred Classico tomato and basil spaghetti sauce and hot Italian sausages. Another fast meal that didn’t cost a lot.

Broccoli Rabe Duo

Lesson Learned… AGAIN: When you buy perishable greens like spinach or arugula, use them as soon as you can. They will hold up for a while, but there are limits, and they’ll yellow, wilt and go bad. Even a sturdy green like kale will yellow, and end up having to be discarded after a week or two.

Just before Christmas, I saw some beautiful bundles of Andy Boy broccoli rabe, on sale, at the grocery store and, although I had no clear idea of what I was going to do with the greens, I brought one home.

Then, I got distracted by other cooking projects, and my poor broccoli rabe got wilted and yellow. Still, I trimmed off the worst of the leaves and used up the last of the rabe in these two dishes. The first is an Italian inspired breakfast or lunch dish. It can even end up on your dinner table. The second is a Chinese/Japanese inspired side dish which can become a main with the addition of sauteed shrimp or even some grilled tofu.

Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta Frittata

The recipe for this frittata is a combination of elements from recipes by Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich. Frittata recipes are often written for 4 people and can use eight to twelve eggs, but for a single person, that’s too much to deal with, so I scaled it down. With the basic recipe below, you can add fresh ingredients and odds and ends of leftovers so each frittata will be a bit different. Instead of whisking in the ricotta, it’s dolloped over the frittata so it stands out.

3 Egg Basic Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta Frittata for One

3 eggs**
1 tbsp butter or olive oil
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup (3-4 stems) cooked broccoli rabe
2-3 tbsp ricotta
1 tbsp diced sauteed onions
salt and pepper, to taste

Add-ins (amounts are approximations)

3-4 grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 sweet pepper (red, orange, yellow, green) cut into strips and sauteed briefly to soften and remove excess moisture.
2-3 medium mushrooms, sliced, sauteed briefly
2-3 strips bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled

** If making this frittata for two, use 4-6 eggs, depending on how hungry you are.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg F.

In a medium sized bowl, break the eggs and whisk in the grated Parmesan cheese, sauteed onions, oregano, a pinch of salt and a grate or two of black pepper.

In a 8-9 inch cast iron frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and stir gently to distribute the ingredients.

Lay the strips of cooked broccoli rabe over the frittata and distribute the ricotta evenly, a rounded teaspoon or two at a time. NOTE: You may want to do this off the heat so that the eggs don’t set before you’re finished. (If using the tomatoes, distribute them, cut side down, evenly over the frittata. The other add-ins may be added to the egg mixture.)

Cook until the eggs begin to set. Transfer the frying pan to the oven and bake for 3-4 minutes, or until the frittata is set. (A minute or two with the broiler on will brown the top, if desired.)

Turn the frittata out onto a plate and serve.

Serving suggestion from Lidia: For a dinner portion, add a green salad and roasted baby potatoes or potato wedges.

Broccoli Rabe Peanut Ramen Noodles

Broccoli Rabe Peanut Ramen Noodles – serves 2

2 (85 gm) pkts ramen noodles**, cooked according to directions and drained

1/2 pound broccoli rabe
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
sesame seeds for garnish
2 wedges of lime, if desired.

Peanut sauce

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp water or dashi stock
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced (or a few shakes of dried garlic powder)
a shake or two red pepper flakes, plus more for garnish

** 180-200 gm soba, udon or wheat noodles may be substituted

Prepare the peanut sauce by whisking together all the ingredients in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. It will look curdled at first, but keep whisking and it will all come together. Set aside.

Trim the broccoli rabe by cutting off the thickest parts of the stem (over 1/4 inch in diameter). Trim the outer branches so you have individual stems.

In a large saute pan, over medium high heat, add the olive oil and when a drop of water added to the pan bubbles and hisses and then evaporates, add the rinsed broccoli rabe. Sprinkle some salt over the broccoli rabe, toss gently to coat rabe with some of the hot oil. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Toss the broccoli rabe again to make sure that the top leaves and stems get a chance to contact the hot pan bottom as well. Cover and continue cooking until the leaves are wilted and the stems are barely tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Fill a sauce pot with at least 4 cups of water and bring to the boil. Add the ramen noodles and cook, breaking up the rectangles of noodles as much as you can as they soften. Cook as per directions (about 3 or 4 minutes) and drain. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking and drain again. Reserve until needed.

(You may leave the noodles in the cold water until your broccoli rabe is tender.)

Add the noodles and peanut sauce to the saute pan with the cooked rabe. Toss until the noodles are coated with the sauce.

Transfer to a serving bowl or individual bowls and top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a pinch of red pepper flakes if you wish. Serve the wedge of lime on the size. The squeeze of lime juice will slightly offset the richness of the peanut sauce and the sweet/sour tang complements the bitterness of the broccoli rabe.

NOTE: I’ve made a similar sauce using tahini (sesame paste) and added cooked shrimp for a heartier, one dish meal.

The broccoli rabe peanut ramen noodles may be served on their own or as a side dish with something like the teriyaki pork chop below.

Calzone … a Pizza Alternative

Getting tired of making the same old pizzas??

Make a calzone instead, using the same basic pizza dough. In whatever size you like … 4, 6 or 8 inch.

NOTE: For another alternative to pizza, see the Buffalo chicken stromboli I posted a while ago.

Serve with a bowl of marinara sauce for dipping

I decided to make a regular sized (12 inch/20 cm diameter) pizza for work lunches and divided the rest of the dough into three 8 inch/20 cm calzone which can each serve one hungry person, or two moderately peckish people. I used a generous 1/4 lb (115-130 gm) of dough per calzone.

Filling amounts:

4 inch – 1 tablespoon
6 inch – 1/3 cup
8 inch – 1/2 cup

Broccoli rabe, ricotta and Parmesan cheese filling – fold over and seal the edges by crimping or with the tines of a fork

Brushed with extra virgin olive oil and baked at 450 deg F/230 deg C in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 min. Make vent slits in the top of the calzone before baking. These were marked with the initials of the fillings … R (broccoli rabe), BR, B (bacon)

Regular pizza … pepperoni sauce, sweet peppers (red, orange, yellow), bacon and mozzarella cheese.

Spaghetti Squash … Various

I remember trying spaghetti squash at least five years ago and not being impressed. As I recall, I microwaved the squash and served it very simply with a marinara sauce on top. I thought it was watery and fairly bland. Not really a substitute for pasta, but it was part of my attempt to introduce new vegetables to my diet.

A few days ago, I went grocery shopping and decided to give spaghetti squash another try.

I stabbed the small, whole squash (<800 gm) with a paring knife and then par-cooked it in the microwave for 5 minutes. Then I cut the squash in half, removed the seeds, sprinkled it with some salt, and baked it, cut side down, at 375 deg Fahreheit for 30 minutes, until a fork inserted into the squash met little resistance.

After letting the squash cool, I used a fork to scrape out the flesh.

First impression: The resulting squash strands looked fine but there wasn’t a lot of them. A scant 3 cups, I’d estimate. Of course, I had picked the smallest squash on the pile ($1.49) so you have to take that into account.

Spaghetti Squash topped with jarred spaghetti sauce (sausage and pepper) – Tasty but still a bit watery. Possible solution is to drain the spaghetti squash strands a bit and make sure the spaghetti sauce is thicker. At least now I know it’s not JUST due to the cooking method ie. microwaving.

Spaghetti Squash topped with cheese, sour cream and chili con carne with beans – After hand squeezing the remaining half of the squash, about 1/4 cup of liquid was expelled. The resulting dish was much less watery than the previous serving with meat sauce.

Baked squash seeds for snacking

The seeds were picked free of the surrounding squash flesh, rinsed and simmered for 10 minutes in salted water. I used paper towels to get most of the water off the seeds, placed them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and drizzled them with a bit of canola oil and sprinkled them with fine sea salt and a shake of paprika. Then the seeds were baked at 350 deg Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, turning them over after 5 minutes, to ensure as even baking as possible.

Sour Cream White Bread and Spaghetti Sauce

I wanted to make a white sandwich bread and picked this sour cream white bread recipe found on “The Spruce” web site for something that was a bit different.

Sour cream replaces the egg, milk and butter found in many enriched bread recipes. The resulting bread was nice and fluffy and tasted great either served as an accompaniment to a bowl of pasta or with jam as a snack.

The bread is meant to be baked in a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan but the amount of dough I had (820 gm) seemed a bit excessive to me, so I made four (54 gm) buns with part of it. I didn’t bother using the egg white glaze suggested to give the loaf a glossy finish, though I did brush melted butter on the buns.

The dough rose beautifully during the bulk proofing in the oven with the light on, taking only one hour, and though my loaf shaping was a bit lacking, the final proofing took only 45 minutes and baked up golden brown. For some reason, I decided to slash the top of the loaf before baking but, obviously, I didn’t put my heart into the matter as the cut turned out pretty anemic.

 

 

The loaf pan was oiled and lined with a small sheet of parchment paper which made removing the finished loaf a breeze.

I didn’t want my buns to round up too much during proofing so I pressed them down after 15 min, as in my earlier hamburger buns, and let them continue proofing for another 30 minutes. I found the oven spring a bit disappointing though the crumb was nice.

While my bread was proofing, I made a quick batch of spaghetti sauce with a couple of 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes (with herbs and spices) and 4 hot Italian sausages. I doctored the sauce with some additional dried Italian herbs and hot pepper flakes and served them over ditali pasta. There was enough sauce for 2 two serving containers to be tucked away in the freezer for later. All in all, a very successful cooking day.

Old and New Meals, Again

Nothing too exciting happening in the kitchen. I made an attempt at a type of hand shaped pasta, called strascinati rigati, using a sushi rolling mat, but the results were a bit disappointing. Next time, I’d roll the pasta much thinner and cut smaller pieces for shaping. I’d also cook them fresh rather than drying them. Taste wise … well, it’s pasta with a home made marinara sauce. Tasty but nothing to write home about.

The pasta on the left was made only with all purpose flour while the pasta on the right used half fine ground semolina flour as well.

Once again, the freezer is providing the start of some great meals … leftover pork ribs (remember that blueberry bbq sauce) with purchased hash brown patties.

And pulled pork sandwiches with roasted potato wedges.

I had a sirloin steak in the freezer so I thawed it out, seared it in a cast iron frying pan and served it rare. Simple but delicious with mashed potatoes, carrots and salad. There was enough steak leftover for a steak sandwich too.

I had a bit of a chocolate craving so I whipped up some blender chocolate mousse/pot de creme, flavoured with orange liqueur (Cointreau), to pour into a couple of prebaked pastry shells from the freezer. I had visions of something like a chocolate cream pie but since the shells had shrunk so much, not much of the mousse fit into the shells. So, I poured most of the mousse into a couple of ramekins and topped them with a dollop of whipped cream.

I should have let the pies set a bit longer before cutting into them but I couldn’t wait. (Sorry for the poor lighting in the first picture.)

Beef, Bean and Cheese Burritos/ Meat Lover’s Lasagna

I had a pound of lean ground beef in my freezer and, with a bountiful pantry, was torn between various possibilities. The front runners were beef burritos and a meat lasagna as I already had all the ingredients for either one. Including a batch of fresh pasta sitting in the fridge ready to be rolled out.

I decided to make small batches of both starting with a common base.

Ground Beef Base for the Two Dishes

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2-3 small cloves garlic, finely minced
1 lb/454 gm lean ground beef
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano

In a large saute pan, fry the onions in the vegetable oil over medium heat until they become translucent and start picking up some colour on the edges. Add the garlic and continue frying for another minute or so, until the garlic is translucent as well.

Crumble the beef into the pan and fry until no longer pink, breaking up the meat into crumbles. Sprinkle the salt and dried oregano over the top of the meat, stir through and continue cooking for another few minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, drain off the excess fat and transfer half the mixture to another container. Reserve for the meat lasagna.

Unfortunately, my home made flour tortillas weren’t large enough to fold into burritos, especially with anything else inside other than a generous tablespoon of Beef, Bean and Cheese Burrito filling, so I settled for burrito ‘wraps’.

Beef, Bean and Cheese Burritos – enough filling for 8 burritos, 4 servings at 2 burritos per servings

1/2 of the Ground Beef Base from above
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp Spanish paprika
1/4 cup salsa (mild, medium or hot) **
1/2 lb/ 227 gm canned re-fried beans
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Optional toppings or fillings
sour cream
guacamole
shredded lettuce
additional salsa
Mexican rice

8 home made sourdough flour tortillas or purchased regular 8 inch tortillas

** I had a package of taco seasoning (from a Taco Bell taco making kit) left in the freezer from the last time I made tacos so I used that instead.

To the ground beef base left in the saute pan, add the herbs and spices (cumin, chili powder, both paprikas) and stir through, cooking for a few minutes. Add the salsa and re-fried beans, mixing well, and continue cooking until the burrito mixture is warmed through. Take the pan off the heat and stir the shredded cheddar cheese through the mixture.

A picture of the ground beef base reserved for the lasagna and the finished beef, bean and cheese burrito filling.


Fill warmed tortillas with a couple of tablespoons of the burrito filling and then the other toppings or fillings.

Serve with salad.

Meat Lover’s Lasagna – enough for 3 to 4 servings

Meat Lover’s Lasagna – makes one 2.2 lb/1 kg lasagna, fills one 8 x 3 7/8 x 2 15/32 inch disposable aluminum baking pan

Meat Filling
1/2 of the Ground Beef Base from above
1/4 lb (2) hot Italian sausages, removed from casings
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup jarred tomato sauce

For Assembly
8 sheets commercial or home made pasta sheets, cooked until al dente
1/2 cup jarred tomato sauce, reserve 1/4 cup for topping
bechamel sauce (1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp flour, 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, 3/4-1 cup milk, salt and pepper to taste)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
~1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large saute pan over medium heat, crumble the sausage meat, frying the meat until it is no longer pink. Drain off any excess fat. Add the reserved half of the ground beef base and the dried basil. Cook for several minutes. Stir in the first 1/2 cup of tomato sauce and set aside to cool.

Preheat your oven to 350 deg F.

Reserve half of the 2nd 1/2 cup of tomato sauce.

In the bottom of your baking pan, spread 1-2 tbsp of remaining tomato sauce. Lay a sheet of cooked pasta over the sauce and then spread one quarter (1/4) of the meat mixture over the pasta. Spread another 1-2 tbsp of tomato sauce over the meat. Add another pasta sheet and one third (1/3) of the bechamel on top of that. Sprinkle a generous tablespoon of the grated parmesan over the bechamel and then top with another sheet of pasta. Repeat with the meat sauce/tomato sauce, pasta, bechamel/parmesan, pasta layers until you finish with your last sheet of pasta. You’ll have used up all eight of your pasta sheets.

Tuck any excess portions of your pasta sheet down into the pan so that it doesn’t poke up. Spread your reserved 1/4 cup of tomato sauce over the pasta and sprinkle a generous handful of the grated mozzarella cheese over the tomato sauce.

Place your baking pan onto a large baking sheet, in case of over flow during cooking, and bake for 40-45 minutes in your pre-heated oven. If you like a browned top, you can turn on the broiler and brown the cheese … a BIT. Be careful. You don’t want a black cheese topping, especially after all the time you’ve invested in assembling this delicious dish.

Serve with salad.