Easy way to make baked pasta dishes

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by susiestar, Aug 12, 2009.

  1. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    We love the taste of lasagna but hate the work. Even using dry noodles instead of cooking them doesn't make it easy enough.

    so today, before the layoff possibility came to light, Jessie and I decided to try a new method.

    We mixed spaghetti sauce she made last night with another can of spaghetti sauce and a can of water (filled the spag sauce can).

    We mixed that sauce mixture with 2 pounds of macaroni elbows. Meant to use 1 pound, but it came out faster than we were ready for.

    That all was mixed in an oven safe dutch oven. We put it in at 300 degrees and checked it in an hour. It was a little too thick so more sauce/water was added.

    Then jessie added cottage cheese to the mixture and stirred it well.

    Back to the oven for another 30 minutes and it is WONDERFUL! It would be much better with mozzarella in it, and parmesan, but we are out of both (husband was going to get some at Sam's but he really needed to just come home).

    So now we can bake pasta and sauce with-o cooking the noodles first. I hate cooking the noodles first because it waters things down. Mostly , though, I just cannot lift the pan to drain the water out.

    That is why this is GENIUS for us crippled people.

    I got the idea from a jar of sauce we got that had a bag of "special" pasta packaged with it. You added cheese and meat and 1 or 2 jars of water, then cooked it in the oven or crockpot. It was about $6 or so and that meant after the coupon we were not buying it again.

    But the idea nagged at me. So we decided to experiment.

    thank you has been absolutely fascinated with cooking. he finally figured out that not everything needs to be written in a recipe and measured precisely. He says it is like Potions class at Hogwarts!

    I hope this is handy for those that are crippled like me or just buys busy buys moms. If you use 1 pound of pasta and a smaller amount of both sauce and water it would fit in a crockpot.
  2. crazymama30

    crazymama30 Active Member

    Whenever I make lasagna, I never cook the noodles. I did the very first time I tried to make it, years ago, and ended up with lasagna soup! Don't know why, but for me it is the only way that works.
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    When I make lasagne I use freshly made pasta sheets which I never cook first. It handles like thick paper, pliable, flexible and I cut it to shape with scissors.

    Pasta bakes - I don't cook the pasta first. But you do have to allow more liquid as well as make sure the pasta is completely submerged in the mix AND the lid is on (so it all steams properly). It works best this way because te pasta absorbs not only the liquid from the saucwe, but also takes on the flavours.

    Instead of using bottled sauce, next time make a bechamel sauce with cheese in it, plus add shredded fresh vegetables (such as carrots, courgettes, peas, green beans) and stir it all through. Or instead of bechamel, throw in a can of chopped tomatoes along with the vegetables. Stir in some grated cheese and top with cheese.

    Another trick (I got this one from Jamie Oliver) is to do something similar to what your daughter did, and stir in some ricotta or even creme fraiche mixed with parmesan cheese. A small amount of parmesan boosts the cheese flavour. I always use some parmesan along with cheddar.

    When easy child 2/difficult child 2 was a baby and I was finishing my studies at uni, I took her with me to my lectures and prac. I would stop off for lunch first at the uni refectory and, mindufl of the need to eat a healthy meal, I would opt for their home-made pasta bake. They used tiny pasta in it (so it would cook faster). Tiny stuff like alphabet noodles you put in alphabet soup. Risoni. That sort of thing. Then tey would stir through raw shredded vegetables, then grated cheddar, then freshly chopped tomatoes (juice and all). Pile it all into a casserole dish, top with more grated cheese (and of course season it with herbs, salt & pepper) then bake it until the pasta is done. The vegetables are also done then. I loved the stuff, it was delicious and very filling.

    The other thing you have Occupational Therapist (OT) watch out for when cooking it this way - the pasta will swell up a lot as it cooks, so allow for the extra space it will take up. Also as it swells it may emerge from the sauce, and if it dries out at that point, the pasta will be hard to eat. So keep the pasta pieces covered with sauce always.

    Next time instead of using elbows (which are a goos choice though) try the spirals. Any pasta piece with a large surface area is a good choice for this method. Elbows have the inner surface as wel las the outer one, via which to absorb liquid.

  4. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Neat idea Susie!

    I've always cooked my lasagna noodles but not my manicotti noodles, I just stuff them and bake with sauce and mozzarella on top.
  5. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    YUMM!! Thanks for sharing!!

    I make lasagna in the crock pot. Turns out better than any I've had from an oven. Concepts the same as oven. Just butter the crock before you turn it on and layer as usual (no cook noodles, to fit the crock they can be broken up and layered in pieces). I just throw the ground beef (browned) in a bowl and toss well with sauce, start with it as bottom layer, add cheeses (ricotta, cottage, cheddar, mozza etc, whichever you like) and noodles, repeat until you have at least an inch remaining (or a bit more than an inch) of bare crock below the lid. Viola.

    This recipe reheats well. It is messy when you serve it, as in no perfect lasagna-like squares from a baking pan as with oven recipes. But the taste is out of this world. My family all swear by it (extended family as well) since bringing to a potluck family dinner once. The flavors meld so differently in a crock pot. I put it on a lower heat for longer period of time than with the oven, but when i'm rushed, I cook at normal heat for shorter and its good too.
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Matt'sMom, instead of lasagne, try making the same recipe but as canneloni. The only difference is you either buy canneloni tubes and fill them without cooking them first then layer them in the crockpot, or you cook lasagne sheets (or use fresh pasta lasagne as I described earlier) and simply roll t he lasagne sheets around filling to make canneloni tubes.
    It might serve up more easily which makes for better presentaiton when it's not just the family...

    It's been a while since I made lasagne. When I do, I use a large baking dish (the same one I use to roast the vegetables when I'm doing a baked dinner). I let it chill off after we've all eaten as much as we want, then once it's cold we cut it up into single servings then freeze it. That way it microwaves (or reheats in the oven) as individual meals.

  7. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I like to experiment with different shapes of pasta. The kids' favorite so far is farfalle (bow-ties). I throw those, sauce, meat, cheese in the oven with a little extra water. When it's clsoe to done I top with some mozzarella and parmesan, then cook till melty and brown. The kids adore this.
  8. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    Tip for lasagne noodles(for those who cook them first)....undercook the noodles by about two or three minutes. Then, after you drain them, lay them on a towel with another towel over them (the second towel is to prevent them from getting too dried out while you work.

    After you bake the lasagne, let it sit for at least 10 minutes to set, before serving or it will fall apart.
  9. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911

    Easy wat to make baked pasta dishes:

    Go to Carabas. :tongue:
  10. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Macaroni Grill anyone? YUMMMM
  11. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911

    OMG I LOVE MACCARONI GRILL,,,,,,,,,,:tongue:

    You can draw on the table cloths there.....:surprise:
  12. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    My Mom's fav restaurant... And husband and I went to one on our wedding night.

    It's the closest one to where we live - and it's an hour away from my parents!!! An hour and a half from our house.
  13. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911

    THE first time my girlfriend went -she and her daughter took me for my 38th birthday - just last year....;) So she's (my friend) is this UBER conservative, over the top, ultra Christian, straight laced woman and I'm a little left of center. So when she went to the bathroom....I took one of the crayons and broke it in half. Then I pushed the stuff on one side of the table next to us....(no one was in the restaurant yet) and told her daughter to lay down backwards like a crime scene victim and traced her outline on the table.

    We laughed about that for at least 20 minutes - and then a couple came in to have dinner - sat down and the woman finally figures it out and says in a shriek "OMG.....it looks like someone DIED here!!!" and of course my friend IMMEDIATELY pointed a finger and a nasty look at me...but just then the waiter brings my cake and starts singing in the deepest Pavoratti wannabe (but good) Italian - HAPPY BIRTHDAY - and it was awesome -

    Except for them holding up the table cloth with my friends daughters crime scene outline and everyone in the kitchen laughing while my friend just shook her head and said "Someday......."

    in case you're wondering - no I did not draw bullet holes - I drew a smiley face with a tongue sticking out much like :tongue:
  14. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    That sounds like something my family would do... To my parents!!!