Monday, April 11, 2016

I is for Italian

Last night, my daughter said, "I love it when Mom does the A to Z Challenge. It means she cooks stuff."

She refused to try the Avocado Chocolate Smoothie. And the Black Bean Brownies. She barely took a nibble of the Doughnut Waffles.

This, she liked:

Here's how it was supposed to work:

You cook one pound of rigatoni until they are still firm enough to stand on end. There is no science to this; it's a crap shoot picking between still crunchy and just short of falling apart.

While the pasta is cooking, brown a pound of ground beef, drain it, then add a jar (or can) of your favorite pasta sauce, along with a little water, and let it simmer for 20 minutes. 

While you're at it, combine ricotta cheese with an egg. Try not to throw up in your mouth a little when you read that cottage cheese is the first choice of the recipe writer rather than ricotta.

Drain the pasta, rinse with cold water, then toss with olive oil and shredded parmesan cheese. Note that maybe only half the parmesan cheese actually sticks to the pasta; the rest falls to the bottom of the bowl.

Find your two springform pans in the very back of the cupboard. Realize you have a 9-1/2 inch pan but not a 9 inch one. Figure it will be close enough.

Spray pan with  cooking spray and begin standing the rigatoni upright in the pan. Say bad words when they fall over. 

Keep standing the rigatoni up in the pan until you either fill the pan or realize one pound of rigatoni won't fill it up. Say bad words until you have the lightbulb moment of taking three jumbo pasta shells from the pantry and sticking them in the hole, uncooked, to force the rigatoni soldiers to stand upright.

Problem solving.

Following the recipe directions, pour the ricotta mixture of the top of the pasta and spread evenly.

Pour the meat sauce over the cheese layer. Read that you are supposed to use your fingers to push as much of the meaty sauce as possible into the tubes. Realize immediately that the layer of ricotta cheese under the meat sauce is going to prevent any of this from happening. Say bad words.

Yes, this picture is sideways. No, I don't care.

Bake the whole thing for 20 minutes, then add mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce and bake longer.

Lose track of how long the pan has been in the oven and bake for closer to 40 minutes than another 20. Realize the top of the cheese layer is pretty brown. Say some bad words.

Be too impatient to wait ten minutes to loosen the sides of the springform pan and do it anyway. Think you're all that when it pops off without sticking.

Cut large slices for your family and wait for the accolades to pour in, like this:

Husband: It's good, but it isn't worth the effort. I mean, it's pretty, but it needs more sauce (he was right on both counts).

Daughter: I like pasta.
Me: I know.
Daughter: How long did this take?
Me: Too long.

Realize that, with some tweaking to the recipe, including using considerably more sauce, this is a kind of cool pasta dish to make for company, as long as you don't forget it's in the oven and overbake the cheese.

I didn't stop at the rigatoni pie, though. I also made a dessert called Italian Love Cake:

Before you start the pasta, have enough sense to get the cake baking, so it will be done by the time the pasta goes in the oven.

Make a chocolate cake, following the directions on the cake mix box, and pour it into a greased 9x13 pan.

Mix two pounds (!) of ricotta cheese with four eggs and some sugar and pour over the cake batter and carefully spread it.

Feel a little apprehensive that the two layers will actually change places during the baking process.

Bake for one hour. Take it out of the oven and rejoice that the layers did, indeed, swap places.

Set the cake on a rack to cool, then notice the recipe says after the cake cools completely, it can be frosted, then must be refrigerated for at least six HOURS before eating. Say bad words.

Wait through the entire rigatoni pie cooking process for the cake to cool (which it doesn't), then go to a meeting, come home an hour and a half later, and note that the cake is finally cool enough to frost.

Mix a cup of milk with a small box of instant chocolate pudding. Fold in 8 oz. of Cool Whip and spread over the cake. Cover and refrigerate.

Come home from work and decide you can't wait for anyone else to come home and eat cake and cut a big piece. Ahhhh, yum!

When your husband is still at work, eagerly awaiting a chance to dive into this cake, do this to him:

Total Pinterest win!


  1. I think I'd use a different pasta shell, layer that dish in a casserole and cook it that way. Nobody here looks at anything long enough to go to all that trouble to make the pasta stand up! LOL Now, the cake on the other hand sounds yummy! Think I may have to try that! Bookmarking this page for next grocery day. May do them both, just make the pasta my dump way.
    Revisit the Tender Years with me during the #AtoZChallenge at Life & Faith in Caneyhead!

    1. I truly did not think I would be able to stand those little fellers upright, given they were covered with olive oil. My husband kept saying "Why don't you just dump it all in a casserole dish? It would taste the same and be faster." "BECAUSE IT'S A PINTEREST CHALLENGE, NOT A PINTEREST EASY!"
      Oh, that cake! And it tasted even better after two days in the refrigerator!

  2. Im with Barbara....the recipe we use just mixes everything together and plop it in the springform and cover with more sauce and cheese....we also go sans sauce and just use ricotta and egg and sauteed veggies like zuchinni ,tomato, mushrooms and basil....the cake thing sounds cool!!!! Oh and i always say bad words...even if it works! F...yes!!!!

    1. Yeah, I may never make the standing rigatoni again, but you can bet I'll be making that cake!
      I believe saying the bad words is just what made those noodles stand at attention.

  3. You can keep the rigatoni pie - the best part of Italian food is when it's all cheesy, saucy mixed together. Wish you lived closer, I made home made pasta in my new pasta maker this weekend. I'm sure we would have had fun. The cake looks yummy.

    1. It would have been cheesier had I not overbaked the top layer. Oops.
      We WOULD have fun cooking together, wouldn't we?

  4. *sigh* CAKE! I miss cake. I need to keep remembering WHY I miss cake. But the pasta thing looks cool, and I'm pretty sure you can get hold of even bigger tubey pastas, so your meat would fit.

    (Never thought I'd ever say that sentence...)

    1. Everything here is stuff you can't eat, but trust me when I say that cake was a delight!

  5. Love your creative use of jumbo shells to fix the standing problem. Good thinking!

    Weekends In Maine

  6. Both look really good, but I agree with those above and say opt for a casserole dish in the future.

    That cake looks like heaven. I may need to remember this one.

    1. Yeah, totally not worth the trouble making noodles stand up, but it looked cool.
      The cake IS heaven!

  7. I've been meaning to comment about this since i read at work... so here goes the pasta dish looks like a lot of work but it looks good too, i don't think i would try it only because i make baked ziti and yes i would also use rigatoni.

    the cake looks good and i would try to make that


    I don't usually do this and really don't want but i cannot help myself this time and it is 4:45 am so i am probably sleep deprived but check this out

    1. I shall stick to baking my pasta in a jumble instead of like soldiers.
      The cake is fabulous, although I doubt any of what I made was really very Italian. You're the expert, though.
      I pinned your recipes! Yum!