New Castle News

February 1, 2014

Culinary Conversation: Cook up some ‘little ears,’ ‘little worms’

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — There are so many things to love about pasta.

It’s easy to cook and can be prepared in many versatile ways.

Today, Culinary Conversation presents five wonderful selections. The chicken Florentine not only features spinach, but there’s artichoke hearts and tomatoes, too — making a colorful, flavorful presentation.

Three-cheese baked ziti is a must-try with its blend of Parmesan, mozzarella and ricotta. The meatless lasagna pie is a perfect main dish for a crowd. Swiss cheese bundles use lasagna noodles, too. Fresh herb shrimp linguine is light and sounds like a cinch to make.

And think of all the different types — there’s fettucine, spaghetti and elbow macaroni, of course. Go beyond the basics to discover ditalini, gemelli, orzo and a whole bunch more that frequently have nicknames. Farfalle is also known as bowties, orecchiette is referred to as “little ears,” rotelle is “little wheel”, ziti are “bridegrooms” and vermicelli is “little worms.” That last one’s nickname doesn’t sound appetizing but I have yet to meet a pasta I didn’t like.

If pasta dishes are your thing, then this is the place to share them.

Chicken Florentine Bake

Preheat oven to 350. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In medium skillet, cook onion in 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; set aside.

In bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and crushed red pepper. Stir in chicken, Monterey Jack cheese, artichokes, spinach, tomatoes, half of the Parmesan, cooked pasta and onion. Transfer to a 13x9x2-inch baking dish or 3-quart rectangular casserole.

Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. In small bowl, combine remaining Parmesan, bread crumbs, paprika and melted butter. Sprinkle mixture over pasta. Bake, uncovered 10 minutes more or until golden brown.

Three-cheese Baked Ziti

Preheat oven to 350.

In large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, eggs and Parmesan cheese; set aside. In another bowl, thoroughly combine hot pasta and pasta sauce.

In 13x9x2-inch baking dish, spoon in 1/2 of the pasta mixture; evenly top with ricotta cheese mixture, then remaining pasta. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Meatless Lasagna Pie

Preheat oven to 375. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain; rinse with cold water. Drain again; set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, zucchini and half the garlic. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Transfer vegetable mixture to a bowl. Add the remaining oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and remaining garlic. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Using a slotted spoon, transfer spinach-mushroom mixture from skillet to a bowl. Stir basil into spinach-mushroom mixture; set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together egg, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In the bottom of a 9x3-inch springform pan, spread 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce. Arrange 3 to 4 of the cooked noodles over the sauce, trimming and overlapping as necessary to cover sauce with one layer. Top with half of the spinach-mushroom mixture. Top with another layer of noodles. Spread with half of the remaining pasta sauce. Top with all of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with half the Fontina cheese. Top with another layer of noodles. Layer with remaining spinach-mushroom mixture and remaining ricotta cheese mixture. Top with another layer of noodles and remaining sauce. Gently press down pie with the back of a spatula.

Place springform pan on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining Fontina cheese; bake about 15 minutes more or until heated through. Cover and let stand on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving. Carefully remove side of pan. To serve, cut into wedges.

Swiss Chicken Bundles

Paprika or snipped parsley (optional)

Fresh tarragon sprigs (optional)

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles; rinse with cold water. Drain again.

For filling, in a medium bowl, stir together egg, ricotta or cottage cheese, chicken and 1 1/2 teaspoons tarragon or basil.

To assemble bundles, spread about 1/3 cup of the filling over each lasagna noodle. Roll up noodles, starting from a short end. Place bundles, seam-side down, in a 2-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside.

For sauce, in a medium saucepan, melt the margarine or butter. Stir in flour, mustard, salt and pepper. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Gradually add cheese, stirring until melted after each addition. Pour sauce over lasagna bundles. Cover dish with foil.

Bake at 375 for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Transfer bundles to individual plates. Stir sauce in baking dish. Spoon some of the sauce over each bundle and if desired, sprinkle with paprika or parsley. Garnish with fresh tarragon springs.

Fresh Herb Shrimp Linguine

Rosemary sprigs (optional)

Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Rinse shrimp and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Add the shrimp the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain well and place in a large pasta bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the cheese, the garlic, olive oil, snipped rosemary, salt and black pepper and toss until well coated. Sprinkle evenly with the 2 tablespoons remaining cheese and garnish with rosemary sprigs, if desired.

(*Note: recipes have not been tested.)