Good and Easy

by Lorraine and Phil Shapiro December 31, 2011


By Lorraine and Phil Shapiro

Cooking with confidence is not about recipes, but mastering techniques and tasting. Preparing homemade pasta and sauces is in tune with today’s interest in fresh ingredients and within a beginner’s culinary prowess. Spaghetti with meat sauce was our first dinner as newlyweds, since it was easy and we had received a large skillet, pot and colander as gifts.

Although grocers’ shelves are stocked with a large variety of imported and domestic pasta with some brands dating back to the 1800s, it takes little time and effort to make fresh pasta. What’s needed are basic ingredients, some cooking skills and planning. A food processor and pasta maker ease the task.

Kugel, whether sweet or savory, probably is the noodle dish most often served in Jewish homes. Our favorite is Noodles Romanoff, a well-seasoned casserole of medium noodles, sour cream and cottage cheese, with onion, parsley, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce, topped with cheddar.

Italian families enjoy fettucine or spaghetti with meaty ragu, colorful pesto and tomato sauce as well as creamy Alfredo, especially as a starter. Lasagna is one of the simplest pastas to prepare from scratch, made with flour, an egg and perhaps a few drops of olive oil or water, whirled together and kneaded in a food processor. Follow manufacturer’s directions for rolling pasta through each setting of a pasta maker to proper thickness, then cut into 10-inch lengths. Layer with marinara sauce, cottage cheese, vegetables and Jack cheese to bake until golden and bubbly. Ravioli, like kreplach, are noodle packets. A chunky tomato-olive topping makes all the difference for special sun-dried tomato ravioli.

From agnolotti to ziti, appetizer to dessert, hot or cold, in any season, Americans eat more pasta than Italians at any one sitting. Plan on 1½  ounces of dried spaghetti for appetizer-sized portions, more for heartier servings. We like pasta every way, but not necessarily every day.


Sun-Dried Tomato Ravioli

9-ounce package refrigerated ravioli

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 cups vegetable broth

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup sun-dried tomato pesto (recipe follows)

¼ cup grated Parmesan

¼ cup shaved Parmesan

Herbed tomato and olives (recipe follows)

4 basil sprigs


Cook ravioli according to package directions. In large saucepan, whisk together cornstarch and broth. Add garlic. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Mix with sun-dried tomato pesto. Add ravioli and heat. Remove from heat and stir in grated Parmesan. Place in bowls. Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan. Top with herbed tomatoes and olives. Garnish with basil. Makes four servings.


Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

4 basil leaves

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Pinch black pepper


Place tomatoes in a bowl, cover with boiling water. Soak one hour, turning tomatoes occasionally until soft. Squeeze out water. In food processor, mince garlic, then pine nuts. Add tomatoes and basil. Chop coarsely. Gradually blend in oil until smooth. Add seasonings. Use now or transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.


Herbed Tomatoes and Olives

1½  cups seeded, diced Roma tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped Kalamata olives

1 tablespoon julienned basil

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

Dash black pepper


In bowl, combine all ingredients.



Cheese Lasagna

Olive oil

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

Dried bread crumbs

2 eggs

1 teaspoon garlic salt

15- or 16-ounce carton cottage cheese

2 tablespoons julienned basil

3 or 4 lasagna noodles, lightly cooked

1½ cups marinara sauce

⅓ cup chopped green pepper

⅓ cup chopped green onions

1½ cups shredded Jack cheese

⅓ cup shredded Parmesan cheese


In medium skillet, heat 1½ tablespoons oil, add mushrooms and saute until tender. Seat aside. Coat a 7×11-inch baking pan with oil. Sprinkle with crumbs. In medium bowl, beat eggs lightly, blend in garlic salt, cottage cheese and basil, mixing well. Arrange a layer of lasagna noodles, cut to fit pan. Spoon on 1/3 of the marinara sauce, spread with 1/3 cottage cheese mixture, green pepper, green onions and mushrooms. Sprinkle with 1/3 Jack and Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, ending with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Makes six servings.


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