Anna Beth’s Italian Casserole

There’s a scene in The Trust where the heroine prepares a meal for the main character.  For reasons that presently escape me, I didn’t mention the dish by name or ingredient in the book.  I’ll fix that now.

I’ve always been a fan of rustic food, this one being an example.  Neat thing about this recipe is you can adapt it in a variety of ways.  Change the sauce around, add your choice of meat or paste.  Endless pastabilities! The true beauty is the rustic nature and the depth of the flavors from the homemade sauce, the blended cheeses and the sweetness of the onions.

Ingredients

2 large sweet onions
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup of homemade marinara sauce (recipe below)
2 Egg Whites
½ cup cottage cheese or ricotta 
12 oz of your favorite pasta (If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll make gnocchi or ravioli, though sometimes I cut a corner and use store bought).
4-6 slices of provolone cheese 
1-1½ cups of shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Fresh Whole Milk Mozzarella
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

After coarsely chopping the Onion, caramelize in a heavy 2-quart oven safe sauce pan over very low heat until brown, soft and sweet.  Do not burn.  Start with pan covered. Remove cover last 20 minutes to reduce the liquid from onions.

Cook the Pasta in heavily salted water.  Time pasta to finish as Onions are caramelized.

When Onions are caramelized, leave in pan and place a layer of the sliced provolone on top of onions.  Layer pasta over cheese.  

Mix the Marinara sauce with the cottage or ricotta and fold in egg whites. Spoon sauce over pasta and place pan into a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until Marinara is set.  Slice the whole milk mozzarella and place on top of marinara and return to 350 degree oven for 5 minutes. Remove and cover with shredded mozzarella.  Cook until cheese is melted and starts to brown.

Serve hot!

Feel free to vary or modify.  Sometimes rather than the marinara/cottage cheese/egg mixture, I’ll use pesto sauce or perhaps a creamy vodka sauce.  Sky is the limit.  Add meat of your choice with the pasta layer if you want.

Experiment with the cheese between the Onions and the Pasta.  Smoked cheeses make it pop!

I serve this with warm Italian bread and a luscious Chianti or Pinot Noir.  

Homemade Marinara Sauce

I love great tasting Marinara Sauce, but some of the store bought gourmet sauces can be a bit on the pricey side.  This sauce is amazingly easy to make and the ingredients are quite affordable.

Ingredients

28 oz can of diced tomatoes (I like San Marzano)
3 cloves of garlic – chopped – add or subtract based on your love of garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¾ cup Fresh Basil or 3 Tbsp Fresh Basil Paste  (I like Gourmet Garden)
1 Tsp Brown Sugar
Salt and Pepper

Add generous amount of Oil to large 12 inch sauté pan over medium heat.  Add chopped Garlic to hot oil and sauté until soft.  About 2 minutes.  Do not burn the Garlic.

Add the entire can of Italian Tomatoes and bring to a boil over medium heat.  

Add the chopped Basil or Basil paste.  Let simmer over low heat for 3 minutes.  Add Brown Sugar and stir. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Strain the sauce to remove all tomatoes, Garlic and Basil.  Discard. Return smooth Tomato Sauce to heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened.

Set aside for recipe use or keep up to a week in the refrigerator.  

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