Forget the beef-based lasagna with red sauce. This Creamy Pesto Lasagna with chicken and a béchamel sauce is fantastic.
Mozzarella cheese, basil and tomato come together to make as awesome a sandwich as it does pizza in the Margherita Grilled Cheese.
I have been trying hard to transfer my love of storms to Dudette, but it’s not working very well (yet). Sadly, while I’m in a state of unbridled glee when thunder rattles the house, she is scared, imagining that the sound will be enough to bring the safe walls around her tumbling down.
Even when I was her age, I loved staying up late into the night, forcing my eyes to stay open so I could watch the lightning turn my room into day, then counting the seconds away until the thunder rumbled so I knew how far away the storm was.
The only time I didn’t like thunderstorms was if a strong one swept in while I was at school. I knew that my siblings and I were together, safe and sound in a big brick building, so we were fine. It was my mom that I thought about. She was home, all by herself. It worried me and made me sad that there was no one with her if something happened.
I’m on the other side of the the storms now and now I realize that no matter how much I worried about Mom, it was nothing compared to how concerned she was about us when alerts and warnings were announced while we were at school.
We’re moving into the stormy season of spring now; there’s thunder rumbling, heavy rain falling and strong gusts blowing little twigs off the trees right now.
I call that casserole weather.
As the days start warming up, I begin to move away from the soups and stews that need to sit simmering on the stove for hours on end and look towards casseroles. I consider them one of the ultimate comfort foods; a full meal in one dish that doesn’t take long to make. This is one of those.
I had to clean up two pots after we finished eating; one for cooking the pasta and the skillet for the sauce.
Prep isn’t difficult and will take under twenty minutes unless you do as I did and grate your cheese instead of buying it pre-grated. Doing that pushed me above the 20-minute mark.
As I was making this, I was tempted to add a few more herbs to the sauce, but I had forgotten the pesto that gets mixed in to the cheese so I resisted.
Considering how quickly dinner was inhaled, I’d consider this a success. I’m usually not a ricotta fan because the grainy texture doesn’t really appeal, but I didn’t mind it in this. Maybe that’s because of the amount of Mozzarella that was added to it.
Dudette was the one that surprised me. She said that she liked the sauce and cheese, even with the green pesto in it. What she didn’t like were the bits of pasta at the top of the casserole dish that got dried out and crunchy in the oven. I can handle that.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
I’d add a quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the sauce for a little zing.
- 8 ounces ziti (about 2⅔ cups)
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 ounces ground turkey
- 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup ricotta
- 2 cups grated mozzarella (8 oz.)
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- ¼ cup pesto
- Preheat oven to 350°F; grease an 8-inch square dish. Cook ziti in boiling, salted water until almost al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Warm 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in turkey and sauté 1 minute. Mix in tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring, until thick, about 10 minutes.
- Combine ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, ¼ cup Parmesan and pesto in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Spread ½ of ziti in dish; top with ⅓ of sauce. Spread with ricotta mixture and cover with remaining ziti and sauce. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Do you find yourself transitioning from one kind of meal to another with the changing season? I know summer’s an easy one as grill covers come off and light salads rule the dinner table, but spring is a little different, isn’t it.