A few days ago I was rummaging around the kitchen. I was exhausted from a summer of running around the city, and congested and sniffly from living with a congested and sniffly Whitney. What I craved was comfort food. I went to our pasta cabinet and I was surprised to see that all we had was a half full box of elbows and a bag of egg noodles. Despite the fact that my Dad says elbows make him giggly because they slide right down your throat, that wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. I suspiciously picked up the bag of egg noodles. They’re good in matzah ball soup so perhaps they’d be good in my favorite Rao’s pasta sauce. As I was reading the instructions I was inspired. The bag said if I planned to bake my egg noodles, they should only cook for 8 minutes as opposed to 10. Bake noodles? Why hadn’t I thought of that? What could be more comforting than ooey gooey, cheesy baked pasta?
I’ve always had an aversion to baked ziti and stuffed shells. I know some of you are shuddering right now but I just can’t for the life of me stand ricotta cheese. It’s grainy and even when it’s hot, it’s not gooey! In my opinion, it’s just not real cheese.
Comfort Baked Egg Noodle Casserole Creation
1/2 pound egg noodles
1 dozen heirloom cherry tomatoes
fresh basil, parsley, thyme to taste
1/4 cup pinenuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup garlic croutons, ground into breadcrumbs
Now the making of this creation is not an exact science. I’m hoping to just give you an outline so you know that it’s possible to put your favorite pasta and all the fixins into one bowl and just bake it. First I boiled some water and poured in the egg noodles. In a saucepan, I heated some olive oil and put in the cherry tomatoes. I sauteed them until they were soft. At this point you could add many things- garlic, spinach, broccoli, onions- go crazy. I added pine nuts. When the noodles are al dente, drain them and pour them into the saucepan with the ingredients for your sauce. I think I would add some milk or cream at this point and some cheese to make the actual casserole just a bit more sinful. If you want to keep it healthier, just pour the pasta in the casserole dish sans all the dairy. Since this is a casserole, you must top everything with fixins that will give the whole dish a nice crust. I topped it with some parmesan cheese and garlic breadcrumbs. I popped this whole creation into a 350 degree oven and let it bake for about 30 minutes. At this point, the olive oil in the bottom of the dish was bubbling nicely and the top was all crispy and brown.
So here’s the final product. I hope that my daringness in the baked pasta world will make you fearless in trying something yourself. What I love so much about cooking is that you really can throw together ingredients that you love and make something delicious- that is in moderation of course. I’m not saying you can sprinkle chocolate chips on your hawaiian pizza, but you know what I mean. Remember also that baking isn’t just for desserts. There are plenty of things that can go in your oven that aren’t loaded with sugar. Quiche, gratins, and yes even stuffed shells. So turn on your oven and get bakin!