Cheesy Mac ‘n’ Bangers Bake

A quiet Friday night alone with my youngest, and dinner to be made.  What to do, right?  Actually, that decision was made for me when Cath left the recipe and ingredients for Rachael Ray’s Cheesy Mac ‘n’ Bangers Bake before taking off for a night out with her sister, Terry and friend, Dawn.  I’ll be honest, I’d heard the term “Bangers” before, but I really didn’t know much about them.  Turns out a banger is just a one of a variety of flavoured sausage made of pork or beef or a Cumberland sausage.  (That’s straight out of Wikipedia, so I really couldn’t tell you much about a Cumberland sausage.  If you do the research, get back to me and let me know!)  We don’t have great access to authentic Irish sausages, so we decided to use the sweet Italian sausage instead.

There were a few steps to the preparation, but once we had all our ingredients in place it was just a matter of assembling and baking the dish.  When I first heard the name I had a mac ‘n’ cheese type of picture in my head. When you look at the ingredients, however, you note that the cheese is cream cheese and grated parmesan.  Hmm, definitely not what I expected, but the flavor was terrific!  We cooked for the recommended time, and then made sure to let it rest for a bit.  Our reward was a perfect square that lifted nicely out the pan and looked beautiful on the plate.

Kelly looked a little bit nervously at the spinach when I was assembling the dish before baking, but after her first taste she exclaimed “Yum!  This is really good!”  I’m going to count that as a great review.  This was a simple, hearty dish of savory comfort food, and it was perfect for a Friday evening dinner at the kitchen island with my lovely young dining companion.

Yummo!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1 lb Irish bangers or sweet italian sausages, casing removed
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb thawed frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated parmesan (4-1/2 oz)
  • 6 slices white sandwich bread, crusts trimmed

Preparation

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni, stirring often, until al dente.  Drain and cool; do not rinse.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally until crumbly, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.  Melt the butter in the pan, then add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the cream cheese until blended; season with salt and pepper.  Let cool.

In a large bowl, using a fork, beat together the eggs, heavy cream, 2/3 cup parmesan and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.

In a 9-inch square baking dish, evenly layer the macaroni and cover with the bread slices.  Top with the spinach mixture in an even layer, then the sausage.  Pour the egg mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup parmesan.  (Cover and refrigerate overnight if desired.)

Let the casserole stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and bake until browned and crusty on top and set in the center, about 20 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting.

Tortellini with Butternut Squash, Artichoke Hearts and Pecorino

 

tortellini-with-butternut-squash-artichoke-hearts-and-pecorino

Butternut squash and artichoke hearts, steamed to tender perfection and then tossed with cherry tomatoes, olive oil and pecorino freshly grated Romano cheese.  Topped with toasted pine nuts, this was a perfect meal for a January evening. 

This recipe came from the book “A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash” by Lou Seibert Pappas, which was a gift to Cath from her sister, Peg.  It was the first recipe we’ve tried from the book, and we agreed it was a tremendous success.

Assembling the ingredients was easy, and the preparation was as simple as tossing and serving.  We enjoyed this as a part of our own “Dinner and A Movie” night at home, and at times it was hard to concentrate on the dialogue, as we were continuously ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the many wonderful flavors.  Each bite seemed to bring a little something different, and we did our best to savor every one.

Although it wasn’t stated in the recipe, the artichoke hearts and Pecorino Romano cheese spoke of Italian cuisine to us, so we paired it with a 2007 Santa Cristina Antinori and we were very pleased.  I have a good feeling that I’ll be blogging quite a few meals from this fantastic book!

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces tortellini (we used a three cheese tortellini)
  • 1 lb butternut squash
  • 1 cup red cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 jar (6 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, but into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or pistachios (we used pine nuts, but pistachios sound very interesting!)

Preparation:

Bring a large-saucepan three-fourths full of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the tortellini and cook until al-dente, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the squash in a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 7 to 8 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife.  Peel away the skin, and cut into 3/8-inch dice.

Drain the pasta and turn out into a warmed bowl.  Add the squash, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, oil and cheese.  Toss to mix, and sprinkle with the nuts.  Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate until serving time. 

(NOTE:  We served this freshly tossed and warm, and I can’t imagine doing otherwise.  The warmth of the pasta and squash brought out the flavors in the artichokes and tomatoes, and that’s my recommendation.  Try it and tell me what you think!)

Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallots

This meal is one of those autumn wonders from Cooking Light Magazine we go back to every time butternut squash comes into season.  The flavors are perfect for an autumn evening, with the squash and brown sugar and olive oil providing a vivid contrast for the freshly ground pepper and parmesan cheese.  We paired this with a Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel, and the combination was amazing.  This is really quite simple to prepare, but I highly recommend it when the leaves have turned and there is a crisp little bite in the air.  It’s amazing.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 4 ounces uncooked pappardelle (wide ribbon pasta) or fettuccine
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 475°.

 

Combine the squash, sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons oil, salt, pepper, and shallots in a jelly roll pan; toss well. Bake at 475° for 20 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in sage.

 

While the squash mixture bakes, cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Place cooked pasta in a bowl. Add 2 teaspoons oil; toss well. Serve the squash mixture over pasta. Sprinkle with cheese.

 

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup pasta, 3/4 cup squash mixture, and 1

tablespoon cheese)

 

CALORIES 248 (29% from fat); FAT 7.9g (sat 2g,mono 4.5g,poly 0.8g); IRON 1.4mg;

CHOLESTEROL 5mg; CALCIUM 137mg; CARBOHYDRATE 39.4g; SODIUM 713mg; PROTEIN 7.1g; FIBER 5.2g