Comfort Food II

Sometimes life throws you curve balls and after all of the scrambling around is done, the only thing you can do is sit down with a plate of comfort food and savor every bite. (Or at least that’s what I do!)

After some recent family health concerns (serious enough to make an unplanned trip to Minnesota), I was left with a feeling of wanting to connect with the familiar once I got back to Oklahoma. Since I grew up in the land of yah sure, you betcha, eh? :), it only seemed right to tap into my “hotdish” heritage.

Alternatively known as a casserole, covered dish, or the perfunctory “dish to pass,” hotdish is a comforting food indeed. Nary a potluck dinner or church supper goes by without someone exclaiming, “I MUST have your recipe!” (Some folks even come armed with recipe cards!) In a way, blogging is a bit like that — exchanging recipes “electronically” — and maybe that’s why I love it so. It’s comforting to share good food!

No matter what you call “hotdish” there are three requirements. It must be 1) hearty; 2) flavorful; and 3) big enough to feed a small army. (That’s where the sharing part comes in.)

Considering my repertoire of church cookbooks and recipes I’ve been blessed to receive, I could keep you supplied in hotdish for many years to come, but I decided to concoct one of my own. Let’s see… hmmmm… what are my favorite things?

Italian sausage. Sauteed mushrooms. Roasted red peppers. Olives (lots of ’em.) Mozzarella “pearls.” Onions, green and black. Pasta with some “tooth” to it.

Am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah… the link to my first Comfort Food post.  :)

Melded together with a tomato sauce of your choosing and a liberal dose of Mozzarella on top, you’ve pretty much got it covered… literally!

“My Favorite Things” Hotdish

7 to 8 oz. of your favorite pasta — farfelle, shells, rigatoni, etc. (I used penne rigate, which is described as having a sharp, diagonal cut on the end, similar to a quill pen) :)

1 Tbsp. sea salt, or to taste

1 lb. Italian sausage, hot or mild (I used Lovera’s Hot Italian Sausage from Krebs, Oklahoma)

Butter/olive oil/bacon grease (or a combination thereof…)

8 oz. whole mushrooms, quartered

1 sweet yellow onion, diced

4 to 5 green onions (including tops), sliced

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

2 roasted red peppers (I used Mazzetta’s Roasted Bell Peppers, a gift from Mom, xo), drained & diced

1/2 jar Mazzetta Napa Valley Bistro Blend Olives, drained

8 oz. Mozzarella cheese “pearls” (or cubed Mozzarella cheese)

1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I used Paul Newman’s “Sockarooni” Sauce)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Grated Mozzarella cheese for the top — as much or as little as you desire

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Bring water to boil in a large kettle. Add salt and pasta; cook until al dente. Drain, but do not rinse.

Meanwhile, remove casings from sausage. Heat butter/olive oil/bacon grease (whatever combo tickles ya) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and stir occasionally to break into “bite-sized” chunks, until browned and cooked through. Remove sausage to paper-towel-lined plate; reserve drippings in skillet.

Add the mushrooms and sweet yellow onions to skillet; saute over medium-high heat until golden. Add green onions, garlic, and red peppers; heat through, taking care not to fricassee the garlic. (!!!) Mix in drained olives, sausage, and pasta.

In the same skillet (or a large casserole dish or Dutch oven), combine the above with Sockarooni Sauce (or your own) and Mozzarella pearls or cubes; stir to coat. Mix in the Parmesan cheese ’til blended.

Put everything in an oven-worthy vessel (if you haven’t already); cover and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove cover. Sprinkle the hotdish/casserole/whatever with grated Mozzarella cheese; heat until melted, about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how “browned” you like it. Serve with warm bread and a salad.

Enjoying the comfort of sharing,

~ Kim

What’s your favorite “hotdish?”

18 thoughts on “Comfort Food II

  1. Pingback: Hamburger Steaks with Mushroom and Red Onion Gravy (Comfort Food III) | a little lunch

  2. I’ve always liked the word ‘comfort food’. I’m not the spoilt gal who only goes for fine dining…….. I found cooking with a casserole does bring out the flavour of food. It’s like our version of Chinese claypot. Makes me drool just to think of it:)

    Errr….. did u change something to your blog again? I used to sign in as Facebook a/c but can’t see it anywhere…… I’m sending this & see if my avatar appears……

  3. Yeah, guess what? Your favorite things hotdish could totally be my number one favorite thing right now. I almost want to cry with joy looking at the second photo. Oh I need this. I love the olives you added too because my Mom always put green olives in her pasta sauce and it is a sentimental thing for me. I will most definitely be making this!

  4. I’ll have you bring your hotdish to my house anytime! It’s the kind of casserole that gets better the next day and the next…well, if there’s any left over…we must be channeling each other b/c I’m doing a comfort ‘casserole’ today, too…I never do casseroles, but it’s all about the one-dish wonder! Luv your posts, Kimby! xox Ally

    • Ally, I smiled at your “channeling” reference — can’t tell you how many times I’ve made something, taken pictures, started a post, and WHAM — somebody else (someone whose cooking skills I love and admire) has posted the same thing within a day or two. Great minds think alike! (Sorry if that didn’t sound very humble…!) You know what I mean. :)

  5. Your hot dish does have all the things that I require for comfort food! It also has some extra ingredients that make it even tastier. Italian is the way to go as far as I am concernined so this does get a big thumbs up from me-yum!

    • Tina, thank you for the thumbs up! :) As long as it’s baked with love — be it Italian… or Oriental… or whatever combo you serve with a smile — it’s comfort food. (And hotdish!)

  6. Does a hot dish have to be baked? My grandma couldn’t cook worth a lick except for this dish: hamburger oriental.

    *Brown and drain some ground beef.
    *Add a can of french-cut green beans, drained.
    *Add a can of sliced water chestnuts, drained. Chopped if you’d like.
    *Scramble an egg in the same pan.
    *Add a handful of bean sprouts (the kinda thick white kind, not the wimpy green ones)
    *Add a healthy dose of soy sauce (several tablespoons, 1/4 cup).
    *Whisk in a little cornstarch to thicken.
    *Season with black pepper and garlic powder to taste.
    *Combine, let it heat through, and thank my grandma.

    And I am very partial to Italian, Kimby. Your hotdish looks magically comforting!

    • Sid, stovetop renditions definitely qualify as “hotdish” (especially in hot weather) — love your Grandma’s combo! Thank you (and her) for sharing it!

    • Shary, me, too! It also freezes (and reheats) well, in smaller sized portions and/or you can vary the size of the batch when you make it — but somehow hotdish tends to multiply into “large size” no matter how hard you try to scale it down, lol! Happy eating!

  7. ooops I must tell you that my favorite hotdish is usually eggplant parmagiano or American Chop Suey or Baked Spaghetti or…mmmm I might have to take a moment and actually make a decision here…

  8. First off, you had me at olives…then the “hovering” over the picture always surprising us! BUT the kicker: fricassee the garlic ha ha ha…I do love ya! We think alike :)

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