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?”