Saturday, 6 September 2014

Back to School with Simple Meals...Pasta Al Forno



Well, we made it through the first week of school...almost!

The girls started classes this past week.  The drama of settling into a new routine, sorting out confused timetables, and getting everywhere on time is just about behind us.  

But this year, we've added a new twist to back to school...Mom's going back too!  I have a renewed appreciation for our kids' butterflies and apprehension, as I face my own return to the classroom after a 20-year hiatus.  As I stood in line for my student card, surrounded by young people just a year or two older than Sara, I marvelled at how much things have changed, yet stayed the same since Diane and I attended York in the late 1980's.  The line ups at the bookstore, and student photo ID centre are still hours long, but now you can do so much on line - something that was not possible when we went to school.  

But I did it...got my books, got my student ID card, found my classrooms and plotted my route from parking lot to classroom.  And I talked myself through the jitters the same way I would try to calm our kids.  My office is ready for learning - the clutter is cleaned out, all our schedules are logged, notebooks are bought, pens and highlighters on hand.  

I guess all that is left is for classes to start on Monday night...

As far as food, meals and the running of our home - that is pretty much under control too.  My wonderful family are all onside as we face this lifestyle change together.  Everyone will do a little more to help around the house, Carl will cook more, and our meals will be a lot simpler during my school semesters.  

Simpler does not mean flavourless though.  The other night, Becca said she was craving something cheesy and gooey and saucy.  And suddenly it popped in my head - pasta al forno!  This is a pasta which is oven-baked, liked lasagna.  But I don't think fresh pasta is in the cards for us for the next 3 months...so I boiled some small pasta shells, browned some ground beef, made a tomato sauce and shredded some mozzarella.  (If you observe Kashruth, substitute the ground beef for veggie ground or omit the beef altogether).  I drained the pasta and combined it with the sauce and ground beef in a Pyrex, then topped it with mozzarella.  I covered it with foil, placed it on a cookie sheet and baked it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

It was a huge hit - served with a simple side salad and some garlic bread.  Sara had 3 helpings!  Sara, who never has more than a modest single serving said it was scrumptious!  As I sat at the table watching my family devour this incredibly simple meal, I felt the tension flow out of my body, and I realized that it will be OK.  There are plenty of quick and easy dishes like this pasta al forno that I can pull out of a hat and prepare in 30 minutes or less, like I used to when the girls were little and time was limited.   

So, from my family to yours, I hope you enjoy this pasta al forno as much as we did.  Until next time, I wish you all a wonderful back to school season, and a fantastic weekend, filled with family. fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Naomi's Pasta Al Forno

Ingredients
  • 1 package lean ground beef or veggie ground
  • 1 box pasta 
  • 1 jar tomato sauce (for my recipe, see sauce)
  • 2C shredded mozzarella cheese

Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Boil pasta.  Brown ground beef or veggie ground and drain.  Make sauce.  Combine pasta, sauce and beef in Pyrex.  Place on baking sheet (in case it bubbles over) and cover with foil.  Bake for half an hour, then serve.  No need to uncover while baking, unless you like your cheese to brown.