My husband used to be a consultant which meant a lot of his weekdays were spent in a different city or country. On those days I would usually foodnetwork.com my meals. That means spending hours searching recipes, reading reviews and walking to the neighborhood Rabba for ingredients. This Mushroom Stroganoff from Alton Brown was a favourite, but it got supplanted by the Garlicky Mushroom Pasta my kids love.
November 1st. There is something about that date that I find positively intimidating. It is a little silly I know, but somewhere over the course of the next few weeks is my older ones birthday party, my younger ones birthday party, a possible trip out of town, the usual pre Christmas madness, and Christmas itself. While we don’t celebrate Christmas per se, Santa does come to our house with something for the girls. Why you may ask. Well, because this Mama is all about any kind of magic.
I grew up reading this Enid Blyton series called the Wishing Tree in which these two children would visit the extraordinary inhabitants of the Enchanted Tree and explore the lands that came to visit the tree. Even then I was too old to believe in this notion, but it was such fun to play what if. I want my kids to have that – that life full of what ifs and possibilities, a half belief in a world where magic is around the corner, where a kindly figure magically appears and leaves them a special present.
Now I know that this sounds like it has nothing to do with 30 Minute Fajita Pasta, but it kinda does.
One day. Just one day of I need a light jacket weather is all it takes for me to start craving some serious comfort food like this Chicken Tetrazzini for Four. When I was growing up in Jeddah my mother would throw lots of dinner parties, elaborate affairs with many mains and an almost equal number of desserts. Or so it seemed. For a while Chicken Tetrazzini was part of the regular rotation. It eventually went out of vogue and became replaced by her Chicken & Cheese casserole, but for some reason I thought of it recently and decided to make it. I had her recipe which I scribbled all over and as well as other recipes for Chicken Tetrazzini and I remembered why it is that I don’t make it.
I am not that good with crowd pleasing dishes – most things I make don’t quadruple well and if you’re Pakistani a small family dinner easily means 40 people and a whole bunch of quadrupling. Over time this cooking for a crowd has become a lot easier and I have fewer meltdowns (lol). However, that is in part because I have started building an arsenal of delicious recipes that are easy to whip together, make in advance, and double if need be.
This Taco lasagna is the latest addition to that collection. The components come together quickly and since you bake it the day of the event it tastes fresh and delicious. I make it with a side of a cheesy spicy garlic bread loaf (recipe to be posted) and a nice bean salad.
The best part is you can actually make this (minus the dicing bit) with a 1 yr old hanging off one hip as long as you give her a little bit of cheese to snack on. Oh and keep her away from the jalapenos if she is convinced all green things are delicious.
1/2 cup diced onion
1 lb ground chicken (or beef)
Spicy taco seasoning – 1 packet or make your own and use 3 tbsp
24 ounces salsa
1 cup corn kernels
15 oz carton ricotta cheese
1 jalapeno diced
2 cups shredded cheese – I used Monterey Jack + Mozzarella
Generous pinch of coarse salt and pepper
1 box oven ready lasagna noodles (you can sub w regular, just parboil first)
2 cups shredded cheese for topping the lasagna
Chopped green onions for garnish
Note: Most pans and lasagna noodles aren’t friends. There is usually some rejigging and some swearing involved. To mitigate some of this lay out your (uncooked) noodles once in the pan to figure out how many noodles you will need and how many layers you will get so you can readjust layers accordingly. I am giving instructions for a roasting pan (what I use) and a 9*13 below.
Saute the onion in a little bit of olive oil until translucent, add the ground chicken and the seasoning then cook until the meat is browned. With chicken this is v quick. Add in the corn kernels and salsa and warm through.
While the meat is warming empty the ricotta container into a large bowl and mix in the egg, seasoning and diced jalapeno (deseeded or otherwise). Once well combined mix in cheese.
Drizzle a little oil on the base of your pan layer as follows – a ladle or two of bolognese, 6 lasagna noodles vertically across, 2/3 taco meat mix, lasagna noodles, 2/3 ricotta mix, lasagna noodles, then lasagna noodles, then the meat mix dotted with the remainder of your ricotta mix, top with cheese.
In a 9×13 baking dish, start by layering 4 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Next, layer ⅓ of the ricotta, ⅓ of the beef mixture, ⅓ of the salsa, and ⅓ of the cheese. Repeat the layers 2 more times.
When ready to bake preheat the oven to 350, cover the dish foil (tent to prevent it from sticking to the cheese) and bake for 35 minutes. If you don’t use foil then you will end up with what I like to call extra crispy edges (I was out of foil the day I took pictures). Remove foil and bake until the top is nice and bubbly and broil for a minute or two.
Frantic. That is the word that comes to mind most evenings when I am trying to cook, feed the girls, bathe them, change them and put them to bed. I always think of things I would like to cook the night before, elaborate things, yummy looking things – things that would take more than 15 minutes, but when it is crunch time those dishes hardly ever make an appearance. Fortunately for me – and you – there are many yummy from scratch dishes out there that can come together pretty quick. The fact that I have made this particular one three times in the last week speaks for itself.
I like the ‘usual’ basil/parm/pinenuts pesto, but the price of pine nuts and the amount you usually need keeps me at bay. This sun dried tomato pesto with it’s more humble composition of pantry staples packs an even more delicious punch of flavour and is as versatile as it’s greener counterpart. Add it to your grilled cheese, smear it onto your chicken and bake, or just keep mixing it into your pasta over and over again like I do 🙂
The recipe for this pesto comes from the beautiful blog Simply Scratch. It is intended to feed two people and that makes it perfect for me and my girls (daddy is a desi food kinda guy). Because it makes such a small amount you are best off using a mini blender like the Magic Bullet. If you are to double it and make it ahead then I suggest using only 1 garlic clove not two as the raw garlic flavour tends to get stronger over time.