Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sneaky easy baked ravioli

Semi-homemade!  Totally unscripted!  Or, as I like to call it, Wednesday's surprisingly really, really awesome dinner.

(Public Service Announcement: I might get a little italic and bold happy with this recipe.  It was just so unbelievably good and, you know, since you couldn't be here to taste it, I've got to convey that to you somehow.  My apologies if anything other than normal font offends you.)

Okay, so it wasn't that much of a surprise that Matt and I both loved the heck out of this dish because we also loved every single ingredient that went into it!  As Joey would say: "Tomatoes - good.  Beef - good.  Ravioli - good.  Cheese - good."

Don't worry -- there were no lady fingers or jam in sight.

As I've said time and time again when it comes to creating a recipe, only put in ingredients that you love in order to make a dish you'll also love.  Makes total sense, right?  Right.

Reminds me of something I hear so many TV chefs say: only cook with wine you'd drink.  In this case, just pick up some wine that you and your dining companions would want to drink because none of it will be going into dinner :)

This recipe started out as a way to use ravioli that we had in the freezer for, cough, almost 4 months.  Just another impulse buy from Costco after those trademark samples.  They get us every.single.time!  As it turns out, we don't eat ravioli very much and have a tendency to forget things tucked away in the freezer behind homemade waffles and batches of chili.

What this make-it-up-as-I-go dinner turned out to be was a delicious rustic, ultra cheesy lasagna!

Oh, and did I mention it came without the fuss of boiling noodles, using (and eventually washing) multiple bowls, and spending significant time in the oven?

Even though this dish might be semi-homemade, I'd definitely nominate it as the entree for the next time you host friends for dinner.  It's that good AND no one will realize you merely tossed a few pantry staples together.  Pair it with a simple salad for a sure-to-please-everyone Italian feast.

On the other hand, if you want to make this for yourself on a quiet weeknight, go get your ravioli on!  Leftovers of this baked ravioli follow in the footsteps of dishes like lasagna, soup, and chili, getting even better after a day or two in the refrigerator.

And, hey, if you pop the cork on that bottle of wine, I won't tell anyone you're not sharing it.  Friends look out for friends.  And, in my book, friendship means there is never judging when it comes to pasta, cheese, and good wine.

One year ago: Beef taco salad with chunky tomato dressing
Two years ago: Herbed tilapia

Baked Ravioli
-makes 8-10 servings

A few notes: Substitute to your heart's content with this one!  Any kind of ravioli will do (I used chicken, spinach, and mozzarella).  Same goes for the meat, ground turkey or ground chicken would be great alternatives.

1 pound lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/3 cup marinara or pizza sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Red pepper flakes, optional
1 (2-pound) package premade ravioli, any kind, thawed if frozen
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Coat a 9-x-13-inch glass baking dish lightly with nonstick spray and set aside.  In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook beef and garlic, breaking up meat, until browned completely.  Stir in tomatoes, sauce, basil, oregano, pepper, and red pepper flakes if using.

Spread roughly 1/3 of the tomato beef mixture evenly on the bottom of the baking dish.  Arrange ravioli on top, overlapping slightly if necessary but avoid completely doubling up, if possible.  Top with remaining tomato and beef mixture.  Sprinkle cheese evenly over top.  Bake, uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes until cheese is bubbling.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

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