Holiday comforts to warm you up inside


Jules, Wikimedia Commons

Take a comfort food break from all the holiday special events and fancy meals with some homemade traditional lasagne.

Many of us go all out and serve fancy meals on Christmas Day. It is a time when many enjoy going all out on decorations, house cleaning, outdoor lights, music and special clothing. Sometimes, though, it is nice to sit down and enjoy something a bit more simple, along the lines of comfort food. It gives us a chance to take a break from a possible overload of all that specialness.

That is not to say that comfort foods are ordinary and blah.

If you get a chance, check out the following recipes to see if perhaps any of them could fit into your holiday celebrations.

I wish you a warm, safe and joyous Christmas (and Hanukkah) and New Year.

Traditional lasagna

1 pound ground beef

3/4 pound bulk pork sausage

3 cans (8-oz. each) tomato sauce

2 cans (6-oz. each) tomato paste

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

3 cups 4 percent small-curd cottage cheese

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

6 slices (about 6 ounces) provolone cheese

3 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook and crumble beef and sausage until no longer pink; drain. Add next 7 ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add parsley; stir in cottage cheese, ricotta and Parmesan cheese.

3. Preheat oven to 375. Spread 1 cup meat sauce in an ungreased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Layer with 3 noodles, provolone cheese, 2 cups cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup mozzarella, 3 noodles, 2 cups meat sauce, remaining cottage cheese mixture and 1 cup mozzarella. Top with remaining noodles, meat sauce and mozzarella (dish will be full).

4. Cover; bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes. Uncover; bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Makes 12 servings.

Baked mostaccioli

A flavor similar to lasagna.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 can (28-oz.) whole peeled tomatoes, pulsed in a blender

1 sprig fresh basil, leaves removed and chopped, plus more chopped for garnish

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces mostaccioli (or penne) pasta

1 large egg

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 450. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add sausage and cook, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook until sausage meat is golden, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes to sausage and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Stir in tomatoes and basil (except for the small amount for garnish) and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally until sauce is thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, about 2 minutes less than package instructions; drain.

4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, lightly beat egg. Stir in ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1/2 cup mozzarella into the egg. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce in a 2-quart baking dish. Arrange mostaccioli or penne on top of tomato sauce in an even layer and dollop with ricotta mixture and remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Note: you can use more Parmesan if you prefer.

Gingerbread apple skillet cake

1/4 cup butter, cubed

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses

2 medium tart apples, peeled and thinly sliced

Gingerbread:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1 cup molasses

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup hot water

Warmed applesauce, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350. Place butter in a 12-inch cast-iron or ovenproof skillet. Place in oven until butter is melted, 4 to 5 minutes; carefully swirl to coat evenly. Sprinkle with pecans and brown sugar; drizzle with the 1/4 cup of molasses. Arrange apple slices in a single layer over sugar.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, then molasses. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, ginger, salt and cloves; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in hot water.

3. Pour over apples. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Serve warm with applesauce, if desired.

Pecan pie cobbler

1/2 cup butter, cubed

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

3/4 cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup brickle toffee bits

1 1/2 cups boiling water

Vanilla ice cream, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350. Place butter in a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Heat pan in oven for 3 to 5 minutes or until butter is melted. Meanwhile, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk and vanilla until combined.

2. Remove baking pan from oven and add batter. Sprinkle with chopped pecans, brown sugar and toffee bits. Slowly pour boiling water over top, but do not stir. Bake, uncovered, until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

3. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes. Cobbler will thicken upon cooling. Serve warm, with ice cream, if desired. Makes 12 servings.

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