Whenever I think about most pasta dishes, I think about a roaring fire and a big glass of red wine. Especially when it comes to baked pasta dishes that have to be lovingly cooked in a hot oven.
Some other pasta dishes, however, are synonymous with summer, like my no-cook tomato pasta I posted last year. This one is best made at the height of tomato season because that flavour of the sun-ripened tomatoes comes shining through. This dish does NOT make sense to eat in front of a roaring fire (unless it’s a giant fire pit where everyone is roasting marshmallows!).
But when you’re talking about a pasta dish that requires you to turn on the oven and bake it for close to an hour, that is “no bueno” for a summer meal, in my opinion. However, when the pasta dish calls for some amazing zucchini, I’ll give you a pass and say, “yup, this is totally summer worthy”!
It is almost mid August and the zucchini from my garden are coming at me fast and furious. So, while I was grilling some up for a platter the other day, I thought they would make a great addition to a pasta dish. And since I had made lasagna the week before (I know, again, not a very summery dish), I had some leftover pasta sheets in the fridge that were begging to be used.
That just led to all sorts of brain activity …which led to these scrumptious pasta pockets!
Par boiling the sheets (literally for a minute or two), topping them with a piece of grilled zucchini (which you could totally leave out if you like) and a dollop of cheese filling …
…and then wrapping these babies up? Well, that gave me all kinds of summer “feels”! Once you’re done with the filling and folding, you place them in a baking pan with some tomato sauce (you can use a good quality store bought or make a batch of my simple Italian tomato sauce) and bake away!
Once I finished assembling the pasta pockets, I realized that I had too many to cook for just the two of us so I froze the rest for a quick dinner another night. Easy peasy lemon squeezy (except there’s no lemon in this dish)!
You know you can do this, right?
You know you want to whip this up so you have an easy dinner, right?
You know you can change this up to suit your tastes (add any veg – or none at all – or change up the sauce)?
‘Cause you’re the boss, applesauce!
Quick and Easy Pasta Pillows
Change up the filling to suit your taste! Remember you can freeze the pasta pockets after they are filled and wrapped for a quick meal another night!
- 2 zucchini, sliced thinly (use a mandolin to get even slices)
- canola oil for grilling
- 3-4 cups tomato sauce homemade or store bought)
- 10-12 fresh lasagna sheets
- 2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (drain it if it seems watery)
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup chopped parsley
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 cups milk
- 2 tbsp parmigiano reggiano, grated
Brush the zucchini slices with some oil and either place the on a grill and cook on both sides or brown them in a cast iron pan; once they are grilled/browned, place them on a platter or baking sheet, cut each strip in half and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375°F
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, prepare an 8-inch square baking pan with a scoop (about 1/2 cup) of tomato sauce along the bottom; set aside
In a medium bowl , mix together the ricotta, egg, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and parsley; set aside
Place one sheet of pasta into the boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes; remove from pot (making sure to drain all the water) and place on a wooden board. Place about 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture onto the pasta sheet, top with a piece or two of the zucchini and fold up (as directed in the photos above); place the finished pasta pockets in the prepared baking dish and continue with the rest of the pasta sheets.
At this point, if you would like to cook more than 4 pockets, you can prepare another baking pan as directed above (also, a 9 x 13-inch baking pan will hold about 8 pockets); otherwise, place the remaining folded pockets on a baking sheet and place in the freezer. Once they are frozen place them in a large Ziploc bag and place in the freezer for another time (if cooking from frozen add about another 20 minutes)
To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and continue whisking until it turns into a paste/roux, about 2 min (do not let it brown). Gradually add milk and continue to whisk and continue cooking until sauce thickens, 4 to 5 more min. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour bechamel over pockets and sprinkle with parmigiano. Bake for about 40 minutes or until warm all the way through.
Serve with a large, green salad and some crusty bread!