You know that feeling you get when you have too much to do and not enough time to do it? This has been my mantra lately. The boy and I always seem to have a jam packed schedule, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but lately things seem much more frazzled then normal. We approached the 6 month mark last week, and for those of you who follow this blog know, that means in less then 6 months the boy and I say I do. The flights have been booked, the 4x4 has been reserved and the itinerary is in its final stages of planning. We’re skipping the traditional route of registering for gifts, cause in all honesty, what in the world do you get two 30 something’s that already own more crap then they need? So we opted for this route, a little more original and a lot more fun!
I’ve been cooking, but as the boy so kindly reminded me, not as much as he would like. Between work, planning a wedding, much needed exercise and the attempt of a social life there are just not enough hours in the day. So sometimes, you just have to make time.
And that’s just what I did. Instead of running home after work and stressing about what to make and how fast I can make it, I remembered why I like to cook in the first place. It’s about balance for me, checking out of ‘life’ and doing something creative and cathartic. For me there are few things better then throwing on some really good jazz, strapping on that pink apron and just digging in with my hands to make something from the heart for the ones I love.
This isn’t a 30 minute meal by any means, in fact if you can get it done in an hour and half I would be impressed, but it’s so worth it. Just spending some alone time in the kitchen, regaining your balance and doing something you’re passionate about. Plus the end result is pretty darn amazing!
The hardest part of the Primal diet is creating the comfort food dishes you love without the starch or sugar. This recipe uses strips of zucchini in place of noodles and I promise you, very few would ever know the difference. Eggplant could also be used and pasta lovers can use those handy no bake pasta squares or boil up a box of traditional lasagna noodles. This is very versatile recipe so make it your own!
1 lb organic sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 28oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise into ¼” strips
1 box of frozen spinach, thawed and drained (optional)
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese
1 ½ cups fresh mozzarella, grated
¼ cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
1 4oz log of goat cheese (optional)
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the Italian sausage. Using the back of a wooden spoon, break the sausage up into small pieces. When the sausage is about half way through cooking, add in the onion and garlic. Continue sautéing until the onions are translucent and the sausage is nice and golden brown. Add the tomatoes and any herbs of your choice. My garden is currently overflowing so I added fresh thyme, oregano, basil and Italian parsley (1 tablespoon of each). Lower the heat to a simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper, and pop on the lid. Allow the sauce to cook while you prep your remaining ingredients, about 20 minutes.
Using a mandoline, or a very sharp chef’s knife, remove the ends from each zucchini and cut lengthwise into ¼” strips. Place the strips on a paper towel lined baking sheet to remove any excess moisture.
I listed frozen spinach above but I had a bag of baby spinach nearing the end of its days in my fridge, so I wilted it down with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and fresh nutmeg. Whether you’re using fresh or frozen spinach, make sure that it is drained of any excess moisture. Combine the ricotta cheese and the spinach together in a large bowl and mix well.
Lightly oil a 9x13 baking dish, or two 9x9 pans, if you plan to freeze one for later. Spread a small amount of sauce in the bottom of the pan (just enough to coat) then layer the zucchini across the bottom, cutting to size if needed. Spread a layer of the ricotta / spinach mixture on top of the strips then top with more sauce. Sprinkle a hand full of mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce and top with another layer of zucchini. I like to alternate my strips on each layer. If I start with vertical strips on the bottom, my next layer will be horizontal and so on. I like to think it holds together much better. Repeat the process; zucchini strips, ricotta / spinach mixture, sauce, mozzarella two more times. After you’ve topped your last layer with the remaining strips, pour the rest of the sauce over the top of the dish and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Crumble goat cheese over top, garnish with parsley and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in a 375º oven for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, remove the foil and crank your oven to broil to get the top all nice and crispy. Make sure you’re watching cause it will brown in no time, typically around 3-5 minutes.
Serve alongside a nice hearty green salad and carb lovers please…soak up all that juicy goodness with some crusty bread so I can live vicariously through you!
Side Note: Leftovers are even better the next day! Like with most soups, the flavors have time to come together and the whole dish seems to develop a much thicker consistency. Enjoy!!