When I was growing up, my mother would make casseroles for dinner. She would put crazy stuff together, using a variety of ingredients she found in the fridge, sprinkled some cheese or breadcrumbs over the top and popped it in the oven. These casseroles were always delicious and we had to enjoy them while we could, because she never wrote anything down, and could never recreate them!
Lucky for me, I have been blessed with that same talent my mom had, and it is so funny to hear the same frustration in my kids voices when they ask me to make a dish like tonight again. Because I didn't write anything down, it would fall into that category of "one of a kind", never to be had again! So, tonight is a first for me... as I am writing down the ingredients! I hope you enjoy this!
I began by using a package of sweet Italian sausage, taking the casings off, breaking up the meat as it cooked. Just before it was done, I cut up a bunch of Compari tomatoes and let the heat of the sausage heat them. For some crazy reason, I decided to throw in some crumbled bacon for the flavor. I get a bowl out and start putting together my dish. Next, I chopped and cooked a vidalia onion. Just before it was cooked, I found some pepperoni in the fridge and decided to cut that up and toss in with the onion, as well as some chopped fresh garlic. Once again, when it was done, it went into the bowl with the sausage.
When I was in Cincinnati, I was re-introduced to Hearts of Palm, a delicacy that I don't often eat outside of a restaurant and that are usually in a salad! But, I loved the flavor and how they look when they are cut up (a little like calamari!) I'm not sure if you are supposed to use them the way I was planning to, but I figured what the heck? So, in they went! I also had some roasted red peppers, so I cut up a few of them and added them to the mix. Time to cook the pasta.
At this point, I am done cooking. The last ingredients to add are fresh, torn-up spinach, fresh basil, sea salt and ground pepper, crushed red pepper, some really delicious pasta sauce to pull it all together, and cheese. Oh, I almost forgot. Don't ask me why I do this, but I added about 2-3 tablespoons of mayonnaise at the very end. It seems to add a creaminess that I love.
Now for the fun part.....tasting it! If I couldn't taste one of the spices I added, I would add more. I threw in some parsley and a handful of pine nuts for the crunch.
So, how does my mind work? How did I decide to add the ingredients I did? Well, I love the way each ingredient tastes, so how could it not taste great all mixed together, right? You really can't mess this dinner up! If you aren't sure how something is going to taste, take a spoonful of what you have already made and put it in a small bowl. Then you can experiment with spices. If you like the taste, you can add it to the whole bowl. If not, you haven't ruined it, and you've learned what tastes good together and what doesn't!
I could have kept adding things to this, but it was getting late and everyone was hungry! The best part of this dinner is the left overs! They make a great lunch...
So, here is the finished dinner, and the only one that I will be able to recreate another day! I truly hope you try this and add ingredients that you like. You can't go wrong!