Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cheesy Tortellini Bake

Cheesy Tortellini Bake - made April 18, 2015
Once a month, we have a potluck at our church after our Sunday service. It’s a chance for members to get together informally and chat for longer than the few minutes after the service when everyone heads out. I always take advantage of such gatherings to try out a new dessert recipe as there’s usually more than a dozen people, sometimes up to 2 dozen, and it’s an extra opportunity to bake beyond my Monday morning dessert offering at work each week.

Lately though, I’ve been noticing that other people were also bringing desserts and the amount of “real food” was dwindling, something that afflicts almost every potluck I’ve ever been to. Dessert is just easier and when church service is an hour beforehand, it’s hard to keep dishes warm if they need to be served warm. We do have a couple of members who can be counted on to bring savory dishes but there was a growing number of desserts also coming in.
This time around, I decided I’d better play it safe and bring a savory dish, just in case. And with my cooking skills, playing it safe also involves mostly putting ingredients together rather than actually “cooking”. So this easy tortellini bake was perfect. I made it up after searching pinterest for ideas and it turned out to be really easy to brown some lean ground beef and sausage, throw in a ready-made jar of marinara sauce, a can of diced tomatoes and chopped fresh basil. Add fresh tortellini and some cheese, and simmer until tortellini is tender.

I went a further step of placing it in a bakeware dish, sprinkling the top with cheese and baking it for half an hour right before I left for church. Cover and wrap in a blanket, and, even after sitting in my car during the church service, it was still somewhat warm by the time it got served. You can skip that part if you want to make this in a crock pot and just keep the crock pot on low until serving.

The only thing I got wrong was I overestimated on the amount of pasta I needed and it ended up being a little dry because I had too much pasta in there. So I revised the amount of tortellini down in the recipe below. I could have probably rectified that by adding an extra can of diced tomatoes but – let’s not kid ourselves. I cook so infrequently that I bought only what I thought I needed and didn’t have an extra can of tomatoes on hand. But still, I thought this turned out pretty well. And I’m glad I brought it because, as I had suspected would happen, the desserts outnumbered the savory dishes at the potluck.
1/2 pound lean ground beef
4 chicken apple sausages, chopped into chunks
1 24-ounce jar of marinara sauce
1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil, sliced chiffonade
1/2 cup quattro fromaggio plus more for garnish
12 ounces fresh tortellini, cooked al dente
  1. Brown ground beef and chicken apple sausage in large stock pot. Drain of excess fat.
  2. Add marinara sauce, diced tomatoes and basil. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to bring to low simmer.
  3. Simmer 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Add cheese and stir until melted. Add tortellini. Pour mixture evenly into large, greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with more cheese.
  5. Bake until heated through and cheese on top is melted. Serve warm.

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