The challenge of having a family that eats most things is that said family rejects obvious things. My children are regularly invited to meals as tools to get picky eaters to eat something, anything! But can the Practical Cook serve buttered noodles and some nice green peas—no, they are soundly rejected.
Another reject: spaghetti and meatballs. Though the Practical Cook counts a turkey meatball as one of her top 5 best meals ever (Mario Batali restaurant, and it was literally one big softball-size turkey meatball, when I thought I was ordering spaghetti and meatballs), the crew is not buying it.
Enter Spaghetti Bird’s Nests. Secretly, they are a play on spaghetti and meatballs, minus the meat and plus some faux pesto. Perhaps not as much as a play on as a play near situation. However, healthy, pretty fast, and a nice break from routine, the Practical Cook encourages you to play with your food and see what you can come up with!
Spaghetti Bird’s Nests Recipe
1/2 box Barilla Plus Spaghetti (I specify because this worked for me, whole wheat or the plus variety will be less starchy and less sticky–if you use regular spaghetti, move quickly or you’ll end up with more of a tangled yarn than bird’s nest look)
8 to 10 ozs mushrooms, sliced
~1 to 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese (sorry, didn’t measure this)
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 lb baby spinach (CSA!)
handful of parsley leaves and tender stems (optional)
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce, or homemade if you prefer
a few ounces of goat cheese (local) or Parmesan or mozzarella
1. Boil water. Prepare pasta according to directions on box.
2. While pasta is cooking, saute mushrooms over medium-high heat until water is mostly evaporated.
3. Place cottage cheese, garlic, spinach, and parsley into food processor. Will it blend? Yes. Blend until smooth.
4. Drain cooked pasta, and let cool briefly, until you can handle it without screaming like Ned Flanders. Put a thin layer of sauce into an oven-safe baking dish, and twist the noodles around until they form nests as shown.
5. Fill each nest with a dollop of pesto, a few mushrooms, and a sprinkle of goat cheese.
6. When the pan is full, top with enough extra sauce to prevent the noodles from drying out.
7. Bake, covered with foil, in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until sauce bubbles. Remove foil and bake for another few minutes to brown/melt cheese.
8. Serve carefully with a spatula to preserve the shape. Add a side salad, and enjoy!
Coming up next time–Punt! A viewer request for the Top 10 Punt Ingredients will be served up. Timely, because the Practical Cook just punted this evening.