26 October 2008

The best of Intentions with Pasta...............

As many of you may know, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The National Breast Cancer Foundation estimates that each year, over 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and over 40,000 die. One woman in eight either has or will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. It is not a disease only of women because for every 100 women diagnosed 1 man will be also. Approximately 1,700 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 450 will die each year.

If detected early, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer exceeds 96%.

Ley of Cilantro and Lime is hoping to promote awareness of breast cancer and its effects by posting information about it on her blog and drawing attention to the issue through our participation in her event Baking for Breast Cancer Awareness . There are only 5 more days to get your entry in!!!!! In Ley's own words you can bake something healthy, you can decorate your entries with a theme, or you can make it pink- whatever you choose, just make sure it's obviously tied in to breast cancer awareness! She is not even going to be picky about the definition of "baking"- it doesn't have to be sweet, it doesn't have to be carb-y, and, you know what?- it doesn't really even have to be "baked." Bake a healthy chicken, make a pink trifle, create something that looks like boobs. It doesn't matter. Just make it. And spread the word."

Each of us in our lives has been touched by cancer in one way or another. Either a good friend, sister, aunt, mother, grandmother, wife or even ourselves has struggled to come to terms with the disease. In each of our communities there are individuals or organizations creating awareness and raising funds. Breast cancer is not age related at all. It affects us all!

Here are a couple of sites you may find interesting about food choices:

Natural Health Web

Cancer Fighting Foods

Earlier today I started off by making a dish I saw Ricardo Larrivee prepare on the Food Network. It appealed to me and would have been perfect for this event. I was looking for something that utilized tomatoes with their cancer fighting properties. But with all the best intentions this recipe turned into a disaster!!!!! The dumplings did not hold together...that will teach me to half a recipe!!!!!

So what to do with all this lovely spinach/garlic infused ricotta...well...pesto spinach lasagna I thought. It would have been so good but on browsing through the cupboards I only had 3 lasagna sheets left. Now what? Well I decided to just throw the whole thing together with some uncooked pasta, throw in a little more tomato sauce to create an atmosphere for the pasta to cook in the oven and top it with cheese. VOILA!!!!This disaster turned into something delicious if not photogenic!!!!!

I started off with all the best of intentions by creating a special Italian dish of Spinach Polpetti. As so happened the dish was a complete disaster and did not hold up!!!Being of the "my dish is half full" philosophy I decided to buck up and remake a completely new dish with these same ingredients....just make the best of it!!! As a metaphor for someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer the polpetti did not hold up in the boiling water. Life has a way of throwing us lemons and challenges... my dish or a person inflicted with disease may feel that all is lost. I took the ingredients from this dish and created something tasty and delicious just as a cancer survivor would pick up the pieces of their life and with all the support and well wishes create a new lease and perspective on life and be all the stronger for it!!!!!!!

I give you the two original recipes I wanted to try.

**Spinach Polpetti with Tomato Sauce **

Tomato Sauce

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 can crushed plum tomatoes
Salt and pepper


1/2 lb. (6 cups) fresh spinach
1 clove garlic, halved
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb. (2 cups) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings
Fresh basil leaves to taste

Tomato Sauce: In a saucepan over medium heat, soften the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Polpetti :In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, wilt the spinach in the oil. Transfer to a sieve, drain well and let cool.

In a food processor, purée the spinach, garlic, ricotta, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and eggs. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Using two tablespoons, shape about 30 ml (2 tablespoons) dough into an oval dumpling. Repeat until all the dough is used up. Drop the dumplings, about 10 at a time, into salted simmering water. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes. Drain and coat lightly with oil. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Transfer the sauce to a large, shallow serving bowl. Set the dumplings on the sauce. Garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings and basil leaves. Season with pepper. Serve family-style.

**Pesto Spinach Lasagna**

Vegetable cooking spray
1/3 cup prepared pesto
2 containers part-skim ricotta
2 large eggs
1 package frozen chopped spinach thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 tsp salt
1 jar prepared marinara sauce
12 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
6 or 9 sheets (7x3 noodles)

Heat oven to 375F. Lightly coat a 13x9-inch baking dish with vegetable cooking spray. Set aside. Blend ricotta, spinach, 1- 1/2 cups mozzarella, pesto, eggs and salt in large bowl. Pour 1 -1/2 cups marinara sauce into bottom of prepared baking dish. Cover with a layer of noodles. Spread with half the cheese mixture. (Noodles and cheese do not need to meet sides of dish. They will expand when baked.) Pour 1 cup sauce over cheese; place another layer of noodles over sauce. Spread remaining cheese over noodles; top with a layer of noodles. Top with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover with foil and bake 35 minutes; uncover and bake 15 to 20 minutes more, until center is hot. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Makes 8 servings.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. Beautiful food for a worthy cause! Wonderful and I love your little animal friend too!

  2. Sometimes, no matter what you do, recipes just don't photograph well. But your polpetti sounds wonderful and is the perfect pasta dish for a blustery fall Sunday.

  3. Lol! I love the story behind this dish, and I think it turned out beautifully! Thank you so much for participating in this event, and thanks for the links to the websites- the cancer fighting foods list is fantastic, especially with us food bloggers! :D

    Thank you!

  4. Lovely Val! "If at first you don't succeed..try again". I love what you came up with in the end!

  5. It sounds llike it would be tasty! Well done for salvaging the recipe, it would have been too easy to admit defeat!

  6. Great way to utilise tasty ingredients. A summer recipe in the middle of Automn!

  7. Val, thanks for letting us know about the event. Although I have participated in another similar event I shall do my best to participate.
    Lovely written post and I wouldn't expect less from an expert cook like you to make a masterpiece out of a mishap.
    Sorry you had to find out about your Award before letting you know but it's been a very busy day today.

  8. Great food and a great cause!

  9. You are so creative, Val. Excellent contribution for a good cause.

  10. You made my day. I'm reading this post and laughing. I think this dish turned out great. Looks delicious.

  11. That sounds delicious! Pasta, spinach and tomato sauce, that's a nice combo!



  12. What a great entry Val!!! I bet I know exactly how it tasted despite the way it looks. Sometimes the best dishes just don't look good!!!

  13. I'd be happy to share a plate with you, Val! And I love the new banner photo. :)

  14. All of life works better with an attitude like that Val.
    Your Spinach Lasagna looks wonderful!!

  15. Your attitude is wonderful! I make lots of food that my not be picture worthy but tastes good.

  16. A great post, Val. I love what you came up with in the end. It looks so delicious and comforting.

  17. Wow! The spinach polpette sound soooooo yummy! Mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm.

  18. Hi MaryMary,
    I initially jumped to the recipes and then went back to read the entry. Did you by any chance drain the ricotta? It should be drained through a sieve for 24 hours prior to using (it can be drained in the refrigerator in a bowl). This will help prevent from the polpetti from falling apart in the sauce. Also, bread crumbs will hold together the polpetti a lot better than flour. Hopefully that helps. Awesome article and recipes. :)

  19. I love the metaphor to breast cancer that goes with the process of making this dish! Just beautiful! :)

  20. Another great cause, and another great reason to get out there and eat some pasta.

  21. That photo looks delicious. I'm all for eating pasta for a cause!

  22. Nice save Val. I've had a few kitchen disasters myself in the last few weeks!

  23. no matter, it does look good... :)

  24. Wow...I don't care what anyone says - it looks great to me!


  25. Your pesto-spinach lasagna sounds great and so simple! I made a Spinach Prosciutto lasagna that I found in Everyday Food recently and it was great!

  26. Like your new scenic background pic. This is a delicious sounding lasagna, but lookout i think the bear is going to attack it.

  27. Well, your dish half full philosophy certainly produced a terrific recipe. I just love how you put this together. Can I ask how you squeeze your spinach dry? Every time I do it, I try a different method. Any advice on the best way to go about it?

  28. I'm back ... I hit enter too soon. Meant to add that this is a wonderful cause that erupts in, as you pointed out, both men and women.

    Also, I love the little critter spying that lasagna!

  29. So true. With cooking, with cancer, and with life, you have to roll with the punches and make the best out of what you've got. Your recipe certainly turned out well. So much better than chucking perfectly good food away and crying in frustration!

  30. Any pasta dish is tricky, trust me! You have all my favorites here though....ricotta, spinach, marinara sauce..mmm!!!

  31. Any pasta dish is tricky, trust me! You have all my favorites here though....ricotta, spinach, marinara sauce..mmm!!!

  32. Your Veg Pot Pie is KILLING me!! It looks so flaky and delicious and comforting.

    I love all of your baking for a cause food. I so want to try that Pesto Lasagna too! You must know by now how much I love anything Pesto!

  33. I'm hoping I can get one into Ley's event.
    I'm a sucker for pasta - can't get enough of the stuff.

  34. Great entry Val for a very worthy cause and I'm sorry I missed this event.

    Rosie x

  35. YUM YUM and YUM! Everything looks delicious!

  36. It sounds absolutely wonderful! Sometimes these dishes just AREN'T photogenic. Lovely event, too!

  37. Another very worthy cause Val - and what a glorious recipe! Thanks for sharing it :)


Welcome to my home. Thank you for choosing to stay a while and for sharing our lives through food. I appreciate all your support, comments, suggestions,and daily encouragement.


This blog uses comment moderation therefore SPAMMERS, SELF-PROMOTERS and ADVERTISERS will be deleted.