CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Baked Tortellini Casserole

There’s no doubt that Italians know a lot about pasta. In fact, pasta might be a food that Italians know more about than pizza or tomato sauce, both of which have a relatively recent history.

Despite what you may have learned in history class, Marco Polo did not discover pasta in China and bring it back to Italy in the 13th century. It’s very likely that pasta was around during the times of the Romans and Etruscans.

One of my favorite types is tortellini, which like most other kinds of pasta, has its origins in the Italian region of Emilia, in particular Bologna and Modena.

Much lore surrounds the history of tortellini and its shape, but that’s neither here nor there for me. It’s all about the stuffing. I’m very fond of tortellini that’s stuffed with cheese.

Here’s a cheese tortellini recipe I came across recently when looking for something good to make for me and my grandson. He’s a pasta fan, too, and also likes cheesy dishes.

The recipe says it will serve 8 to 10, but from the looks of it, I don’t think we’ll have to worry too much about leftovers. I’m sure Rakeem will be glad to take some home.

Baked Tortellini Casserole
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 pound of lean ground beef
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, or whole peeled tomatoes crushed by hand
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 24—ounce package fresh cheese tortellini
3 cups freshly grated mozzarella cheese
In a large skillet, saute onions and garlic in olive oil, until soft. Add ground beef and season with salt and pepper Once beef is cooked through, stir in tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir in uncooked, fresh tortellini and 1½ cups of mozzarella cheese. Transfer to casserole dish and sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. Cover tightly with foil and baked at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Yield: Serves 8 to 10.

Leave a Reply