Friday, March 19, 2010

Family Dinners

One of the most remarkable, and rewarding, aspects of my co-op work at the Boys and Girls Club is the incredible amount of freedom I have in their (amazing) kitchen. They don't have a lot of money to throw around, so they don't have the latest equipment or gourmet ingredients - they don't even have a colander. What they do have is a lot of heart, and a lot of kids that rely on them. The Club is a place that not only gives out a hot meal and a hand with homework assignments after school, but that is itself a family.

I've realized just how much of a family the clubhouse really is just by working there a few days... the kids all know each other, and treat everyone as a sibling regardless of who they are or where they came from.When I'm cooking away in the kitchen, I'm not treated as "the only upper-middles-class white girl in the house". It's never mentioned, nor is it even a part of how I'm treated. Rather, I'm the "big sister" in the kitchen - when the kids wander into the kitchen looking for a snack to stave off their hunger until dinnertime (often the only "real" meal they get) and see I'm cooking something, they pepper me with questions about just what it is I'm up to. The thing that's remarkable is that they actually care about my answers, and I can tell they're learning elements of nutrition and cooking through our conversations and by what I show them as I work.

With all the freedom I have, I do have the responsibility to both create and get projects done during the day. Today I was given four pounds of ground beef, access to pantry, freezer and fridge stock and the charge of making a hearty, nutritious, fairly cheap on-the-fly dinner for 60 teenaged Evening Program participants that would be coming in at abut 5:30. After a few minutes of consideration, a fast pantry survey and a check online for basic ingredient ratios, this very untraditional baked pasta bolognese was born. I even managed to hide a good portion of veggies in the mixture, between the onions, carrots, tomatoes and all the pureed frozen ones!

It was an obscene amount of food to my untrained eye - having never cooked a meal for 60, let alone using basic "home" appliances and minimal kitchen utensils - I couldn't even lift the stockpot off the stove to drain the pasta!

Boys and Girls Club Baked Pasta Bolognese
Serves 60
¼ cup unsalted butter
3 large onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
4 lbs lean ground beef
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tbsp black pepper
1 ½ tbsp Italian seasoning
84 oz (3 28-oz cans) thick tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
2 ½ cups heavy cream
2 lbs frozen (thawed) mixed vegetables, pureed
5 lbs fusilli pasta, cooked just shy of “al dente” and drained
2 lbs pressed “dry” cottage cheese (or ricotta)
  1. Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onions and sauté until golden, then add carrots and garlic.
  3. Cook until carrots begin to soften, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add olive oil and ground beef to the pot, sprinkle with nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and Italian seasoning.
  5. Cook, stirring to break up the meat, until the beef is well browned – about 6-7 minutes.
  6. Stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste, beef broth, heavy cream and pureed vegetables.
  7. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 - 2 ½ hours.
  8. Preheat oven to 350F, grease 2 large, deep roasting pans.
  9. Spread a thin layer of meat sauce in the bottom of each pan, followed by a layer of noodles (about 1/3 of the pot) in each pan.
  10. Sprinkle a layer of cottage cheese overtop the noodles.
  11. Add the remaining pasta to the sauce in the pot, stirring well to coat.
  12. Divide the mixed sauce/pasta between the two pans, covering the cheese layer completely.
  13. Place into the oven and bake 1 ½ hours.
  14. If desired, sprinkle top of pasta with breadcrumbs and broil 5 minutes further.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 300.2
Total Fat: 11.8 g
Cholesterol: 39.7 mg
Sodium: 309.6 mg
Total Carbs: 35.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.9 g
Protein: 14.7 g

I'm sending this to Ruth's event Presto Pasta Nights, being hosted by Savoury Specialist.

4 comments :

LoveFeast Table said...

There's something amazing that happens when a meal is cooked with love and shared around the table! The stuff we love @LoveFeast!
~kristin

Ruth Daniels said...

What a wonderful and inspiring post. Thanks for sharing the message AND the recipe for 60! with Presto Pasta Nights.

Bonita said...

You’re always an inspiration with such an incredibly big heart! I’m passing along a blogging award to you.
http://boneats.blogspot.com/2010/03/kreativ-blogger-award.html

Joanne said...

Whoa pasta for 60 is definitely a LOT of pasta! this sauce sounds delicious though. I love the spices you used.