My part-time job at Crate and Barrel requires me to work longer than normal hours over the holidays. No worries, I love the hustle and bustle of the holidays and there’s no better place to experience that than working retail. The challenge for me is how to plan dinners that don’t consist of take-out, pizza or soup and sandwiches. That menu faire gets boring rather quickly. I found one solution in a Costco cookbook – that’s right a Costco cookbook!
If you are a Costco shopper you know that every year they give away a pretty substantive cookbook. The recipes in the book are designed to use the products they sell, but all in all there are some pretty decent recipes included. Over the years they’ve even featured recipes by prominent celebrity chefs such as Ina Garten, Sandra Lee, Ree Drummond and Michael Symon. What I like about the cookbook is that every recipe has a picture of the finished product. I am not a big fan of recipe books that don’t have pictures. I need something visual to help me understand what I am trying to achieve. The books provide a myriad of recipes from appetizers, main courses, celebrity chef favorites, desserts and beverages. And the fact that it is free is just icing on the cake. They usually give the books away at holiday time, so be on the look out for them. This year they started giving them away on Black Friday and continued as long as quantities lasted. I made my husband make a special trip to get ours as every year I have been able to glean a couple of family favorites from each of them.
The recipe I’m going to share comes from a book they produced three years ago. The title of the book is always the same, “Creative Cooking the Costco Way,” and this recipe is called Baked Ravioli (Lasagna Style). I like this recipe because it is simple, it can be adapted in a variety of ways, and it’s one that can be made a day ahead so it’s perfect for those nights when you want something more for dinner without a lot of thought or effort. I’ve been making a version of this for over three years now so I’ve got this one down pat. Here is my rating and lessons learned:
Rating: A – a great go to recipe, can be adapted in a variety of ways, easy to prepare and definitely something your better half can start while you’re still at work (with my husband I write the directions on a post-it and put it on the door of the microwave so it’s there in plain view for him to see).
Lesson learned 1: Don’t be afraid to play with this recipe. You can basically use any type of ravioli you like. I first started out using Bertoli four cheese ravioli and then branched off into some of the more gourmet-type blends. The ravioli used in the pictures in this blog were half-moon mushroom and cheese ravioli, but you can use any kind you want. This time I also added some additional left over mushrooms that I partially sauteed as well as some partially cooked italian sausage that I crumbled, cooked and put in the layers. No need to cook your additional ingredients completely through as the dish will bake in the oven for at least an hour. Depending on the ingredients you use, this dish can also be meatless.
Lesson Learned 2: If you are making it the day before, make sure you take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit on your counter for at least an hour and a half before baking it. If you don’t it will take much longer to bake and will not cook evenly.
Lesson Learned 3: I like to make sure that my oven is not only preheated but at the desired temperature for at least 10-15 minutes. That way I feel I have a true temperature. My oven takes about 15 minutes to get to 400 so I usually plan on a preheat time of 25 minutes.
Lesson Learned 4: Don’t forget to use a little bit of cooking oil and sauce to cover the bottom of the pan before doing the layering. If you don’t you won’t be able to get the finished product cleanly out of the pan.
Lesson Learned 5: I like to make sure that the ravioli is positioned tightly together, even with a slight overlap. That way you have a nice firm layer when it’s cooked.
Lesson Learned 6: Make sure to tent the foil over the dish for at least the first 50 minutes of the cooking process. After that, remove the foil so that the cheese can become golden brown.
You can make this recipe as simple or as intricate as you want. All of the work goes in to putting it together. Once that is done it’s simply a matter of popping it in the oven, baking it and enjoying it. Serve this with some garlic bread and a salad and you’ve got a delicious and easy meal. Try this one – I guarantee you will use this as a go-to recipe just like I do!
Cooking oil (I use olive oil) – just enough to very lightly grease the bottom of your pan
1 – 29 ounce jar of a red sauce of your choice
1 large package of ravioli (again your choice, the ingredients and shape – square or half moon – do not matter)
Italian sausage or meatballs (again the amount your choice, depending on how much you want in the recipe. I normally take two sausage links, crumble and partially cook the meat, drain it on paper towels and then put it over the ravioli when I make the layers).
Other ingredients to taste – (I often add partially sauteed mushrooms or peppers. No need to cook them through, just give them a good start).
Mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano Cheeses
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease the bottom of your pan (for the two of us I use an 8 inch square pan) and spread a layer of sauce over the bottom. (You don’t need a lot, just enough to lightly coat it). Put down a layer of ravioli flat side up on the sauce. Position the ravioli close together, even with a slight overlap. Add any additional ingredients you have prepared (I did mushrooms and italian sausage on this one). Put another layer of sauce on top and then add a layer of mozzarella, romano and parmesan. Sprinkle with italian seasoning and pat the layer down lightly. Repeat the layering. Pat down again and cover with tented aluminum foil. (If you are making ahead, just cover with foil and put in the refrigerator. Just don’t forget to tent the foil before putting it in the oven as you don’t want all the cheese to stick to the foil).
Bake for one hour or until completely heated through. For the last 10 minutes of the baking process, remove the foil so that the cheese can brown. Let stand for five minutes before serving.