Two weeks ago I happened to catch an episode of 30 Minute Meals on the Food Network. Rachael Ray was preparing food to feed a crowd, and her "Not-Sagna Pasta Toss" appealed to me because of its simplicity. I've never mustered the motivation to make real lasagna (besides one time when I was in Italy, but it was easier there for some reason). The idea is to mix the ingredients so that the pasta has the same flavors as lasagna but isn't exactly the same consistency:
I usually end up with my own interpretation of Rachael's recipes, and this endeavor was no different. I'm not overly fond of ricotta, so I opted for mozzarella, and I chose ground chicken instead of sirloin. This led to a few other changes - chicken stock instead of beef, and no Worcestershire sauce (Rachael uses it because it goes well with red meat). I also decided to break up sheets of lasagna instead of a short, curly pasta. Rachael suggested this option on the show and I'm partial to wide, flat noodles.
Like the recipe says, I sauteed the meat in some olive oil until it was cooked through and then added a chopped onion. I wasn't cooking in my own kitchen, and didn't have any fresh garlic, so I had to use garlic powder. Normally I love a lot of garlic, but I think the dish turned out better without it since the powder didn't cut into the chicken and onion flavor so much. I did use allspice, salt, pepper, and red chili flakes, and continued cooking the chicken until it started to brown. I didn't know how the red wine would taste with white meat because it's often used with veal or beef. However, it emphasized the sweetness of the allspice, chicken and onion even more, and I think it provided an interesting layer of flavor. I added a large can of diced tomatoes last, and let the sauce simmer for ten minutes or so (a little longer than the directions call for).
The hot pasta water didn't blend with the shredded mozzarella the same way it did with the ricotta on the show, although it did melt the mozzarella enough so that when I added the pasta it didn't break up into weird shapes. I followed the instructions and tossed the pasta with parmesan cheese and half of the sauce, and then I topped it with the rest of the sauce and more mozzarella - I ended up using all of the two cups in the bag. My pasta dish was a little creamier than Rachael's because of the extra cheese, and the flavors varied slightly, but it's nice to know that I can cheat if I ever want lasagna.