I wish I could have had you all over to my house to eat this casserole, because, unfortunately, I don’t think it it’s recreateable. (Is that a word?) So why, then, do you ask, am I bothering to blog about it? Because it’s more an example of a method than a recipe and if you can start thinking in terms of “methods” rather than “recipes” cooking becomes more of creation rather than replication… If you know what I mean… Did that get too abstract?
In my opinion, (which may or may not mean much of anything) most pasta sauces, quiches, soups, roasts, cookies, (I could go on, but I won’t) are basically just methods… techniques, if you will. If you can learn them and then learn what tastes go well together then the whole culinary world opens up to you.
So my inspiration for this recipe was a wonderful looking a baked farro risotto on the 101 Cookbooks blog. It looked simple to prepare, healthy, and I could imagine what it was going to taste like just from reading the recipe. Also, I was thrilled that I could use up the batch of sauce in my fridge that needed to get used or pitched. Except I didn’t have any farro. Enter “The Method” approach.
I was able to swap out the farro for barley and then I just started pulling things out of the fridge: spinach, bacon, a few leftover meatballs, Pecorino Romano, roasted red peppers, plus the requisite onion, broth, Parmesan, and tomato sauce. Then I mostly followed Heidi’s instructions and an hour later we had a fantastic one dish dinner that pleased everyone at the table. The best part is that with this approach you can not only make it with whatever you have on hand, but you can also make almost anything vegetarian or even vegan by following the method but using your preferred ingredients. Try it with what you’ve got in your fridge and see how it goes.
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks Baked Farro Risotto
1 medium onion
8 slices of bacon, chopped
1.5 cups of tomato sauce
2.5 cups broth of your choice
5 oz baby spinach, chopped
1.5 cups pearled barley
6 medium sized meatballs, broken up with a a fork
1/2 jar roasted red peppers, chopped
1 cup and 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a soup pot slowly cook down the bacon and the onions until both are brown and crispy. Drain out the grease and add the tomato sauce and broth to the pot while scraping the bottom to get up all the bits. Then add in the remaining ingredients (reserving the 1/4 cup of grated Romano and 1/4 cup Parmesan) and stir to combine.
Using a thin coating of olive oil on a paper towel grease the bottom and sides of a flat wide baking dish and pour the mixture into the pan cover tightly with tin foil. Bake for 45 minutes.
After baking remove the tin foil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Romano cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and continue baking for 10 minutes. Serve hot!
Serves 6 with a salad on the side.