Salt and Stone: Treat dad with this Deconstructed Lasagna

salt and stone - deconstructed lasagna

Our 7-year-old daughter broke her arm a few weeks ago. She was practicing a front flip on the trampoline when, out of instinct, she put her arms down mid-flip. We were standing near the trampoline watching her antics and knew instantly we would be heading to the emergency room.

Because of COVID-19, my husband and I could not both go to the hospital, so I loaded her up and headed for the emergency room. Scarlet was mostly calm, even though she was terrified and in pain. We made it swiftly through the ER and soon found out her arm was not only broken, but she would need surgery and several pins to put it back together. The surgeon wanted to take her right back to surgery, and that’s when my poor girl started wailing for her daddy.

She was determined her dad would be with her for the surgery and no amount of cuddling, bribing or reasoning with her changed her mind. A quick phone call, and 10 minutes later Aaron arrived at the hospital, trading places with me and ultimately staying up all night in the hospital with our girl. He was there to comfort her when she woke up and spent an uncomfortable night arranging pillows, offering sips of water and helping her to the bathroom.

Dads don’t always get the credit they deserve; sometimes they don’t get much appreciation at all. But their tenderness when their kid is injured, their patience to play endless hours of a favorite game or lay on the floor on a bed of Legos, not to mention the innate ability to Tetris the back of a car with all the things a family needs for a weekend camping trip is truly remarkable.

Dads are always worth celebrating and certainly worth appreciating, but especially this weekend. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads (and that goes for every kind of dad). You are one of a kind and the kids you love couldn’t be luckier to have you, even if they sometimes forget to tell you.

I decided a decadent meal was in order to celebrate Father’s Day. I decided on an Italian feast, but I didn’t want to spend all day in the kitchen. Ultimately this baked pasta dish was over-the-top delicious and took no time at all. I sautéed veggies and pork Italian sausage and combined the mixture with jarred marinara and cooked penne noodles. Big dollops of ricotta cheese, all bubbly and melty from the oven, were little pockets of deliciousness throughout the dish.

We enjoyed our dinner on the patio, sipping a glass of Yakima Valley wine, while watching the kids run around and feeling especially grateful for kids who heal up quickly and this crazy, lovable, sometimes-makes-you-pull-your-hair-out, amazing family.

• Andrea McCoy writes the column Kitchen Captivated for Yakima Magazine and at The Salt and Stone, a home cooking blog. The Salt and Stone is a nod not just to the essence of cooking, but also to the Yakima Valley. Read more at

Deconstructed Lasagna

1 pound pork Italian sausage

1 red bell pepper

4 cups fresh baby spinach

1/2 yellow onion

2 cloves garlic

5 ounces white or button mushrooms

1 large carrot

1 jar marinara sauce

1 box penne noodles

4 ounces whole-milk ricotta

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh basil (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a large baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta to package instructions, draining a minute or two early when the noodles still have a small bite to them. They will finish cooking in the oven. Drain noodles and set aside.

Dice onion and bell pepper. Smash or mince garlic. Shred carrot. Rough chop spinach and mushrooms.

In a large sauté pan, cook pork sausage over medium heat, using a wooden spoon to break the meat up into small crumbles. Stir often, turning the meat until it is cooked through. Turn heat off and transfer sausage to a paper towel-lined plate.

Return the pan to the burner and add the onion, shredded carrot and bell pepper to the pan. Cook on medium-low heat for about five minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add garlic to the pan and cook for an additional two minutes. Add mushrooms and spinach to the pan and cook until the greens are cooked down by half and the mushrooms are caramelized, about three to four minutes.

When the vegetables are ready, turn off heat and add sausage back to the pan. Mix to combine. In the baking dish combine pasta, jarred marinara and vegetable combination. Sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper. Spoon ricotta cheese over the pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover with tin foil and bake in oven about 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil and cook the last five to 10 minutes uncovered. The dish is ready when the edges are crispy and the cheese is melted and a little bubbly. Garnish with fresh slivered basil leaves. Serve immediately. Serves 6 generous portions.

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