If you came here for the recipe, scroll down…. because I’ve got a lot to say that isn’t about pasta.
I feel like it’s the Fall of 2011 again, because I am currently obsessed with looking after a couple of homeless cats in need, and the thought of saving them is currently consuming almost every waking thought. I don’t know why I get so obsessed with these things from time to time.
It’s literally like the year that Bijou, his sister, “Pot Pie,” and his mother showed up in my parent’s backyard when I was living at home after college, and my entire life’s focus and goal became saving those cats. After we were able to live-trap them and get them spayed/neutered, I built a shelter from scratch using a large, dog kennel, tarps, and my own, down coat. This shelter not-so-lovingly was soon referred to as “tent city”, and my dad, mom, and sister were all pretty appalled by the situation happening in the backyard, since my homemade shelter stuck out like a sore thumb when you looked out the living room sliding door. I must admit, it was pretty trashy looking, but it was functional and kept the cats warm and dry.
I remember coming home from work and checking on the cats to make sure they were all accounted for and using the shelter and had been fed. The only thing I would look forward to after each and every miserable shift at Hollister in Binghamton, was coming home to check on and take care of those cats. I even bought a fucking electric blanket that I made my parent’s keep plugged in on the front porch all winter long, and I turned the Adirondack chair into a secondary shelter for them – covered in blankets and sheepskins, with the electric blanket underneath.
I literally cannot stand to see or be aware of an animal in need or distress. I don’t give a fuck about most humans – judge me however you want. Unless a human is a baby or a child in a fucked up situation, they can ask for help and they have unlimited resources to get help. Animals are defenseless and at the mercy of humans who either are kind enough to help them out, or ignore them and let them suffer.
I am imploring anyone who is reading this right now, to ask around and see if anyone you know would like to take in a street cat as a pet, or knows someone who can help get them homed. I’ve reached out to several local organizations, but most of them are TNR (trap/neuter/release). They all seemed happy to hear the cats were spayed and had a regular feeder, but told me in order to have them fostered out, we will first need to know if the cats are friendly.
I met the cats’ feeder, an older lady, who “claims” that she feeds them twice daily. I have reason to believe her claim is bullshit though, since I now make the effort to walk by the parking lot where the cats live, twice-daily, to check on them. I also bring food and fresh water to feed them if I don’t see evidence that they’ve already been fed. At least I know the cats are both spayed, which she also told me, since they have the telltale clipped ears.
I left laminated notices on the the community garden next to the parking lot where the cats live, to see if the people gardening there would be ok with me placing a shelter for the cats in the garden. The garden is really shitty and adorned with crappy plastic lawn ornaments, etc., so I don’t know why they’d be opposed to me placing an nice, cottage-style cat lodge there. No one has responded to my post yet though, and I am getting more and more disturbed.
I will literally go on a fucking hunger strike if I need to, in order to get these cats the help they need. I am willing to throw down $200 of my own money to buy shelters, but I can’t just buy shelters and place them behind a gated garden without someone a) letting me into the gate, and b) ensuring they will not be thrown out.
Today, I saw the older, mangier looking cat sleeping on a discarded pillow that made its way under the front of a truck parked in the parking lot… it fucking broke my heart. I cannot let these cats go on living this way, when my own two, spoiled cats are fat, happy, warm, healthy and loved. I would take the cat in myself, but I have a one bedroom apartment and two male cats, so bringing in a third just isn’t going to work.
Anyhow, enough about the cats. I will find a way to help them, whether it’s a shelter or helping them to be vetted and fostered out.
Last Sunday, I was doing my usual walk home from Elsie Rooftop back to Brooklyn, when I was suddenly inspired to stop by Eataly and spend money I shouldn’t be spending on overpriced pasta.
The night before, I was scrolling through the ‘gram and saw an upright, tubular pasta dish that this Italian food blogger/cook I follow on Instagram had posted, and I felt the urge to make something similar. And so, in the pouring rain, I stopped by Eataly Flatiron for the key ingredients – a large, tubular pasta that could be stuffed and baked in an upright position, and a good quality ricotta. I was pleasantly surprised to find Eataly was not as busy as usual (I guess because of the rain), so I had time to meander the aisles and find the perfect ingredients without feeling stressed.
Have I ever mentioned I hating out these recipes from my head, and that’s why I don’t do it as often as I should? LOL. I know this was supposed to be food and recipe blog… I love cooking, but man do I hate taking the time to type out the recipe.
- Large, tubular pasta (paccheri or cannelloni work best)
- 1/3 cup good quality ricotta (or smoked ricotta)
- 1/2 pound ground sausage (or meatless sausage)
- 2 cups fresh spinach or arugula
- Container of Mushrooms (baby bella), coarsely chopped
- 1/2 medium sized white or yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbs. butter (or butter substitute)
- 2 Tbs. flour
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 cups Whole milk (or milk substitute – I used oat milk)
- 1 tsp. granulated garlic
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- pinch of nutmeg
- coarsely chopped fresh basil or parsley
- If using the recommended Morning Star Sausage, cook for 1.5 minutes in microwave, then roughly chop into crumbles and set aside
- Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil over low heat in a large saucepan, and add in the minced onions. Stir occasionally until translucent.
- Add in the chopped mushrooms, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft (8-10 minutes).
- Add in a 2 Tbs. of butter and let melt
- Add in 2 Tbs. of flour, to form a roux
- Gradually add in milk or milk substitute, increasing the heat to medium.
- Stir continuously, and add in the grated parm and the seasonings (it should go without saying, but taste your sauce to see what it needs more of)
- Once the sauce seems to be the proper consistency, stir in your sausage crumbles (or, if using real sausage, your ground meat), as well as the fresh arugula or spinach
- Continue to stir over low heat until spinach/arugula is cooked and meat is cooked through (if you are using real sausage)
- Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil, and once boiling, cook the pasta to the al dente specifications on the the bag or box
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside
- Heat oven to 350, and butter a casserole dish or dutch oven
- Using a ladle, cover the bottom of the casserole dish in a layer of sauce… this will be the glue into which you’ll be able to stand the cooked noodles upright
- Arrange the pasta noodles standing up
- Once the noodles are organized and covering the floor of the dish, use a pastry bag, large ziplock, or a small teaspoon to fill the noodles with the sauce mixture
- Bake uncovered for 25 – 30 minutes
- Plate noodles standing in upright position, and top with ricotta and fresh basil or parsley
The whole time I just spent typing up this recipe, I was thinking of those cats… I’m telling you, I won’t rest until something has been done and I know they have a home or at least a safe shelter. I can’t sleep or relax knowing they are three streets down without a soft and warm place to sleep.
In other news, I probably should stop buying things I don’t need from Poshmark. I mean I found these awesome bell bottoms, but I also bought some heart shaped sunglasses I probably don’t need and might never get a chance to wear.
Time to go cook tonight’s dinner and brainstorm ways to save those cats. I might just go hang out around the community garden tomorrow and see if I can find a person to talk to about putting a shelter there.