“Borta Bra Men Hemma Bäst”


Izakaya Amu  in Boulder, Colorado

  • “Borta bra men hemma bäst,” said my Swedish grandparents: Away is good but home is best (and get your mind out of the gutter, if you’re giggling about “bra men! :).
  • Lots of fun restaurant-eating with teens, tween, and extended family went on this past week.  But we’re all glad to be home.
  • Be sure to read Andy’s advice to Raggedy Ann: Tidy vs Messy in Lagniappe.
  • And in Food for Thought – will salt help me lose weight????? Geez, I wish.

We’re back from our “Go for the Gold” family vacation in Colorado (Ft Collins and Boulder) and are delighted to be back to home-cooked meals. After arriving in Glen Ellen late Thursday evening – after a long day of travel – we pulled out some frozen Baked Penne and Sausage Pasta, popped it in the microwave (though the oven would have been better yet) and soon sat down to a leisurely, simple, and delicious dinner – with a glass of A&D pinot noir from the Napa Valley (we are seldom traitors to Sonoma wines, but the A&D was too tempting to pass up).

We’ve had 6 days and 6 nights of restaurant food, which is unusual for us. We normally do AirBnB kinds of stays and cook even when we’re on holiday. And as much as we love Colorado, we have to say that fabulous dining experiences were not the norm.

But there are some definite highlights in case you’re in the area. In Ft Collins: a “Havana Daydreaming” Cuban breakfast sandwich at Snooze on Mountain Ave, a Lavender Sour cocktail with ginger cognac and house-crafted lavender sour at Social in Old Town Square (I’d like another one right now!). In Boulder: Japanese sashimi and yakimono at Izakaya Amu near the Pearl St Mall,  warm wood-fired Montreal-style bagels from Woodgrain Bagels on Arapahoe, and our NYC son says you must try the Coleslaw Salad w/Peanuts from Eureka.

We didn’t ignore sweets either.  I’m a huge fan of little local bakeries – if their treats are buttery/yeasty/not too sweet/delicious. The Little Bird Bakeshop in Ft Collins had a to-die-for Bostock –orange-soaked brioche with almond cream.  And back home in Sonoma our fabulous little Sonoma Crisp Bakeshop has yummy almond croissants and perfect morning buns. I’ve attempted making both croissants and morning buns and don’t recommend it – unless it’s for a really REALLY special occasion. BUT, using the recipe we’ve provided below,  you can have a brioche bread pudding ready to bake in just a few minutes.  Just purchase a loaf of already-made brioche at your market.

Here’s today’s quiz (you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher!). What do all of those foods from restaurants and bakeries have in common? Well, they are either too complex or too time-consuming for most of us to do at home (well, I do make a mean and easy coleslaw!). And that’s what made those eating-out experiences special: we would not cook them at home. Most of the other meals we had in restaurants paled in comparison to our simple homemade dinner Thursday night. Big Little (easy, tasty) Meals. Go for it.

Here’s the recipe for our Baked Penne & (maybe) Sausage Pasta; below that is our recipe for Super Simple Brioche Bread Pudding.


Baked Penne & (maybe) Sausage Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

This recipe has been in my files for so long that the former 32 oz. standard can of tomatoes the recipe called for has now been reduced to 28 oz.  I wonder if we’re paying almost 10% less for that can?  Dream on.

This is a lasagna for those of us too lazy to make lasagna.  As with almost all pasta dishes, it’s a winner for the one or two person home.  It will reheat fabulously and freeze fabulously.  Make the whole thing!  You’re going to love having that extra amount.  And play with it; add chopped up spinach – fresh or frozen and defrosted – to the sauce before you mix it with the penne.   Switch out the kind of pasta; change the sausage to ground beef or ground chicken – or to easily make it vegetarian, saute 2 cups sliced mushrooms and/or chopped zucchini instead of the meat, drain off most of the liquid, and proceed.


  • 2 T olive oil (divided)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 lb – 1 lb hot Italian sausage – link or bulk (I used Caggiano, a Petaluma sausage company.  Delicious!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c red wine
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano (or 1/4 c chopped fresh oregano)
  • 1/2 c water (we’ve got to make up for that smaller size can of tomatoes  – see above!)
  • 1 c ricotta cheese (fresh is great but not essential)
  • 1 c pecorino cheese, grated (parmesan works fine too)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/3 c parsley, chopped
  • 1 lb penne rigate (mine was #41, whatever that means)
  • 1/2 lb mozzarella (again fresh is great but not essential), cut into about 1″ chunks

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly oil either 2 8″x8″ baking dishes or 1 9″x13″ baking dish.  (Most of you, cooking for one or two, will opt for the 2 dishes, so you can freeze one).

Heat 1 T olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sausage and saute until the sausage is nearly cooked.  If there’s lots of grease, drain most of it off.  Add the red wine and simmer the mixture until the wine has almost evaporated.  Then add the can of tomatoes, the oregano, and the 1/2 c water, and bring the mixture back to a boil, and (without a lid) simmer for about 10 minutes.  The sauce should have thickened slightly.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper, if needed.

In a large bowl (that LARGE is important) mix the ricotta with about half of the pecorino, the nutmeg, and the parsley.  Add a pinch of salt.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the penne until al dente (mine took about 11 minutes).  Drain it and add the ricotta mixture, tossing so that all the pasta is coated.  Then add the sausage and its sauce to the pasta/ricotta mixture, followed by the chunks of mozzarella.

Pour the mixture into the oiled baking dish (or dishes).  Sprinkle the remaining pecorino on top and bake uncovered for about 20 – 30 minutes, or until steamy hot in the middle. If you want to keep the dish for a day or so before you serve it, refrigerate it unbaked, then bring it to room temperature before baking.  If you’re freezing a dish, cover it tightly and freeze it unbaked.  When you’re ready to eat it, let it sit out of the freezer for at least an hour or so, then add the pecorino on top and put it in the oven.  Be sure the container is oven-proof.  The frozen pasta can also be microwaved, but it won’t be quite as tasty as if you bake it in the oven.

Recipe brought to you by Andy and Ann and Big Little Meals.

bread pudding1

Super Simple Brioche Bread Pudding

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print
This can be served with apples, sliced and sautéed in butter, or with sliced, sugared, and roasted rhubarb.  It’s great for breakfast or dessert with fresh fruit; and it will reheat well.


  • 4 + slices of brioche, each 1″ thick (go on the generous side of that 1″); use challah, if you can’t find brioche – or use French bread if you can’t find either brioche or challah- and add a little more sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 2 c milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
  • a bit of orange zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8″x8″ glass dish.  Place the brioche slices in the dish, arranging them so they make a single layer, completely covering the bottom of the dish; add a few more cut-to-size pieces of bread, if necessary.  Then pop the brioche slices into the oven for about 10 minutes (you’re basically drying the slices out a little bit).  While the bread is in the oven, lightly whisk the eggs, then add the sugar, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon (and whisk again until it’s all well incorporated.  Remove the bread from the oven, cool slightly, then pour the egg mixture over the bread, being sure that all the bread is getting soaked.

Now let the bread and egg mixture sit at room temperature – for at least 15 minutes – or up to an hour.  The less time this soaks, the more likely you are to have some spots of just custard, since the liquid won’t have time to fully soak into the bread – but it will still be delicious.

Then bake for 45 minutes.  Or you can refrigerate the mixture (covered) for a day, bring it back to room temperature, and then bake it.  Let cool slightly before serving but serve warm.

To reheat, cut into individual pieces, cover with a moist paper towel and put in the microwave. Or cut into pieces and fry like French Toast on a hot buttered skillet and serve with a bit of maple syrup.

Recipe brought to you by Andy and Ann and Big Little Meals


  1. Jeanies Computer says:

    Mmm, the penne look yummy. Am getting closer to our kitchen (which may soon get a make-over). Who’s in the Boulder restaurant photo? —Jeanie



    • theRaggedys says:

      Hi, Jeanie – that’s Joe’s daughter, Mia, and Sara’s Silas. Mia’s maternal grandmother is Japanese and Mia has visited Japan, so she felt very comfortable helping her step-brothers order at this Izakaya place.


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