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As a teacher, I dread writing sub plans. It can be challenging to devise assignments that can be administered by a substitute teacher (especially since I’m a Latin teacher), and that are worthwhile and engaging. And yet, sometimes, under the stress of producing good sub plans, I find myself coming up with creative ideas! In cooking, too, substitutions can be the impetus for creativity, and yet the topic is not without controversy. 

One of the more unexpected pasta dishes I first ate during that semester abroad in Rome was pasta with a walnut sauce. Although there are versions that make a walnut cream sauce, I prefer to make a ricotta-based recipe, which I find a bit easier. The most common shape for this is casarecce, but any medium pasta shape will work, such as shells or penne.


I'm one of those people who clip recipes from magazines and pastes them in a small journal.

Some of the recipes are for reference; more of a how-to guide that I can easily find. Others are tucked away for a rainy day. Some will never get made, but should I ever want to gaze at the lovely photo and recipe, I have it. Some are ones I dream of making one day. Recently, I pushed myself to go outside my comfort zone and make one that I gaze at lovingly every time I open up my homemade recipe book — chicken liver ragù rigatoni.

Stuffed shells are doable on a weeknight if you take a shortcut and jarred tomato sauce rather than your own. Or, you can make this meal on th…