Town & Gourmet: Pasta al Forno

Pasta al forno (baked pasta) is a great dish that you can prepare and assemble ahead of time. It looks beautiful, it’s easy, and best of all, it’s delicious! Below you will find a version with meat, and one without, both very good and equally simple: Pasta al Forno



  • 1 large can of tomatoes – It’s worth the extra $2 if you can find San Marzano tomatoes because their flavor is the best. I also love Pomi’, which is available in the local grocery store here, but may be hard to find elsewhere.
  • Pomi’ is great because it’s already pureed and it has a delicious tomato flavor. For whole or crushed tomatoes, I like to quickly puree them in the blender or with a hand blender for a smoother sauce.
  • ½ small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • *Note – as a timesaver, I often buy the mirepoix mix of chopped onions, carrots and celery from Trader Joe’s – I would use half of the container for this recipe – keep the other half for soups or pot pie or freeze it for later
  • 1 lb ground beef – or go crazy and use meatloaf mix
  • 1 glass of red wine}extra virgin olive oilsea salt
  • 1 1-lb box short pasta – I like penne rigate or rigatoni but use what you like 1 lb of mozzarella cheese cut into small pieces (1”) – again, I turn to Trader Joe’s here when I can – they have a package of fresh mozzarella that comes already sliced – so cutting it into smaller pieces is that much easier
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (yes, it does make a difference! It is better than the stuff in the green box that doesn’t need to be refrigerated!)



  1. For meat sauce: Put 1-2 T of olive oil in a sauce pot over medium heat. If you wantto get my special recipe you can simply contact me here. Add onions, celery and carrot and sauté until onions begin to turn translucent. Stir so they don’t stick to the bottom. Add ground beef and break it up with wooden spoon, allowing it to brown, stirring every couple minutes until most of meat is brown.
  2. Add glass of red wine, let alcohol evaporate and stir up any bits stuck to bottom. Add pureed tomatoes. Rinse tomato can with ¼- ½ cup water and pour water into pot. Add 1 teaspoon salt.
  3. Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer and cook about 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, making sure it’s not burning or sticking on the bottom.

For vegetarian sauce:


  1. Heat 1-2 T of olive oil in a sauce pot over low-medium heat. Add onions and sauté until they begin to turn translucent. Stir so they don’t stick to the bottom.
  2. Do not let them turn brown. Add pureed tomatoes.
  3. Rinse tomato can with ¼- ½ cup water and pour water into pot. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer and cook about 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, making sure it’s not burning or sticking on the bottom.To cook the pasta: As the sauce is nearing its finished cooking time, bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.
  4. Whenwater is boiling, drop in 1-2 T of sea salt. Salted pasta water means tasty pasta. Add pasta and cook until al dente – I usually cook it 2 minutes less than whatever it says on the package. Don’t forget that it’s going in the oven after this, so it will cook some more. When pasta is ready, drain it and return it to the pot.
  5. Quickly add 1-2 ladles of sauce to the pasta and stir it all together. This keeps the pasta from sticking to itself and coats it with your delicious sauce.To assemble the dish: Preheat oven to 350 (or assemble the dish now and then refrigerate up to one day before baking.)In a baking dish – I like pyrex but you can use a lasagna pan or whatever other pan you like – spread a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom.
  6. Then add a layer of pasta from your pasta maker, cover with some sauce and some mozzarella, another layer of pasta, sauce, mozzarella, and a 3rd there is enough. Otherwise, 2 layers are fine. Put any remaining sauce on the top and sprinkle grated parmigiano cheese liberally all over. (You want to still see tomato, but be generous.)Baking from warm – bake for 30 min at 350.
    Baking from fridge – bake for 45-60 min at 350.Add a couple of fresh basil leaves in the middle of the dish when you serve it for a festive touch of color. Buon appetito!

The highly-rated strain of medical marijuana 'Blue Dream' is displayed among others in glass jars at Los Angeles' first-ever cannabis farmer's market at the West Coast Collective medical marijuana dispensary, on the fourth of July, or Independence Day, in Los Angeles, California on July 4, 2014 where organizer's of the 3-day event plan to showcase high quality cannabis from growers and vendors throughout the state. A vendor is seen here responding to questions and offering a whiff of the strain 'Skyjack'.  AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN        (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Herb Grinder Cards

If you have been interested in the herb grinder world for a while, you will have seen these inexpensive grinder cards that can easily fit in your wallet or pocket. They are roughly the same size as a standard credit card and come with a printed case to increase stealth.


I have used these and they are really cool, they are super convenient and simple to use, whats more they only cost around $10. They have a razor sharp cutting surface that safely grinds your herb to a fine consistency. I have used these extensively and so far mine is still razor sharp. They come in a carry sleeve that keeps the cutting blades away from your fingers and stops it chewing up your wallet.

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The only problems I can see with this product is that it can be rather wasteful, a lot of the thc is wasted using this method of grinding because it will fly off when it is being ground. From my personal experience these are also a little fiddly to use at first, I actually sliced my finger the first time I took it out of its sleeve.
Here is a video showing you how it works so you can get a better idea! The video shows the 2 card technique, however it works great with just one card (see the video at MrVapo.Com).
I think the main selling point of these card grinders is the cool designs you can get these in. There are literally hundreds of differing designs. Click here to see some of my favorites.

As you can see, these cards make short work of grinding your material. Looking closely however you will notice that the grind is nowhere near fine enough to use in a vaporizer. If you a looking for a vaporizer grinder, check this out!

This grind is perfect for joints, blunts and bongs and especially for your Volcano vaporizer (read MrVapo Volcano Vaporizer review). If you are looking to get a cheap and portable grinder, this may be for you. If you are looking for a more convenient solution; I highly recommend you check out my best 4 piece grinder of 2014 page.
At the end of the day, if you don’t want the hassle of carrying around a smelly grinder all day or don’t want the risk of getting busted with paraphernalia the this may be the solution for you! Keep in mind the trade offs:


Let’s Enjoy Google+ Now While We Can

Hands up anyone who’s fed up of hearing the question about whether Google+ is going to be bigger than Facebook. Who knows and who cares, right?  But last weekend I was contacted by a long lost aunt who found me on the web through Google+ (if you’re reading this – hi Jennifer!) That was interesting.

And today I was reading about how President Obama’s office has joined Google+ (yes, they of the famous here’s-how-to-use-social-media-for-a-political-campaign case study fame).


And here, Robert Scoble gives an entertaining and to-the-point argument as to why Google+ beats Facebook and Twitter hands-down.

We’ve all seen the stats about how Google+ amassed 10 million users in sixteen days, whereas it took Twitter and Facebook two years.

But hang on a minute, the BBC says that  Google denies Google+ death reports – which of course will add fuel to the naysayers’ fire. Apparently Google have stopped issuing stats about how many new Google+ accounts are being created and there are rumours of a dip, or people leaving. I wouldn’t find this at all surprising – signing up for the newest thing, using it a lot at first and then losing interest and not using it for ages is very common. I was the same with Twitter, that’s how I am with Google+ at the moment and I know plenty of people the same.

Personally I can only see Google+ becoming bigger as the +1 buttons become more ubiquitous, as people start using them more, as businesses set up and promote their Google+ pages… and after all, we’re not talking about a tiny startup with a cute name (as was Twitter) – everyone knows what Google is, and Google+ may well become our natural search+social hub on the web before we even realise it ourselves.

An image of a hand writing a business sketch

An image of a hand writing a business sketch

I’m going to revisit Google+. Now’s definitely the time – before usage reaches a critical mass, before it’s corrupted by scammers. spammers, gurus and other bandwagon-hitchers. It’s three and a half years since I started moaning about how Twitter would soon be a very different place when the masses (and the mass media) got interested in it. And I wasn’t wrong. So let’s enjoy Google+ now – carpe diem, as they say!