You hear a lot about teachers being heroes. Being a teacher myself, I don’t harp on it a lot…you know, the whole “don’t toot your own horn” thing. But man, I’ve worked with a lot of teachers over the years and you know, they are a pretty heroic bunch. It’s not an easy job, and there’s that whole thing about people entrusting their children’s lives to you. It’s heavy stuff, but all in a day’s work.
As I implied a second ago, I’ve met a lot of fabulous teachers over the last thirteen years, but there have been a few standouts. Alicyn Wilkey was one of those standouts….in fact, I think I can go ahead and say that she stands out above just about everyone else. That’s not a put-down to anyone else…that’s just how amazing Alicyn was. Alicyn unexpectedly passed away at the age of 42 on February 28, leaving her husband Greg (also a respected educator in the community), sister Lindsey (a school librarian), mom Pam, and literally thousands of friends, coworkers (though honestly, I think that every coworker considered Alicyn a friend), students and former students, and parents heartbroken.
I’m going to be honest, there’s no way that I can do justice to the legacy that Alicyn left behind in this little space (Solely Focused did a pretty darn nice job in this post, though). Alicyn and I worked together for one year at Brown Academy before I moved on to my current school, and since PreK is off in our own little PreK world we didn’t get a chance to know each other very well, but I was always inspired by the ease with which Alicyn spoke with students. They loved her…she was a natural. I never saw her without a smile on her face; she was friendly to and loved by everyone. It was clear that she was in her element as a teacher, and I eventually found out, in the kitchen. Shortly after we became friends on Facebook, Alicyn started a Facebook page entitled Queen of the Red Kitchen…because (1) Alicyn’s kitchen was red; and (2) she most certainly was the queen of that kitchen (and so, so many other things).
On Queen of the Red Kitchen, Alicyn shared recipes that she had perfected over the years. She loved to entertain, so while many of her recipes were suitable for two, many were also fit for a crowd. We definitely bonded over food discussions and when I asked for suggestions for some new recipes to work on, I though that her sister Lindsey’s suggestion that I check out the Queen of the Red Kitchen for some inspiration was a fine one and a great opportunity to pay a little homage to a sorely missed presence in our little city.
Alicyn adapted the recipe for her baked tortellini from Giada de Laurentiis. I like creamy tortellini, so that’s my twist on the recipe: baked creamy tortellini. To make my creamy tortellini, I mixed a béchamel sauce with a tomato sauce. This was a pretty fantastic recipe, yielding leftovers that I was actually excited to eat the next day (in fact, I was a little sad that I didn’t have any to take in my lunch on the third day).
You should definitely make this baked creamy tortellini, and when you do, take a minute to reflect on a teacher who has touched your life.
Pasta elsewhere on Chattavore: linguine alfredo with arugula pesto and mushrooms, mushroom & ricotta stuffed shells with cauliflower sauce, vegetable lasagna
20 minPrep Time:
25 minCook Time:
45 minTotal Time:
- 2 9 ounce packages refrigerated tortellini-whatever variety you like (or 1 19-ounce bag frozen tortellini, which is what I used because I couldn't remember where to find refrigerated tortellini at my grocery store)
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk, heavy cream, or half and half (it should surprise no one that I used cream)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (finely grated)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 Cloves garlic
- 1 14-ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes (depending on whether you like a chunky or smooth texture-I used diced)
- 1/4 cup fresh basil (chopped or cut into a chiffonade)
- salt (to taste)
- 4 Ounces mozzarella cheese (shredded or thinly sliced)
- If using frozen ravioli, cook briefly to defrost (or thaw them in the fridge beforehand). Drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Make the béchamel: melt the butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook until thickened. Whisk in the Parmesan then salt to taste. Set aside.
- Make the tomato sauce: heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium pan (I actually put my béchamel in a bowl, wiped out that pan, and used it). Sauté the garlic briefly (thirty seconds should be plenty). Add the tomatoes and cook until slightly reduced, 6-8 minutes. Salt to taste. Stir in basil.
- Combine the tortellini and the béchamel then spread into an 8-inch square baking dish or a 9-inch Pyrex pie pan. Evenly spread the tomato sauce over the top. Top with the mozzarella cheese. Bake for 25 minutes, then turn on the broiler and broil until it reaches desired brownness. Let stand for ten minutes before serving.