Michael & Bryan Voltaggio’s Cornbread Stuffing

My husband and I traditionally celebrate our wedding anniversary by having an extravagant dinner at VOLT in Frederick, Maryland. It is the restaurant of Bryan Voltaggio, of Top Chef fame. On our 19th anniversary, we brought home an autographed cookbook after enjoying our lovely meal. Last Thanksgiving, I made two side dishes from this special book. ❤

This stuffing recipe was adapted from Home: Recipes to Cook With Family and Friends by Bryan Voltaggio. I modified the proportions and used prepared stock as well as store-bought sausage as shortcuts.

Both the cornbread and the poultry seasoning can be made days in advance, which is always helpful. It was interesting to me that the cornbread was made without a leavening agent, making it more dense than a typical cornbread. The stuffing had a deep celery flavor from the celery seed and chopped celery. Nice.

Yield: 10 servings

For the Cornbread:

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 5 T (1/3 cup, 75g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp (9g) fine sea salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp (12g) molasses, honey, or sorghum syrup
  • 1/4 tsp (0.6g) freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup (240g) buttermilk
  • 1 cup plus 2 1/2 T whole milk
  • 2 2/3 cups (400g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (276g) cornmeal

For the Poultry Seasoning:

  • 2 tsp (2g) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp (0.5g) finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp (1g) finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tsp (1g) finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp (2g) ground celery seed
  • 1 tsp (2g) ground coriander
  • 1 tsp (2g) onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp (3g) fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp (1.5g) freshly ground black pepper

For the Topping:

  • 2/3 cup (50g) panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 1/2 T (25g) poultry seasoning (above)
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted

For the Stuffing:

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
  • 4 1/2 cups (300g) freshly baked and cubed cornbread
  • 1 pound loose sweet Italian pork sausage
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 to 6 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken or turkey stock (preferably homemade)

For the Royale:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (240g) milk or heavy cream

To Make the Cornbread:

  1. Preheat the oven heat to 350 degrees F, preferably on convection. Spray or butter the bottom and sides of two 9-by-13-inch baking dishes. (One 13-by-18 inch casserole pan can be substituted.)
  2. Put the sugar, 5 tablespoons butter and the salt in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, waiting until each one is fully incorporated before adding another.
  4. Beat in the molasses and nutmeg.
  5. Reduce the mixer to low speed, add the buttermilk and milk, and beat until incorporated.
  6. Add the flour and cornmeal, and beat on low speed until well combined.
  7. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the batter is well-blended and thick, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times, 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Pour the batter onto the prepared baking dishes. Tap each dish on the counter to settle the batter.
  9. Bake until the cornbread springs back lightly when pressed with your finger, 22 minutes on convection or up to 30 minutes in a standard oven.
  10. Cool completely in the dish on a wire rack.
  11. The cornbread may be made 3 days in advance, covered with plastic wrap, and held at room temperature.

To Make the Poultry Seasoning:

  1. Combine the parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme in a small bowl.
  2. Add the celery seeds, coriander, onion powder, salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
  3. The seasoning can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

To Make the Topping:

  1. Put the panko breadcrumbs in a medium bowl and add the poultry seasoning (the remainder may be used to season gravies and other holiday dishes).
  2. Drizzle with the melted butter and toss with your fingers to moisten the breadcrumbs. Set aside.

To Make the Stuffing:

  1. Preheat the oven heat to 325 degrees F, preferably on convection. Spray a 9-by-13-inch flameproof casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Cube the cornbread and put into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the sausage and cook, stirring and breaking it up into small pieces with the back of a spoon so it cooks evenly, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to the cornbread.
  5. Return the same skillet with the drippings to medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  6. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the carrots and celery, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetables to the cornbread and sausage.
  8. Put the eggs in a blender to make the Royale. Start the blender on low-speed and mix until the eggs are just blended.
  9. Put the milk or cream in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and heat until a thermometer registers 180 degrees F. Add to the eggs in the blender and mix on low speed until homogenized.
  10. Add the egg mixture to the cornbread mixture.
  11. Add 2 cups of stock. Season with salt and pepper.
  12. Fold everything together with a rubber spatula until fully combined and the stock has mostly been absorbed. The stuffing will seem a little too wet before baking.
  13. Spread the stuffing in the baking dish. Lightly tap the dish on the counter to even out the mixture in the pan.
  14. Add the topping, letting it fall from your fingers in an even layer across the top.
  15. Bake the stuffing until very hot and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes.
  16. Turn the broiler on high, and broil the stuffing until the crust is GBD (Golden Brown and Delicious), 3 to 5 minutes.
  17. Serve family-style from the casserole dish.

Note: When blending hot liquids, first let cool for 5 minutes or so, then transfer to a blender, filling only halfway. Put the lid on, leaving one corner open; this will prevent the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Cover the lid with a kitchen towel to catch splatters and pulse until smooth.

One-Pot Chicken Thighs with Black Beans, Rice & Chiles

The New York Times recently posted a list of “The 13 Best Cookbooks of Fall 2019” along with one recipe from each book. Such a wonderful peek. 🙂

Baked chicken and rice dishes are an absolute favorite in my house, so I was immediately drawn to this dish adapted from Diana Henry’s From the Oven to the Table: Simple Dishes that Look After Themselves, contributed to The New York Times by Margaux Laskey.

This Mexican-inspired dish was incredibly flavorful. I loved serving it with all of the garnishes as well. We ate it with sautéed greens on the side. Fabulous!

Yield: Serves to 8

  • 8 to 10 (5 pounds) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil or peanut oil
  • 1 large yellow, Vidalia or white onion, chopped
  • 2 green or red bell peppers, halved, seeded and sliced (I used my CSA long green peppers)
  • 2 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 2 red Fresno chiles or jalapeños, halved, seeded and chopped, plus one sliced chile for garnish
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
  • 6 oz grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup white Basmati rice, rinsed in a sieve until the water runs clear
  • 3 T chopped cilantro leaves
  • Lime wedges, pickled chiles, sliced fresh chiles, sour cream and sliced avocado, for serving, as desired
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet (the pan size is very important) over medium-high. (I used an enameled cast iron pan.)
  4. In two batches, brown the chicken on both sides to give it good color, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Add the onion and bell peppers to the pan and sauté until just starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. In a small saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil.
  7. Meanwhile, add the chiles, cinnamon, garlic and cumin to the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes.
  8. Add the black beans and cherry tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  9. Sprinkle the rice on top in an even layer. (It’s important that the black beans are beneath the rice and chicken. The rice will burn otherwise.)
  10. Add the stock and return the chicken to the pan, skin-side up.
  11. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes. The chicken should be lovely and golden, the stock should be absorbed and the rice should be tender.
  12. Sprinkle with the cilantro.
  13. Serve with lime wedges, pickled chiles, sliced fresh chiles, sour cream and avocado (squeeze some lime juice over the avocados in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper), as desired.

Cornmeal Waffles with Greens & Creamy Chicken-Mushroom Sauce

I used to make my husband a dish similar to this WAY back in the day before we were married. He was thrilled with this upgraded version.

I was inspired to recreate the dish after seeing a creamy chicken and mushroom casserole post on Kitchen Sanctuary.com. It just looked like it should be served over waffles! The cornbread waffle recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. They were absolutely amazing. (We will be eating them for breakfast in the near future.) To make it a complete meal, I layered steamed baby greens between the saucy chicken and crispy waffle.

I adapted the sauce recipe by using chicken thighs, cremini mushrooms, fresh thyme, increasing the garlic, and omitting the celery salt. I used sweet onions in the sauce but would possibly substitute shallots next time. To make the waffle batter, I measured the liquid by volume and the dry ingredients by weight. Perfection.

We ate this dish for dinner but it would also be wonderful served for brunch.

For the Creamy Chicken-Mushroom Sauce:
  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into big chunks or strips
  • 9 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 3 yellow or sweet onions, peeled and finely diced (can substitute shallots)
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 5-7 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 300 ml milk
  • 3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 24 oz cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 240 ml heavy cream
  • 6 T cornstarch (mixed with 10 T pan sauce – to make a slurry)
  • fresh parsley, minced
  1. Place the chicken pieces in a bowl with 6 tablespoons of the flour plus 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Toss to cover the chicken in the flour and seasoning.
  2. Finely chop the garlic and onions/shallots in a food processor.
  3. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and add the chicken. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.) Brown all over (it doesn’t need to be cooked through at this point). Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put to one side.
  4. Place the butter in the same pan and melt over a low-medium heat.
  5. Add the onions, garlic, and thyme sprigs and cook for 5 minutes until the onion softens, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Sprinkle on the remaining 3 T of flour and stir for a minute (it will be lumpy).
  7. Pour in a splash of the stock and stir, using a whisk until combined. Continue to add in stock, a little at a time, while stirring, until all the stock is added and you have a smooth sauce with no lumps.
  8. Remove thyme sprigs.
  9. Add the milk, bring to a boil, and continue to stir over the heat until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice.
  10. Add the mushrooms, the chicken and the remaining 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper. Place a lid on the pan and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove the lid and stir in the cream, then heat through for a further 5 minutes.
  12. Remove the lid and test for seasoning. Add a little more salt and pepper if needed.
  13. If you’d like the sauce to be any thicker, then at this point you can stir in the slurry. Add a little splash at a time, while stirring, until you get the thickness you want. (I incorporated all of it.)
  14. Serve garnished with minced parsley, as desired.

For the Cornmeal Waffles:

  • 1 3/4 cups (397 g) buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 T (85 g) butter, melted and cooled OR 3/8 cup (74 g) vegetable oil
  • 177 g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 138 g (1 cup) yellow cornmeal
  • 25 g (2 T) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter or oil.
  2. In a separate bowl, blend together the dry ingredients, then quickly and gently combine the wet and dry ingredients.
  3. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes, to allow the cornmeal to soften.
  4. Drop the batter by 1/3-cupfuls onto a hot waffle iron, and cook it until steam stops seeping from the iron, about 5 minutes.
  5. Set aside on a cooling rack to allow steam to release. Keep warm in an oven or warming drawer until ready to serve.

For the Steamed Greens:

  • 4-8 cups mixed baby greens (kale, chard, spinach)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Microwave greens in a covered glass dish with 2 T water for about 4 minutes, or until wilted. (Alternatively, greens can be steamed on the stove top or sautéed.)
  2. Season with salt and pepper.

To Serve:

  1. Top 1-2 waffles with steamed greens.
  2. Smother with creamy chicken-mushroom sauce, garnish with minced parsley. Serve immediately.

Cauliflower Parmesan

I have made this wonderfully cheesy dish a couple of times already- just to get the proportions right. I knew that I had to increase the amount of simple and flavorful sauce after making it the first time.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I lightened the dish by baking the cauliflower after coating it instead of frying it. We ate it over linguini fini with sautéed broccoli rabe on the side. Wonderful!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red Chile flakes, optional
  • (28-ounce) cans whole or diced plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • sprigs basil or 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Parmesan rind, optional
  1. In a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. (I used an enameled cast iron pot with a glass lid.)
  2. Add garlic and cook until just lightly golden.
  3. Add chile flakes if desired and cook 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in tomatoes and juices, basil or bay leaf, and salt and pepper.
  5. Bring sauce to a simmer, add the Parmesan rind, if using, and cook until sauce is thick and tomatoes have mostly fallen apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust heat as needed to keep at a steady simmer. If using whole plum tomatoes, mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher to help them break down.
  6. Remove sauce from heat and discard basil or bay leaf.

For the Cauliflower & To Finish the Dish:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups panko or plain unseasoned bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 1 large or 2 small/medium heads cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 2-inch florets (I used 1 small and 1 medium)
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces
  • linguine fini or other pasta, optional, for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Place flour, eggs, and panko into three wide, shallow bowls. (I used glass pie dishes.) Season each generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Dip a cauliflower piece first in flour, then eggs, then coat with panko. Repeat with remaining cauliflower.
  4. Place on 2 parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets. Roast coated florets for 22-24 minutes, or until nicely browned.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  6. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
  7. Sprinkle one-third of the Parmesan over sauce.
  8. Scatter half cauliflower mixture over the Parmesan and top with half the mozzarella pieces.
  9. Top with half the remaining sauce, sprinkle with another third of the Parmesan and repeat layering, ending with a final layer of sauce and Parmesan.
  10. Transfer pan to oven and bake until cheese is golden and casserole is bubbling, about 30 to 40 minutes. While the dish is baking, prepare the pasta, if desired.
  11. Let cool a few minutes before serving. Serve over prepared pasta, as desired.

Ina Garten’s Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Ina Garten uses the genius idea of roasting all of the vegetables in this lasagna filling, as well as using no-boil lasagna noodles, to remove the excess liquid that often makes a vegetable lasagna too watery. Perfect comfort food.

This recipe was adapted from Make It Ahead: a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten, via The Kitchn, contributed by Emma Christensen. I used a mandoline to slice the eggplant and zucchini. I also increased the garlic and goat cheese, modified the technique, and used the noodles without pre-soaking them.

It was very cheesy and indulgent so we gobbled it up with a giant green salad. 😉

Yield: Serves 10

  • 1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 medium/large), unpeeled, sliced lengthwise 1/4-inch thick using a mandoline
  • 3/4 pound zucchini (2 medium/large), unpeeled, sliced lengthwise 1/4-inch thick using a mandoline
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12-14 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 16 ounces fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 10 ounces creamy garlic-and-herb goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 4 1/2 cups, 40 oz, bottled marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Italian Marinara with Barolo Wine)
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, very thinly sliced (I used pre-sliced and cut them in half)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F preferably on convection roast.
  2. Arrange the eggplant and zucchini in single layers on 3 sheet pans lined with parchment paper. (I had 1 2/3 trays of eggplant and 1 1/3 trays of zucchini.)
  3. Brush them generously with the olive oil on both sides, using all of the oil.
  4. Sprinkle with the oregano (I crush it in my hands), 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.
  5. Roast for 25 minutes, rotating after 15 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle the garlic evenly over the vegetables, and roast for another 5 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through.
  7. Remove all 3 trays from the oven and lower the temperature to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  8. Combine the ricotta, goat cheese, eggs, basil, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.
  9. Spread 1 cup of the marinara in a 9×13×2-inch baking dish.
  10. Arrange a third of the vegetables on top, then a layer of the noodles (6 noodles per layer), a third of the mozzarella (9 1/2 pieces per layer), and a third of the ricotta mixture in large dollops between the mozzarella.
  11. Repeat twice, starting with the marinara.
  12. Spread the last 1 1/2 cups of marinara on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan.
  13. Place the dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  14. Remove the foil and bake an additional 30-35 minutes, until the lasagna is browned and bubbly.
  15. Allow to rest for 10 minutes and serve hot.

Make-Ahead: Assemble the lasagna completely and refrigerate for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost (if necessary) and bake before dinner.

Kabocha Squash, Sausage, & Cornbread Gratin

I am in love with kabocha squash- it is just so creamy and sweet. This dish may be the ultimate autumn casserole. It was a little bit involved to prepare but the results were worth every minute.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I slightly modified the proportions and method. Fabulous!

4 to 6 servings
  • 1 small to medium kabocha squash
  • 7 large garlic cloves
  • 3 6-inch-long rosemary sprigs
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale (I used a 10 oz bag), ribs removed and torn into 1-2″ pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 2 medium shallots
  • 1 pound fresh pork sausage, such as sweet Italian (about 4 links)
  • 2 cups crumbled cornbread, from a 6×4 inch piece
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  1. Bake cornbread. (I used Trader Joe’s Cornbread Mix.) Set aside to cool.
  2. Position a rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection.
  3. Cut off stem end of kabocha squash and rest on cut side. Cut squash in half. Scoop out seeds and stringy innards with a spoon; discard. Cut squash into 1″-thick slices. Using your knife, slice off the tough peel and layer of light green flesh beneath.
  4. Smash the garlic cloves with the side of the knife and remove peel.
  5. Combine squash, garlic, rosemary sprigs, heavy cream, and ¼ cup water in a medium saucepan. Season generously with salt and pepper and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Cover pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer until squash is tender and easily mashes when pressed with the back of a spoon, 20-25 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, grasp stem end of each kale leaf. Starting at stem, slide your other hand along length of leaf to strip leaves. Repeat with entire bunch; discard stems. Tear leaves into 1″–2″ pieces (you should have about 8 cups).
  7. Peel 2 shallots and thinly slice crosswise.
  8. Use the tip of your knife to prick the sausages all over in several places.
  9. Crumble cornbread into coarse crumbs (you should have about 2 cups).
  10. When squash is tender, remove saucepan from heat. Uncover and pluck out rosemary sprigs, leaving leaves inside pot. Transfer entire mixture to a medium bowl (reserve saucepan) and mash with the back of a spoon or a potato masher until no distinct pieces of squash remain. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Wipe out pot with paper towels and heat over medium. Add butter and heat until melted. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes.
  12. Add kale to the pot, a couple of handfuls at a time, stirring to wilt between each batch, and cook until leaves are dark green and wilted, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
  13. Transfer to kale to the bowl with squash, then fold to incorporate.
  14. Heat the olive oil in the same saucepan over medium and add sausage. Cook, turning once, until browned on both sides (they won’t be cooked through), about 6 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and let cool for a few minutes (reserve saucepan again and do not pour out fat from sausages–you’re going to use it one more time).
  15. Meanwhile, using a rubber spatula, scrape squash and kale mixture into a shallow 2-qt. baking dish and smooth top. (I coated the baking dish with cooking oil spray.)
  16. Cut sausages crosswise into 2″ pieces and nestle into top of squash mixture, spacing evenly.
  17. Heat the drippings remaining in the saucepan over medium and add cornbread crumbs. Cook, stirring, just until crumbs are evenly coated in fat. Scatter cornbread crumbs over squash mixture; season with more salt and pepper.
  18. Bake gratin until crumbs are toasty and brown and sausages are cooked through (you can insert an instant-read thermometer into center of sausage to check if registers 140°, or just cut into one with a knife), about 15 minutes.
  19. Let cool 5–10 minutes before serving.

Tomato-Braised Gigante Bean Gratin (Pizza Beans)

This dish could or should be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen called the dish “pizza beans” to make it more appealing to her kids- so I did the same. 😉 She also had the genius suggestion of serving it with garlic bread, giving it even more appeal. Perelman described it as “a mash-up of a giant-beans-in-tomato-sauce dish from Greece and American-style baked ziti, with beans instead of noodles.” Heaven!

My husband and I enjoyed this dish very much. We are already big fans of Greek Gigante beans, by the way. 🙂 With the name “pizza beans,” my kids were expecting pizza, but the flavors in the dish were more like minestrone soup. It may have been more well-received if I had simply called it by the original title, Tomato & Gigante Bean Bake. 😉

This dish would also be wonderful as a cold-weather comfort food casserole. The recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites by Deb Perelman, via smitten kitchen.com. I used a pressure cooker to cook the dried beans, incorporated the pressure cooker bean liquid as well as beet greens, and increased the amount of garlic. I plan to make it again in the winter and give it a different title. I’m sure it will be more well-received. It will be served with garlic bread, of course.

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large or 2 regular carrots, diced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white or red wine, optional
  • 4 ounces (115 grams) curly kale leaves, beet greens, and/or mixed baby greens, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups (550 grams) crushed tomatoes (28-ounce or 800-gram can minus 1 cup; reserve the rest for another use)
  • 1 pound (455 grams) giant white beans such as Italian fagioli corona, Greek gigante/gigandes, Royal Corona, or large lima beans
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) vegetable broth or pressure cooker bean liquid, as needed
  • 1/2 pound (225 grams) mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 1/3 cup (35 grams) grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons (5 grams) roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish, optional
  • garlic bread, for serving, optional
  1. To use a Pressure Cooker to “Soak” the Beans: Place 12 cups of water, 3 tsp of coarse salt and the dried beans in a pressure cooker. Raise to high pressure (2nd ring) for 2 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans.
  2. Cook the Beans in a Pressure Cooker: Place the drained beans with 9 cups of fresh water in the pressure cooker. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Cook on low (1st ring) for 3 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans reserving the bean liquid.
  3. Heat the oven to 475 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. In a 2 1/2-to-3-quart (ideally oven-safe) deep sauté pan, braiser, or shallow Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Season well with salt and black or red pepper. Cook, sautéing, until the vegetables brown lightly, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more.
  6. Add the wine, if using, to scrape up any stuck bits, then simmer until it disappears, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Add the kale/greens, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until collapsed, then add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
  8. Add the beans, and, if the mixture looks too dry or thick (canned tomatoes range quite a bit in juiciness), add up to 3/4 cup broth/bean liquid, 1/4 cup at a time.
  9. Simmer the mixture together over medium for about 10 minutes, adjusting the seasonings as needed.
  10. If your pan isn’t ovenproof, transfer the mixture to a 3-quart baking dish.
  11. Sprinkle the beans first with the mozzarella, then the Parmesan, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on top. If you’re impatient and want a deeper color, you can run it under the broiler.
  12. Finish with parsley, if desired. Serve with garlic bread.

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