Stovetop Meatball Lasagna

This is a crowd-pleasing, lighter, stovetop upgrade to a classic lasagna. It was also less time consuming to prepare. I loved the brightness from the incorporation of fresh herbs.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Shilpa Uskokovic. I modified the method and added garlic. The grated zucchini and panko in the meatballs made them very tender. Fabulous!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 (5 in my house)

  • 1 large zucchini (about 12 oz), finely grated (about 1½ cups)(I used a food processor)
  • 1 1/2 cups panko
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped dill, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz fresh whole milk ricotta
  • finely grated lemon zest from 1/2 a large lemon
  • 10 oz lasagna noodles, broken into 2–3 pieces (do not use oven-ready noodles)(I used DeCecco)
  • grated Parmesan, for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. Using a sturdy wooden spoon or rubber spatula, vigorously stir grated zucchini, panko, oregano, garlic powder, paprika, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, and kosher salt in a large bowl until combined and nearly paste-like. (I grated the zucchini medium-large because I used a food processor.)
  2. Add ground chicken, chopped dill and parsley and mix until fully incorporated (you don’t need to worry about overmixing here; mixture will be soft). (I used a food processor to finely chop the fresh herbs.)
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium to medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  4. Using a 3 tablespoon cookie scoop, portion out half of meat mixture (meatballs don’t need to be perfectly round; rustic-looking is good) and add directly to pot. (I did 2 batches of 8 meatballs.)
  5. Cook, undisturbed, until well browned underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Carefully turn meatballs over and cook until second side is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes (it’s okay if meatballs still look misshapen).
  7. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate.
  8. Pour an additional 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil into pot and repeat process with remaining meat mixture. (the remaining 8 meatballs)
  9. Return all meatballs to pot, the add canned tomatoes with juice, lightly crushing with your hands as you go, sliced garlic and shallot, and remaining 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; season with salt.
  10. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook meatballs and sauce, gently stirring occasionally (it’s okay if meatballs start to fall apart), until sauce is slightly thickened, 15–20 minutes. (After stirring halfway through the cooking time, I reduced the heat to low.)
  11. Meanwhile, whisk together ricotta, grated lemon zest, and a large pinch of salt in small bowl until smooth; set aside.
  12. Cook broken lasagna noodles in large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente, about 3 minutes.
  13. Using tongs, drop noodles into pot with sauce and cook, stirring gently, until sauce coats pasta.
  14. Divide pasta among shallow bowls and spoon dollops of reserved lemony ricotta over each.
  15. Top with dill and grated Parmesan, as desired. 

Do ahead: Meatballs and sauce can be made 3 days ahead; let cool. Transfer to an airtight container; cover and chill. Lemony ricotta can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Ina Garten’s Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes

Once again, Ina did not disappoint. 🙂 This classic baked macaroni and cheese recipe incorporated two of my ultimate favorite cheeses and was upgraded with a colorful tomato topping. It was really delicious- a new favorite!

This dish was part of my husband’s birthday feast this year. I was able to assemble the dish the day prior to baking it which was very helpful. I actually grated the cheeses two days in advance- which would be completely unnecessary if making this dish on its own, of course.

The recipe was adapted from FoodNetwork.com, contributed by Ina Garten. I modified the method and used Campari tomatoes and panko in the topping.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8 as a main dish or 10 to 12 as a side dish

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound (16 oz) elbow macaroni or cavatappi (I used 17.6 oz Gigli pasta)
  • 4 cups (1 quart) milk (I used whole milk)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (about 4 cups)(I used Swiss Raw Milk Le Gruyère aged over 120 days from Trader Joe’s)
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)(I used Cabot 3-year extra-sharp white cheddar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 Campari tomatoes or 4 small tomatoes (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (I set my oven to convection.)
  2. Grate the cheeses with a food processor, if desired.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain well. Reserve the pot for the sauce.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it.
  5. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in the large pot (the pasta cooking pot) and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk.
  6. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth.
  7. Off the heat, add the shredded Gruyere, cheddar, 1 tablespoon coarse salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  8. Add the cooked pasta and stir well.
  9. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish. (I chose a shallow baking dish to increase the surface area for tomatoes and crispy panko topping.)*If making in advance, cover and refrigerate after this step.
  10. Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. (I sliced the tomatoes about 1/4-inch thick.)
  11. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine with the panko, and sprinkle on the top.
  12. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on the top. 

Note: To make ahead, put the macaroni and cheese in the baking dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake. Put the tomatoes and panko on top and bake for about 40 to 50 minutes.

One-Pan Farro & Cauliflower Parmesan

I love vegetable-loaded comfort food. 🙂 This casserole dish also has farro, a favorite, and cheese, of course. My husband said he would have loved it even without the fresh mozzarella on top! Absolutely delicious.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sarah DiGregorio. I doubled the amount of cauliflower, omitted the olives, used Trader Joe’s 10-minute farro, and modified the method and proportions.

We ate the casserole as a main course with garlic bread and green salad. It could also be served as a hearty side dish. The recipe is very adaptable and could be easily modified to incorporate other vegetables.

Yield: Serves 8

For the Farro and Cauliflower:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, florets and tender stems cut into large bite-sized pieces
  • 8.8 oz bag Trader Joe’s 10-minute farro
  • 1 (28 to 32-ounce) jar good-quality marinara sauce (I used Rao’s)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata or black olives, roughly chopped, optional (I omitted them)
  • 10 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 3 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano (about 3/4 cup finely grated)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano or dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic or sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup stock (can substitute water)
  • 2/3 cup water

For the Topping:

  • 1 cup panko
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (about 1/2 cup finely grated)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 to 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into rounds (I used 12 slices)
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
  2. In a 9-by-13-inch pan, combine the cauliflower, farro, marinara sauce, olive oil, olives (if using), garlic, grated cheese, onion powder, oregano or basil, vinegar and red-pepper flakes. Season with the salt and a generous amount of black pepper.
  3. Pour in 1 cup stock and 2/3 cups water and stir well to combine. (can substitute with 1 2/3 cups water)
  4. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, make the topping: Stir together the panko, grated cheese and olive oil.
  6. Uncover the pan and stir.
  7. Evenly cover the top with the panko topping.
  8. Top with the fresh mozzarella rounds.
  9. Continue baking uncovered until the farro is tender and chewy, the sauce is thick, the topping is browned, and the mozzarella has melted, about 10 to 15 minutes more. (I baked it for an additional 12 minutes on convection roast.) (I also put my garlic bread in the same oven at this point!)

Skillet Greek Chicken with Orzo, Tomatoes & Feta

This was a super quick and delicious skillet dinner that was absolutely packed with flavor. I loved the colorful and fresh tomato topping. We ate it with a green salad but it truly could have been a complete meal on its own.

This recipe was adapted from Half Baked Harvest, contributed by Tieghan Gerard. I used chicken thighs, dried oregano, and capers. I also modified the method and proportions. Next time, I may substitute 10-minute farro for the orzo. Great.

Yield: Serves 6

For the Chicken & Orzo:

  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 3/4 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces (about 4 large)
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 8 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced (I used a yellow pepper)
  • 2 cups dry orzo pasta
  • 2 T capers, drained

For the Tomatoes & To Serve:

  • 2 1/2 cups mixed heirloom grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or put through a garlic press
  • kosher salt
  • 1-2 pinches/dashes red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, for serving
  1. In a large skillet, toss together the olive oil, chicken, oregano, paprika; season with salt and pepper. (I used an enameled cast iron pan.)
  2. Cook over medium-high heat until the chicken is browned all over and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and garlic, cook another minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the skillet.
  4. Add the bell peppers to the drippings in the skillet. Cook until soft, 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the orzo and 2 1/2 cups water. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often until almost all the water is absorbed, about 5 to 10 minutes. Taste the pasta for doneness; add water and continue to cook until tender, if necessary. (I added 1/2 to 3/4 cup additional water after 5 minutes.)
  6. Stir the chicken and capers into the orzo. Allow the chicken to warm through, about 3 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, toss the tomatoes with olive oil, basil, and garlic in a bowl. Season with salt and red pepper flakes.
  8. To serve, spoon the tomatoes over the chicken and gently toss. Top with feta cheese.

Cheesy & Crunchy Baked Pasta with Cauliflower

I loved that this cheesy comfort food baked pasta dish incorporated an entire head of cauliflower. The lemon zest and capers also added brightness which had a nice balance with the cheese.

The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Ina Garten. Great comfort food.

Yield: Serves 8

  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried pasta, such as medium shells (I used Cascatelli)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds cauliflower (1 large head cut into small florets) 
  • 3 tablespoons sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 15 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups Fontina cheese, lightly packed (10 oz with rind)
  • 1 cup (8 oz) whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 6 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons parsley leaves, minced fresh
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. (I set my oven to convection.)
  2. Fill a large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until 2 minutes less than al dente, according to the instructions on the package. (Since it will be baked later, don’t overcook it! Drain and pour into a very large bowl.)
  3. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12 to 14-inch) skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat, add half of the cauliflower in one layer and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the florets are lightly browned and tender. Season with salt.
  4. Pour the cauliflower, including the small bits, into the bowl with the pasta.
  5. Add 3 more tablespoons of olive oil to the sauté pan, add the remaining cauliflower, cook until browned and tender and add to the bowl.
  6. Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl and stir carefully.
  7. Stir in the Fontina.
  8. Transfer half of the mixture to a 10 x 13 x 2–inch rectangular baking dish.
  9. Spoon 12 rounded tablespoons of ricotta on the pasta and spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  10. Combine the panko, grated Pecorino, minced parsley and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly on top.
  11. Bake for 22 minutes on convection, or 25 to 30 minutes in a standard oven, until browned and crusty on top. Serve hot.

Note: The dish can be assembled ahead of time. Assemble the dish, cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake before serving.

Oven-Baked Pearl Couscous with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas & Feta

I have served this flavorful dish as a vegetarian main dish served over baby spinach and as a side dish with rotisserie chicken, roasted cauliflower and green salad. So versatile! I also love that it is made in one pan.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend with Couscous with Quinoa, Orzo, and Garbanzo Beans and modified the proportions and method. Nice.

Yield: Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side dish

  • 1 pint (2 cups) grape tomatoes, halved (or a combination grape & small Campari- quartered)
  • 1 large shallot, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions, for garnish (about 2 large)
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 to 3 large garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
  • 3 oregano, rosemary or sage sprigs
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or water (I used 1 cup chicken stock and 1 cup water)
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, dill or parsley, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1/2 lemon)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 ounces pearl couscous (1 1/2 cups)(I used Trader Joe’s Harvest Brain blend)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups feta, crumbled (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan (1 1/2 ounces)( I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
  2. In a 9×13-inch baking dish, cake pan or gratin dish (I used a ceramic 9×13 baking dish), toss together tomatoes, shallot, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and rosemary, oregano, or sage sprigs. Roast until tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. While tomatoes roast, heat the stock (or stock and water) until it boils, then stir in remaining 1 teaspoon salt, adding more to taste. (You want a well-seasoned broth here to flavor the couscous.)
  4. Stir in cilantro, lemon zest and cumin.
  5. Remove tomatoes from oven and fold in couscous, chickpeas and hot stock mixture. Cover pan tightly with foil, and return to oven for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove foil and fold in the Parmesan and about 3/4ths of the feta (save the rest for garnish). Bake uncovered until feta starts to melt, another 5 minutes.
  7. To serve, pull out and discard herb sprigs if you like, and spoon couscous into bowls. (I served it in the baking dish as a side dish.)
  8. Top with remaining feta, more Parmesan, scallions, more herbs, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as desired.

One-Pot Turkey Chili with Cornmeal Buttermilk Biscuits

We ate this wonderful one-pot dish during the Super Bowl this year. The chili and biscuit dough can be made in advance, even several hours in advance, so it was perfect for the occasion. It also complemented our mandatory game day guacamole.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I modified the proportions to serve 8 people- so that we would have leftovers! 😉 I reheated the chili, topped it with the biscuit dough and placed it in the oven just before serving. Great.

Yield: Serves 8

For the Cornmeal Biscuits:

  • 1 cup/120 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup/92 grams fine yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 8 T/113 grams cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup/177 ml buttermilk or plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
  • milk, more buttermilk, or yogurt, for finishing
  • 3+ tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano, for finishing

For the Turkey Chili:

  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 very large or 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 1-2 jalapeños, seeded (if desired) and diced (I used 1 1/2 jalapeños)
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely grated, passed through a press or minced
  • 1 1/2 T chili powder
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes with juices (I used San Marzano)
  • 3 (15-ounce) cans pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • sour cream or Greek yogurt, for serving, optional
  • sliced or pickled jalapeños, for serving, optional

To Prepare the Biscuit Dough:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda.
  2. Using a pastry cutter (or your hands), cut (or rub) in the butter until mixture resembles rolled oats.
  3. Fold in the buttermilk and scallion slices.
  4. Gently stir mixture until it comes together in a moist, sticky mass. Cover bowl and refrigerate until ready to use. (This can be done a day in advance.)
  5. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.

To Prepare the Turkey Chili:

  1. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until it thins. (I used an enameled cast iron pan. A cast iron skillet would also be great.)
  2. Stir in turkey and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until it’s no longer pink with some browned bits, about 7 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, and add onion and jalapeño, and cook until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in garlic, chili powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, oregano, cumin, and pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer.
  5. Using kitchen shears (or your hands), break up tomatoes and add them, along with the juices, to the pan. (I cut the tomatoes while they are still in the can.)
  6. Add beans and remaining 3/4 teaspoons salt, and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. If the mixture seems very dry, add a few tablespoons water. It should be juicy-looking but not wet.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Divide biscuit dough into 8 equal balls. Use your palm to flatten each ball into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Arrange on top of turkey chili.
  2. Brush biscuits lightly with buttermilk, and sprinkle grated cheese on top.
  3. Transfer skillet to oven and cook until biscuits are golden at the edges, 20 to 30 minutes. (I cooked mine for 22 minutes on convection.)
  4. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional cilantro and scallions, if desired. Serve with sour cream and sliced or pickled jalapeños.

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