White Lasagna with Asparagus, Spinach & Peas

This meatless lasagna was described as a showcase of spring vegetables. The filling was full of asparagus, peas, fresh herbs, greens, and leeks. It was loaded with cheese too, of course. 🙂

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used no-boil noodles. I prepared it the day it was served but it could be prepared up to two days ahead. It can be assembled ahead of time and baked before serving or baked in advance and reheated before serving. Clark notes that the lasagna is easier to slice if it is baked and then reheated.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the BĂ©chamel:

  • 4 T unsalted butter (plus additional butter or cooking spray for greasing the pan)
  • 1/3 cup (5 T) all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk, plus more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely grated or minced (I used a garlic press)

For the Filling:

  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), ends trimmed, cut into 3/4-inch pieces if thin or 1/2-inch pieces if fat
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (no need to thaw)
  • 1 cup combination of soft herbs (parsley, chives, basil, dill), finely chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced into half moons and cleaned
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces baby spinach or baby greens, like kale or arugula (about 8 cups), chopped if large
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 32 ounces whole-milk ricotta (about 4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
  • 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 12 ounces dried lasagna noodles (about 12 noodles), or substitute the same amount of no-boil, oven-ready or fresh noodles; all will work
  • 8 ounces whole-milk mozzarella, thinly sliced or torn into pieces

To Prepare the BĂ©chamel:

  1. In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat.
  2. Once melted, add flour and whisk until combined. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until pale golden.
  3. Slowly whisk in the milk, a little at a time, so that the sauce does not clump.
  4. Add the salt, nutmeg and bay leaf. Gently bring to a simmer and let cook for 9 to 12 minutes, whisking often, until the béchamel is thick but still pourable.
  5. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan and grated garlic, and taste, adding more salt if needed. (I used coarse salt.)

To Prepare the Filling & Complete the Dish:

  1. Place a 12-inch skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Let it heat until it thins out, about 30 seconds, then add the asparagus and sauté, shaking the pan, until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Season asparagus with salt and pepper, then transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the frozen peas and 2 tablespoons mixed soft herbs.
  3. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan and heat until the oil thins out, about 30 seconds, then add the leeks, fennel seeds, red-pepper flakes and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Sauté leeks until tender and golden at the edges, 4 to 6 minutes.
  4. Add the spinach and remaining herbs, working in batches if needed, and sauté until the greens are very tender and the pan is very dry, about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in lemon zest and juice. Taste and add more salt if needed. It should be well seasoned.
  6. Add leek-spinach-herb mixture to a large bowl. Stir in ricotta and 3/4 cup each Parmesan and pecorino (save remaining Parmesan for the top). Taste and add more salt if needed.
  7. Heat oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to true convection.) Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray or a little butter.
  8. Remove bay leaf from béchamel, then ladle some of the sauce into the bottom of the baking pan until just covered.
  9. Place as many noodles as will fit on top of the béchamel, breaking or cutting them to fit in one layer.
  10. Ladle a little more béchamel on top of the noodles, covering the surface.
  11. Add half of the ricotta-leek-spinach-herb mixture, spreading evenly, then sprinkle half of the asparagus-pea mixture on top.
  12. Add another layer of noodles, then béchamel, then the remaining ricotta mixture, then the remaining asparagus-pea mixture.
  13. Top with the sliced mozzarella.
  14. Add a third and final layer of noodles (don’t worry if you don’t end up using all of the noodles) and cover with remaining bĂ©chamel.
  15. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan.
  16. Cover the pan with parchment paper and then foil; place on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips.
  17. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove parchment and foil. Rotate the pan.
  18. Bake for another 30 minutes on convection or up to 40 minutes in a standard oven, or until golden brown and bubbling on top. Rotate the pan for even browning, if necessary. (If the top is still pale, you can run the lasagna under the broiler for 1 to 3 minutes.)
  19. Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

One-Pot Chicken & Biscuits

I have another tasty cast iron skillet dish to share. I made this one-pot (skillet) chicken pot pie for our Valentine’s Day dinner. ❀

This recipe was adapted from epicurious.com, contributed by Sahara Henry-Bohoskey. I loved how the biscuit topping was crumbled and scattered over the top. The filling bubbled over and oozed over the sides of the pan- I was very happy that I placed the skillet on a baking sheet in the oven! Next time I would garnish each serving with fresh herbs to add a pop of color.

The original recipe notes that 1/4 cup of aged cheddar or one teaspoon of dried thyme, parsley, or rosemary could be added to the biscuit topping, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings

For the Biscuit Topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt
  • 6 T chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 T heavy cream

For the Filling & To Assemble:

  • 1 T vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1 1/4 to 1 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 4 or 5)
  • 1 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more
  • 2 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 small or 1/2 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium carrot, scrubbed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium (5–8 oz) waxy potato (such as red), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, any leaves coarsely chopped and reserved, cut on a diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock or water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • flaky sea salt
  • fresh parsley, for garnish, optional

To Make the Biscuit Topping:

  1. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl to combine.
  2. Add chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces, and toss to coat.
  3. Work in butter with your fingers or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Add heavy cream and stir with a fork until a shaggy dough forms and no dry bits of flour remain.
  5. Chill 20 minutes. Do ahead: Dough can be made 2 days ahead. Cover tightly and keep chilled.

To Make the Filling & To Assemble:

  1. Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 450°. (I set my oven to true convection.)
  2. Heat oil in a 10″ cast-iron skillet over medium-high.
  3. Pat the chicken with paper towels to dry. Season both sides with salt.
  4. Arrange chicken thighs in pan in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown underneath, 5–7 minutes. Turn over and cook until almost cooked through, about 4 minutes. (Chicken will finish cooking through in the oven.)
  5. Transfer to a cutting board; let cool slightly, then cut into 1-inch pieces. Reserve any accumulated liquid.
  6. Reduce heat to medium and melt butter in pan (no need to clean).
  7. Add chopped onion, carrot, and salt; stir to coat. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.
  8. Add chopped potato, celery, garlic, thyme, pepper, and remaining tablespoon of unsalted butter. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  9. Add flour and stir to coat vegetables. Cook, stirring often, until flour coating is golden and nutty-smelling, about 3 minutes.
  10. Add white wine, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Bring to a boil and cook until wine is reduced by half, about 1 minute.
  11. Add chicken stock or water and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and cook until mixture is thickened a bit, about 4 to 6 minutes.
  12. Uncover pan and stir chicken and any accumulated juices, coarsely chopped celery leaves (if using), heavy cream, and peas into filling.
  13. Taste and season with more kosher salt if needed.
  14. Scatter pieces of dough over filling. Brush with cream and season with pepper and flaky sea salt.
  15. Place skillet on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips and transfer to oven.
  16. Bake until biscuits are golden brown and filling is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.
  17. Let cool slightly before serving. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Warm Seven-Layer Skillet Dip

I planned our Super Bowl menu around this dip. Thankfully, it was very well received! I served it in the skillet and we scooped it out onto individual plates to gobble up with tortilla chips. Some chips may have also been dipped directly into the pan. 😉

The recipe was adapted from a Bon AppĂ©tit “healthyish” recipe, contributed by Shilpa Uskokovic. The original recipe convinced me to use American cheese slices in the queso layer to help it emulsify and to keep the cheese layer from solidifying.

We ate it as our Super Bowl appetizer followed by Poblano, Black Bean & Cheese Enchiladas with rice and refried beans, Trader Joe’s Elote chopped salad, followed by Churro Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting for dessert. Great.

Yield: 8 Servings

For the Beans:

  • 4 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 2 (15 oz) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 T Diamond Crystal or 1 3/4 tsp Morton kosher salt
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar

For the Queso & Assembly:

  • 2 tsp adobo from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp Diamond Crystal or Morton kosher salt, plus more
  • 4 oz yellow American cheese, coarsely grated or chopped or torn if using singles (about 1 cup) (I used 6 Trader Joe’s singles)
  • 3 oz Monterey Jack or pepper Jack cheese, coarsely grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 ripe avocados, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • freshly squeezed juice from half a lime
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup good-quality salsa, drained if watery (I used Trader Joe’s Garlic Chipotle salsa)
  • 1 (4 oz) can fire-roasted, diced green chilies or 1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeños
  • 4 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup (packed) coarsely chopped cilantro
  • tortilla chips, for serving

To Make the Beans:

  1. Melt the butter, cut into pieces, in a medium deep skillet over medium heat. (I used a 10-inch cast iron skillet.)
  2. Add the chopped onion, stirring often, until tender and translucent, about 8 minutes. Monitor the heaat, and continue to cook, stirring often, until onion is pale golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes more.
  3. With the pan over medium heat, and add the chopped garlic cloves and cumin. Cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add chopped chipotle chiles, pinto beans, rinsed, and salt. Pour in 1 cup water and bring to a simmer, mashing beans with a potato masher until mostly smooth.
  5. Cook, stirring often, until most of liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. (Beans should be risotto-like in consistency, loose enough to fall off a spoon.)
  6. Remove from heat and stir in apple cider vinegar. Cover and keep warm.

To Make the Queso & To Assemble the Dip:

  1. Whisk adobo, cumin, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Add chopped/grated American cheese and cook, whisking vigorously, just until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.
  3. Remove from heat and add grated Monterey Jack; whisk until cheese is melted and queso is smooth (return to low heat briefly if needed). (I cooked it over low for about 2 minutes to melt the additional cheese.)
  4. Using your hands to avoid bruising, toss the avocados pieces with lime juice and a large pinch of salt in a medium bowl.
  5. Uncover beans and pour queso over.
  6. Top with dollops of sour cream, followed by salsa, diced chilies, and then avocados.
  7. Scatter sliced scallions and chopped cilantro over the top.
  8. Serve dip warm in skillet with tortilla chips.

Do ahead: Beans can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat over medium-low, thinning with water and seasoning with salt as needed.

One-Pot Sticky Coconut Chicken & Rice

I have a couple more chicken and rice dishes to share. 🙂

This wonderful one-pot dish was included in The New York Times’ Best Recipes of 2022. I was surprised that I missed it when it was first published!

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Kay Chun. I modified the proportions. I cooked it in a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Although it cooked perfectly, I may use a shallow and wide pan next time to be able to serve it directly from the pan at the table. We ate it with roasted cauliflower on the side.

Flavorful and fabulous comfort food! Easy to prepare too. The hot sauce garnish balances the richness of the finished dish.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each thigh cut into 2 equal-size pieces, patted dry
  • 5 T neutral oil, such as safflower or canola, divided
  • 3 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or 1 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt)
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T minced fresh ginger
  • 7 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (or other short-grain white rice), rinsed until water runs clear
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews
  • 4 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced
  • 3 T coarsely chopped cilantro
  • hot sauce, for serving, optional
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. (I set my oven to true convection.)
  2. Rub chicken with 2 tablespoons of oil, and season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
  3. In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium. Working in two batches, brown chicken, turning halfway, until no longer pink, around 5 minutes on the first side and an additional 3 minutes after flipping. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the ginger and the garlic to the empty pot, and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  5. Add rinsed rice and stir until evenly coated in the oil.
  6. Add stock, coconut milk, bell pepper, cashews, scallions and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir to lift up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. (I had a lot of browned bits!)
  7. Arrange chicken on top, add any accumulated juices from the plate and bring to a boil over high.
  8. Cover and bake until all of the liquid is absorbed, rice is tender and chicken is cooked through, 25 minutes.
  9. Scatter cilantro over the chicken and rice, then divide among bowls. Serve with hot sauce, as desired.

Ottolenghi’s Butternut Squash Lasagna Pie

This special pie was the perfect way to use my CSA butternut squash and the very last leaves of my homegrown basil. The incorporation of cumin and coriander seeds gave it a unique flavor profile. Fancy comfort food. 🙂

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yotam Ottolenghi. Lovely.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

For the Pie:

  • 4 T olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan (I used cooking oil spray on the pan)
  • 10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 T cumin seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1 T coriander seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 tsp Aleppo chile flakes
  • 1 (9 to 12-ounce) jar red peppers, drained
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, halved, deseeded and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices (I used a mandoline to slice the squash)
  • 8 ounces dried lasagna noodles, each roughly broken into 3 or 4 pieces (I used oven-ready no-boil lasagna)
  • 7 ounces baby spinach (10 lightly packed cups)
  • 1 packed cup basil leaves, torn in halves
  • 1 cup crumbled Greek feta
  • heaping 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

For the BĂ©chamel:

  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 5 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, plus more if needed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Grease a 9-inch springform cake pan then line it with a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the base and hang over the sides by a couple inches. (I used cooking oil spray.) Place pan on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
  3. Add the oil to a small frying pan and heat over medium. Once it’s hot, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring until fragrant but not browned.
  4. Add the tomato paste, cumin, coriander and chile flakes and cook for 1 minute more, stirring often, until deeply red. Set aside to cool slightly.
  5. Add tomato paste mixture to a small food processor with the red peppers, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper; blitz until smooth. (I did this in 2 batches.)
  6. Empty the mixture into a very large bowl and add the squash slices, lasagna pieces, spinach, basil, feta, Parmesan, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and a good grind of pepper. Use your hands to make sure everything is nicely coated.
  7. Transfer this mixture to your lined cake pan, adding a third at a time and pressing lightly to ensure everything is even and compact.
  8. Using heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap the cake pan all around until tightly sealed, place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.
  9. Toward the last 15 minutes of baking time, make the béchamel: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking steadily, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it starts to smell like popcorn.
  10. Slowly pour in the milk 1/2 cup at a time, whisking with each addition until fully incorporated.
  11. Add the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Use a spatula to stir and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to ensure the bottom doesn’t scorch, until nice and smooth.
  12. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan. *If the pie isn’t done, cover the top with a piece of parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming. The bĂ©chamel is easier to handle when warm; if needed, reheat gently with a splash of milk to loosen.*
  13. After the pie has cooked for 1 hour, remove it from the oven and carefully unwrap the top foil and paper, crinkling it down and around the sides of the pan to expose the top.
  14. Spoon the béchamel on top, using a spatula to distribute it evenly over the surface. (Take care not to mix it with the base; you want the béchamel to remain white.)
  15. Turn the oven temperature up to 450 degrees, preferably on convection, and place the cake pan back on its baking sheet and bake for another 10 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until nicely browned on top.
  16. Set aside to cool for at least 15 minutes.
  17. Carefully release the pie from the springform pan, loosening the outer ring then using the parchment to help lift it onto a serving plate or board. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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 1Âœ 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 GruyĂšre 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.

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