Shortcut Baked Rigatoni with Meatballs

There are so many end-of-the-school-year parties this time of year. A great time to share a crowd-pleasing casserole! I brought this baked pasta dish to my son’s pre-County Championship Swim Meet pasta dinner. I was thrilled when my friend’s husband asked for the recipe. ūüôā

This recipe was adapted from such a fun book- Mad Genius Tips: Over 90 Expert Hacks + 100 Delicious Recipes by Justin Chapple and the Editors of Food and Wine. I love Chapple’s column in the printed magazine and knew I would enjoy this book as well. The pasta and the meatballs cook in the oven. Truly genius!

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed basil, torn or chiffonade, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ziti,¬†rigatoni,¬†rotini, fusilli, shells, or campanelle pasta
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 28 oz (about 3 cups) prepared marinara sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread crumbs, eggs, 1/3 cup torn basil, 1/4 cup of Parmesan and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper; mix well.
  3. Using a cookie scoop, form the meat mixture into one-inch balls.
  4. In a 9-by-13-inch ceramic baking dish, spread half of the pasta in an even layer.
  5. Arrange half of the meatballs (about 16) and mozzarella on the pasta.
  6. Spoon half of the marinara on top and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  7. Repeat with the remaining pasta, meatballs, cheese, and marinara. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  8. Place baking dish on a rimmed cookie sheet. Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil.
  9. Bake for about 1 hour, until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  10. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes longer, until lightly browned.
  11. Let stand for 5 minutes. Garnish with basil and parmesan and serve.

Make Ahead: The baked pasta can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently.

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Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Skillet

Somehow, we seem to always have a conflict with a having timely Cinco de Mayo feast. This year, my son has his Swim Club Dinner Dance (at an Italian restaurant, by the way), so, we had our feast early. This way, there is also time to have a second feast. Good planning, right?

This quick and easy, crowd-pleasing dish was perfect for our early Cinco de Mayo celebration. It would be perfect for a Mexican-inspired weeknight meal any other day of the year too. We enjoyed it with chips and guacamole, of course. ūüėČ

This recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com, contributed by Anna Stockwell. I reduced the oven temperature, and increased the proportions as well as the pan size. Great.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Total Time: 30 minutes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola¬†oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 ¬†teaspoons kosher salt
  • 24 oz (1 1/2 jars) medium red salsa (I used Trader Joe’s Garlic Chipotle Salsa)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 6 corn tortillas, torn into quarters
  • 6 cups shredded cooked chicken (from 1 rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 to 2 cans (15.5-ounce each) black beans, drained, rinsed (I used 1 1/2 cans)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • cilantro, for garnish, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 425¬įF, preferably on convection.
  2. Combine salsa, sour cream, and 6 T water in a large bowl; stir to combine. Fold in tortillas, chicken, and beans until thoroughly coated.
  3. Heat oil in a 12″ ovenproof skillet over medium. (I used cast iron.)
  4. Add onion, garlic, cumin, and salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer onion mixture to the chicken and bean mixture; reserve hot skillet. Fold to incorporate evenly.
  6. Return mixture to reserved skillet and transfer to preheated oven until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Mixture should be bubbling on the edges.
  7. Remove skillet from the oven. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the top.
  8. Return skillet to oven and bake until cheese is lightly browned, melted and bubbling, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  9. Top with cilantro, if desired.

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Roasted Chicken Thighs over Herbed Pea & Spinach Puree

Another green sauce! The last one, for now… ūüôā

This is a wonderful, quick and healthy dish. As a sauce fan, I loved the idea of serving the roasted chicken over a colorful and tasty vegetable purée.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in, and reduced the oven temperature to accommodate roasting potatoes and asparagus simultaneously. I also incorporated pan drippings into the vegetable puree. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
  • coarse¬†salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, divided, and 1 T¬†fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving, optional
  • 3 T freshly grated Pecorino Romano, divided
  • 3 T¬† extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup (packed)¬†baby spinach
  • 10 boneless, skinless¬†chicken thighs
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, on convection roast.

  2. Cook peas in a small pot of boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain; transfer to a food processor.

  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon juice, 1 tablespoon cheese, and 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper; process until texture is similar to hummus. Add cilantro and 1 packed cup spinach; puree.

  4. Pat chicken dry; season with salt and pepper.

  5. Stir together remaining 2 tablespoons cheese and 1/2 teaspoon zest.

  6. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add chicken; cook until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Spoon off fat and incorporate into puree, to taste. Discard excess fat left in the pan.

  7. Flip chicken and sprinkle with cheese mixture. Transfer to oven; roast until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

  8. Serve chicken over puree, with lemon wedges, if desired.

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Sheet Pan Chicken & Mushrooms with Parsley Sauce

This dish was a quick and special weeknight meal. The parsley sauce really made the dish fabulous. I loved the roasted lemon slices as well. We ate it with roasted potatoes and asparagus on the side. Eating it with a green salad and quinoa, suggested by the author, would also be lovely.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by cookbook author Julia Turshen. I increased the amount of chicken, mushrooms, and garlic. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2¬†pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs‚Ä© (I used 10 thighs)
  • coarse¬†salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (for each sheet pan) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds (24 oz) mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake and cremini, stemmed and halved if large
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced, plus slices for garnish
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley, plus more for garnish, as desired
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  1. Preheat the oven to 450¬į, preferably on convection roast, and place a large rimmed baking sheet in the oven to heat. (I used 2 sheet pans but may try to use only one next time.)
  2. Season the chicken generously 
on both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil onto each hot baking sheet.
  4. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the hot sheet and roast for about 5 minutes, until the chicken begins to brown.
  5. In a medium bowl, toss the mushrooms and lemon slices with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
  6. Remove sheet pan(s) from the oven and flip the chicken thighs.
  7. Carefully scatter the mushrooms and lemon slices 
evenly around the chicken.
  8. Return the sheet pan(s) to the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan(s) halfway through, until the mushrooms 
and lemon are browned and the chicken is cooked through.
  9. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil with the 1/2 cup of parsley, the vinegar and garlic. Season the sauce with salt.
  10. Transfer the chicken, mushrooms and lemon slices to a platter.
  11. Drizzle with some of the sauce and garnish with lemon and parsley. Serve, passing the remaining sauce at the table.

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Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

My entire family really looks forward to our Mardi Gras dinner. In all honesty, it’s because the meal is topped off with our traditional freshly-baked King Cake. Just writing about it makes me want some. ūüôā

I typically make a Cajun main dish- usually shrimp jambalaya. This chicken and sausage version was incredible. My mother-in-law had just given us tons of fabulous Polish kielbasa as well. I was happy that my husband agreed to “sacrifice” it for our special dinner as it really added to the finished dish.¬†This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Ian Knauer.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 10 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
  • coarse¬†salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 10-12 ounces Andouille sausage or kielbasa, sliced
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6-10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes in juice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup long grain white rice (I used Basmati)
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves
  1. Season the chicken with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper.
  2. In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium high heat until hot. Brown the chicken, turning once, until golden, about 6 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  3. Add the sausage to the pot and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the plate with the chicken.
  4. Stir the onions, belly peppers, celery, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper into the pot.
  5. Cook vegetables, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 8 minutes.
  6. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves and cayenne and continue to cook until golden, about 6 minutes.
  7. Stir in the tomatoes, rice, water reserved chicken and reserved sausage along with any accumulated juices and bring to a boil.
  8. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  9. Season the jambalaya with salt and pepper to taste, then sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

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Swedish Meatloaf with Caramelized Cabbage (Kalpudding)

I planned to make this Swedish dish after spending the afternoon at IKEA. ūüôā I knew that we could buy the lingonberry preserves for the topping during our shopping spree too.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sam Sifton. I used a combination of ground pork and ground turkey instead of ground beef. Next time I would double the sauce- loved it. Sifton recommended serving it with boiled potatoes. We ate it with mashed new potatoes (my husband’s request) and roasted asparagus. It was such wonderful comfort food. Great.

Yield: 6 servings

For the Meatloaf:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 head green cabbage, approximately 3 pounds, cored and shredded
  • 3 tablespoons molasses or golden syrup
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • ‚Öď cup chicken, turkey, beef or vegetable stock, ideally homemade or low-sodium store-bought (or water)

For the Sauce:

  • ‚Öď cup lingonberry preserves
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • dash of¬†Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
  1. Shred the cabbage in a food processor.
  2. Heat oven to 350, preferably on convection.
  3. Put a large pan over medium-high heat, and add the butter. When it starts to foam, add the cabbage and molasses, lower the heat to medium and sprinkle with salt. Cook slowly, stirring often, until all the liquid has evaporated and the cabbage is caramelized, approximately 20-25 minutes.
  4. While the cabbage is cooking, lightly mix the meats in a large bowl, then add the onion, cream, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Mix again to combine.
  5. When the cabbage is done, add about a third of it to the meat mixture, and mix to combine.
  6. Grease an 8-inch-square or 8 x 10-inch baking pan, and transfer the meat mixture to it, spreading it out to cover the whole surface evenly.
  7. Spread remaining cabbage over the meat, pour the stock or water over the top and place in the oven, on a parchment-lined baking sheet, to cook for approximately 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cabbage is very, very caramelized, almost dry and crunchy at the edges.
  8. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes or so before serving.
  9. While the meat and cabbage cooks, make the sauce. Heat lingonberry preserves, vinegar and butter in a small pot set over medium heat, then add Worcestershire sauce to taste. Serve alongside the kalpudding.

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Chicken Stew with Biscuits

Chicken Stew with Biscuits or Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuits… whatever you want to call it- It’s classic comfort food. This version was the runner-up dish for our Valentine’s Day dinner this year. I suppose we had two Valentine’s day dinners (plus leftovers!). Lots of love in my house. ‚̧

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten, via Barefoot Contessa.com. We ate it with a green salad. I modified the recipe to use rotisserie chicken meat, reduced the butter, and incorporated homemade turkey stock. I also steamed the carrots and heated the stock in the microwave and used a food processor to make the biscuit dough.

I made the stew and biscuit dough a day ahead and refrigerated them separately. The day I was ready to serve the dish, I warmed the stew for 1 hour at room temperature, re-heated in the oven for 30+ minutes, and then topped with the pre-cut raw biscuit dough and continued to bake for approximately one half hour. Perfect.

For the Stew:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • coarse¬†salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes (I used Trader Joe’s liquid concentrate chicken broth.)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 large¬†yellow onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 carrots, medium-diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen pearl¬†onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley, optional

For the Biscuits:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse¬†salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.
  3. Steam the diced carrots with 2 tablespoons of water in the microwave for 2 minutes.
  4. In a microwave safe bowl, preferably with a spout, heat the chicken stock in the microwave until hot. Remove and incorporate the concentrated stock. (Alternatively, the stock can be warmed in a separate pot on the stove.)
  5. In a large pot or Dutch oven (I used enameled cast iron), melt the butter and sauté the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent.
  6. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
  7. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick.
  8. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream.
  9. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions, and parsley, if using. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, as needed.
  10. Place the stew in a 10 x 13 x 2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes.
  12. Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor or an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  13. Add the butter and pulse (or mix on low-speed) until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and pulse (or combine on low-speed) until the dough just comes together. Mix in the parsley, if using.
  14. Dump the dough out on a well-floured piece of parchment-paper. Using your hands, pat out to 3/8 inch thick. Cut out twelve circles with a 2-1/2 inch round cutter. Only re-form the dough once.
  15. Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling.
  16. Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven.
  17. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.

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