Dirt Candy’s Zucchini & Pasta Noodles with Garlicky Yogurt Sauce

I celebrated a milestone birthday earlier this summer. Part of my birthday celebration was inspired by this dish. 🙂

The James Beard-nominated chef and owner of Dirt Candy in NYC, Amanda Cohen, was featured on Sara Moulton’s PBS series. She prepared a cocktail along with this zucchini dish from her menu. Dirt Candy is a very unique vegetarian restaurant and I knew the only way I could get my entire family to dine there was for a birthday meal. We went for a birthday brunch celebration and then spent the day enjoying NYC.

Cohen explained that although she is not a vegetarian, she feels that a chef can be much more innovative when creating dishes without being limited by simply pairing sides with a protein. The brunch menu included a mushroom coffee cake on our visit. My son ate the whole thing! Our favorite dish was the Brussels sprout tacos, served with lettuce wraps and a platter of small bowls of topping choices. Delicious. We finished our meal with cucumber sorbet topped with a birthday candle. 🙂

The zucchini pasta recipe was adapted from Sara Moulton.com. I modified the proportions and the method. The saffron made the dish exceptional. I also made homemade Greek yogurt labneh to incorporate into the dish. The labneh recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious.com, contributed by Tom Scherlitz.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

To Make Greek Yogurt Labneh: (Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 2 cups plain 2% Greek yogurt
  • cheesecloth
  1. Line a large sieve with cheesecloth; set over a medium deep bowl.
  2. Place yogurt in sieve. Gather edges of cheesecloth to cover yogurt. Place in refrigerator and let drain for 2-3 days. (I let it drain for 48 hours.
  3. Gently squeeze out any excess liquid; discard liquid in bowl (yogurt will be very thick and resemble soft goat cheese).

For the Zucchini Pasta Dish:

  • 2 to 3 medium zucchini or 4 cups baby zucchini (I used 2 1/2 medium zucchini)
  • 6 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • pinch of saffron
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups labneh, recipe above
  • 1 to 2 pounds zucchini spiral noodles
  • 8 to 12 oz angel hair pasta
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chiffonade basil or mint
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup squash blossoms sliced thinly, optional
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. If using medium zucchini, slice in half and then into 1/4″ half moons. If using the baby zucchini , cut into rounds.
  2. Toss the cut zucchini with 4 T of the olive oil.
  3. Grill over high heat until the zucchini has developed char marks, about 3-4 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the angel hair pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 2 cups of pasta water.
  5. In a pan over medium heat add the remaining 2 T of olive oil, saffron and the garlic. Once the garlic becomes fragrant, about 1 minute, turn the heat to low and add the labneh and 1 cup of the reserved pasta water.
  6. Stir slowly, incorporating everything together.
  7. Toss the sauce with the zucchini noodles, the angel hair pasta, the herbs, the lemon juice, and the lemon zest.
  8. Adjust seasonings and then divide between 4 bowls.
  9. Sprinkle each bowl with the squash blossom ribbons, if using, as well as minced herbs, as desired.

Pasta with Sausage, Basil, & Mustard

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mom’s out there! ❤ I have a moment to share a recipe with you while my husband is making our celebratory pancake breakfast. 🙂

This is another dish from Food and Wine magazine’s 40th Anniversary Special Edition titled “Our 40 Best-Ever Recipes.” I’ve already made it twice because my son is obsessed! 😉

The recipe for this quick, easy and very tasty dish was adapted from British cookbook author Nigel Slater. I used a combination of sweet and hot Italian sausages. Fabulous!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the sausage meat and brown over moderately high heat, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cream, mustard and crushed red pepper and simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the pasta and basil and toss to coat. Serve at once.

Chicken Paprikash with Buttered Egg Noodles

I have another saucy chicken dish to share. 🙂 My husband has very fond memories of eating Chicken Paprikash during his childhood, so I jumped at trying this version. The cream perfectly balances the spice in the sauce. It’s a great comfort food dish.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, increased the garlic, and used crème fraîche instead of sour cream in the sauce. I also incorporated some smoked paprika. We ate it with roasted asparagus on the side.

  • ½ cup sour cream, crème fraîche, or Greek yogurt, at room temperature
  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large yellow or sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 16-ounces (2 cups) canned crushed tomatoes (from a 28 oz can)
  • 12 ounces egg noodles
  • ½ cup parsley leaves with tender stems, finely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 300°, preferably on convection. (I roasted the asparagus first and then reduced the temperature.)
  2. Take creme fraiche (or sour cream or yogurt) out of fridge—it needs to come to room temperature.
  3. Place chicken thighs on a plate and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Peel and chop the onion. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of your knife and peel.
  5. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high. Add 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil, swirl to melt.
  6. Using tongs, add chicken “skin side” down and cook, lifting up thighs once or twice to let rendered hot fat run underneath, until golden brown and crisp, 6-7 minutes. Transfer chicken skin side up to a plate.
  7. Reduce heat to low. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often to dissolve browned bits on bottom of skillet, until onions are translucent, 6–8 minutes.
  8. Add paprika and cayenne. Cook, stirring constantly, just until onions are evenly coated and spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds (the spices burn very easily, turning them bitter and chalky, so make sure to keep them moving in skillet and have can of tomatoes close at hand).
  9. Add tomatoes to skillet. Add 3/4 cup water and add to skillet. Stir until incorporated, season with several pinches of salt, and bring to a simmer.
  10. Using tongs, arrange thighs skin side up back in skillet (along with any accumulated juices), nestling into liquid but not submerging (you want the “skin side” to be exposed so it stays crispy).
  11. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until chicken is fully cooked and tender enough to release from the bone when prodded with a fork, 15-20 minutes, or until center of thickest part of the meat reaches 165 degrees.
  12. About halfway through chicken cook time in the oven, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook according to package instructions, stirring occasionally with tongs. Drain noodles in a colander.
  13. Transfer noodles to a large bowl, add remaining 2 T butter, and toss to coat until butter is melted and noodles are coated. Season with salt and pepper.
  14. Add half of the finely chopped parsley to noodles; toss to coat.
  15. Carefully remove skillet from oven (handle will be hot!). Using tongs, transfer chicken skin side up to a clean plate.
  16. Taste sauce and season with more salt and pepper, if needed.
  17. Spoon about ¼ cup sauce into a small bowl and stir in creme fraiche (sour cream or yogurt) until smooth (this slowly brings up the temperature of the sour cream so it doesn’t split when it hits the hot skillet). Pour back into skillet and stir to combine.
  18. Arrange chicken thighs and juices back in skillet and top with remaining chopped parsley. Serve over noodles. (I arranged the chicken and sauce over the noodles in a serving bowl and garnished with parsley.)

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.

Greek One-Pan Pasta

I have one more Greek dish to share- for now. 🙂 I incorporated rotisserie chicken meat to make this a super-fast weeknight dish. The dill and lemon zest make it reminiscent of avgolemono. Cooking the pasta in chicken stock gives it wonderful flavor and adds creaminess to the finished dish.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I modified the proportions. Easy and great! We ate it warm but it would also be delicious served cold or at room temperature as a pasta salad.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound fusilli
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • finely grated lemon zest, from one lemon (reserve some for garnish)
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds shredded rotisserie chicken meat
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  1. Combine stock, pasta, oil, lemon zest, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1 3/4 cups water in a large straight-sided skillet. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, 9 minutes.
  3. Season chicken with salt and pepper; add to skillet. Continue to cook, stirring, until pasta is al dente and chicken is cooked through, about 2-3 minutes more.
  4. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice and dill. Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired.
  5. Serve immediately, topped with more lemon zest and dill, and a generous drizzle of oil.

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.

One-Pan Bucatini with Peas, Baby Greens & Pancetta

The first time I made a one-pan pasta dish, I was skeptical about the results. Now I know that this technique is absolute genius. Cooking the pasta in the pan results in fabulously creamy sauce. The bonus is the ease of producing a great dish with minimal cleanup.

This recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s book, Cook It in Your Dutch Oven, via Cups and Spoonfuls.com. I literally started making the dish within an hour of reading the post. 🙂 It’s a perfect quick dinner made with pantry items- all in a single pot. Great!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 ½ ounce of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, about ¾ cup, divided
  • extra virgin olive oil, for toasting the bread crumbs
  • freshly grated zest from one lemon, divided
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 slices of thick-cut bacon or 2 ounces of pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 ½ cups water, more as needed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 12 oz (3/4 pound) bucatini
  • 5 ounces of mixed baby greens (baby chard, kale, & spinach), about 5 cups
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  1. Toast breadcrumbs in a small skillet with a bit of olive oil until golden brown.
  2. Next, mix together toasted breadcrumbs, ¼ cup of Parmesan, 1/2 of the lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon of coarse salt, and ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  3. Cook bacon or pancetta in your Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 4 to 6 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove and place on a plate lined with a paper towel.  Set aside until ready to serve pasta.
  4. Add garlic and remaining lemon zest to Dutch oven and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so.
  5. Add wine, scraping any browned bits and cook until the wine is almost evaporated, about 4-5 minutes.
  6. Add water and stock and bring to a boil.
  7. Stir in pasta and return to a strong simmer.  Cook pasta, stirring often until the pasta is tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  8. Add greens and peas.  Stir and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes.
  9. Add remaining Parmesan and stir until pasta is creamy and completely coated about 30 seconds.
  10. Add extra hot water if pasta seems too dry.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve and sprinkle each serving with crispy pancetta and lemon panko breadcrumbs.

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