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 béchamel.
  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.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Chili Crisp & Spinach

This is another rich pasta dish incorporating chili crisp. I must confess that my family preferred this one. My husband even declared that this dish was “restaurant quality.” 🙂

I added one tablespoon of chili crisp fearing that it would be too spicy otherwise, but, as the cream offset the heat, I think it could easily have incorporated the full amount for my crowd. Every brand varies in spiciness, so it is important to taste it and adjust the amount to your spice-tolerance.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Genevieve Ko. I used unsalted butter and added salt. I also included more spinach. Quick and delicious.

Yield: 6 servings

  • salt
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 1 to 2 T chili crisp, plus more to taste and for serving (I used Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp)(see Tip)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound dried fettuccine
  • 1 (6-ounce) package baby spinach
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan (2 1/4 ounces), plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. While the water heats, melt the butter with the chili crisp and a pinch or two of coarse salt in a very large skillet or Dutch oven over low heat. (Add chili crisp 1 tablespoon at a time.) (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Whisk in the cream; taste and adjust heat, if desired, by adding more chili crisp. Keep warm over low. (It should steam, not bubble.)
  4. Cook the fettuccine until al dente according to the package directions. Use tongs to transfer the noodles to the cream mixture, reserving the pasta water.
  5. Add the spinach and turn with tongs until the noodles are well coated.
  6. Add the Parmesan and toss, still over low heat, until the noodles are slicked with a creamy sauce, adding a spoonful or two of pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce.
  7. Place in a serving bowl or divide among serving dishes; top with Parmesan.
  8. Serve immediately. Additional chili crisp can be provided at the table, if desired.

Tip: For this dish, try to add more of the solids than the oil to the sauce for the most flavorful dish.

Pork & Asparagus Soba Noodles with Tahini-Chili Crisp Sauce

I have two recipes that incorporate chili crisp to share. This saucy dish was subtly spicy and very creamy from the tahini. It had a deep sesame flavor. Next time, I may add a bit more soy sauce and rice vinegar to the sauce.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Kendra Vaculin. It was a perfect springtime meal.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 5 T (1/3 cup) chili crisp
  • 5 T (1/3 cup) tahini
  • 3 T soy sauce, plus more, to taste
  • 3 T unseasoned rice vinegar, plus more, to taste
  • 12 to 12.8 oz dried soba noodles
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 T vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • thinly sliced scallions and/or cilantro, for serving
  • 1/2 T to 1 T sesame seeds, toasted, for serving
  1. Whisk chili crisp, tahini, soy sauce, and rice vinegar in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired. Set sauce aside.
  2. Toast sesame seeds in a 350 degree oven until fragrant and lightly browned, stirring once or twice, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Cook soba noodles in a large pot of boiling water until almost cooked, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add asparagus pieces; cook until noodles are al dente and asparagus is crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
  5. Rinse noodles and asparagus under cool running water; reserve pot.
  6. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high.
  7. Cook ground pork in an even layer, undisturbed, until browned, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, about 3 minutes. (Use a splatter screen!)
  8. Add reserved sauce and cook, scraping up browned bits, 1 minute.
  9. Transfer pork mixture, noodles, and asparagus to reserved pot. Add 2/3 cup cooking liquid; cook over medium heat, stirring gently with spoon and adding more cooking liquid if needed, until noodles and meat are well coated, about 2 minutes.
  10. Serve topped with thinly sliced scallions, cilantro (if using), and toasted sesame seeds.

Peruvian Stir-Fried Chicken & Noodles (TallarĂ­n Saltado)

This chicken and noodle stir-fry dish, tallarĂ­n saltado, is a classic Peruvian dish. According to Milk Street, simple stir-fry dishes like this are a staple of the Chinese-influenced cuisine known as chifa. Chifa cuisine combines South American and East Asian flavors and ingredients.

This recipe was adapted from Milk Street, contributed by Malcolm Jackson. Jackson uses balsamic vinegar in place of the more traditional red wine vinegar and substitutes a jalapeño or Fresno chile for the ají amarillo chile that would be used in Peru. The dish was fresh, fast and fabulous. We loved it!

We ate the stir-fry with roasted broccoli- a strange combination- but it was ultimately a nice compliment. 🙂

Yield: Serves 6

  • 12 ounces spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 T oyster sauce
  • 3 T light soy sauce
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar
  • 4 T grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5), trimmed and cut into 3/4 strips
  • 1 large red onion, halved and sliced into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 6-7 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1 Fresno or jalapeño chile, stemmed, halved, and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime, plus wedges to serve
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
  1. In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Meanwhile, prep all remaining ingredients.
  2. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt to the boiling water; cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain. (I cooked my pasta for 5 minutes.)
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the oyster sauce, soy sauce and vinegar; set aside.
  4. In a 14-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. (I used a stainless steel skillet.)
  5. Add the chicken, onion, and garlic, distributing the ingredients evenly, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, without stirring, until the chicken is well browned on the bottom and releases easily from the pan, about 4 to 5 minutes. (See Tip)
  6. Add the oyster sauce mixture and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until the sauce is syrupy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Add the bell pepper and chile; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add the pasta and stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and cook, tossing constantly, until the noodles are al dente, 2 to 3 minutes.
  9. Off heat, stir in the lime juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Place half of the stir-fry in a serving bowl and sprinkle with half of the cilantro. Repeat with the remaining stir-fry and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges on the side, as desired.

Tip: Don’t stir the chicken too soon after adding it to the skillet. Left undisturbed, it forms a fond, or browned bits that stick to the skillet. The dish’s flavor develops when the oyster sauce mixture deglazes that fond. After adding the pasta water, stir vigorously; this helps the sauce come together.

Gnocchi Scampi

This is a quick and delicious- lemony and garlicky- one-pan dish. I now realize that I prefer pan-seared gnocchi over boiled. It was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Great.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet, modified the method, and doubled the garlic. It was a perfect meal served with a big green salad. We didn’t have any leftovers!

Yield: Serves 3 to 4

  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
  • 1 pound gnocchi (fresh, frozen or shelf-stable) (I used Trader Joe’s shelf-stable)
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 4 to 8 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
  • 1/2 cup cup dry white wine, clam juice, or stock (I used chicken stock)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
  • 1 pound large or extra-large shrimp, shelled (I used tail-on 21-25 count)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped (about 1/2 cup chopped)
  1. In a large, preferably nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  2. Add gnocchi to the pan, breaking up any that are stuck together. Cook for 8 to 12 minutes, tossing every 1 to 2 minutes, so they get golden and crispy all over. Transfer to a bowl or plate. (I reduced the heat to medium half-way through this step.)
  3. In the same skillet over medium-high, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and all of the butter, letting it melt for a few seconds.
  4. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  5. Add wine/stock/clam juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and all of the red-pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, and let the liquid reduce by half, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add shrimp and sauté until they just start to turn pink, 2 to 3 minutes, depending on their size.
  7. Return gnocchi to the pan and add another 1/4 teaspoon salt. Using a Microplane or other fine grater, quickly grate the zest from the lemon into the pan.
  8. Add chopped parsley, tossing well. If your pan looks dry, add a splash of water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing to combine, then remove pan from the heat. (I didn’t have to add any additional liquid.)
  9. Cut the zested lemon in half and squeeze in the juice from one half, gently tossing to combine. Taste and add more salt if you like. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges for serving.
  10. Drizzle with more olive oil and more red-pepper flakes, if desired, and serve with lemon wedges on the side.

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 béchamel 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.

One-Pot Stovetop Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

This fall, I was completely inundated with butternut squash in my CSA share. Initially, I made our family favorite butternut squash recipes including Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto and Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta– yum. I also have several new ones to share!

The recipe for this one-pot comfort food dish was adapted from Food52.com, contributed by Jesse Szewczyk. The sauce was super creamy and subtly sweet from the squash.

Decadent and delicious- an upgrade to the classic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 4 cups (about 1 pound) peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh sage leaves (from about 12 leaves)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups warm water, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 12-ounce can) full-fat evaporated milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 pound dried pasta, such as medium-sized shells or elbow macaroni (I used rigatoni)
  • 12 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar, grated (about 3 cups)
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, grated (about 2/3 cup), plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • toasted breadcrumbs, for topping prior to serving, optional
  1. Peel, seed, and cut the squash into 1/2-inch cubes.
  2. Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  3. Add the squash and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until tender enough to smash with a spatula without much resistance and beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. Add the rosemary, sage, and garlic and cook, stirring often, just until the garlic is aromatic and no longer raw, about 1 minute.
  5. Increase the heat to high and add the warm water, evaporated milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. (The pasta won’t be completely covered by the liquid.)
  6. Boil over medium (even reducing to medium-low if necessary) heat, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente and about two-thirds of the liquid has evaporated, 12 to 14 minutes (al dente). If at any point the liquid evaporates before the pasta is tender, add additional warm water (1/2 cup at a time- did once after 12 min) and continue cooking.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat and add both cheeses. Stir until the cheese is completely melted and has emulsified into a creamy sauce.
  8. Let the pasta sit for 10 minutes. (This is necessary to allow the sauce to thicken.) If the sauce becomes too thick, adjust the consistency by adding additional warm water 1/4 cup at a time.
  9. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper and serve immediately with more black pepper and parmesan, if desired.
  10. Top with toasted breadcrumbs, if desired.

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