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
For the Simple Tomato Sauce:
6 T extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon red Chile flakes, optional
3 (28-ounce) cans whole or diced plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
3 sprigs basil or 1 bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Parmesan rind, optional
In a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. (I used an enameled cast iron pot with a glass lid.)
Add garlic and cook until just lightly golden.
Add chile flakes if desired and cook 30 seconds.
Stir in tomatoes and juices, basil or bay leaf, and salt and pepper.
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.
Remove sauce from heat and discard basil or bay leaf.
For the Cauliflower & To Finish the Dish:
3/4cup all-purpose flour
4large eggs, lightly beaten
3cups 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)
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)
Preheat the oven to 375°F preferably on convection roast.
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.)
Brush them generously with the olive oil on both sides, using all of the oil.
Sprinkle with the oregano (I crush it in my hands), 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.
Roast for 25 minutes, rotating after 15 minutes.
Sprinkle the garlic evenly over the vegetables, and roast for another 5 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through.
Remove all 3 trays from the oven and lower the temperature to 350°F, preferably on convection.
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.
Spread 1 cup of the marinara in a 9×13×2-inch baking dish.
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.
Repeat twice, starting with the marinara.
Spread the last 1 1/2 cups of marinara on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan.
Place the dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake an additional 30-35 minutes, until the lasagna is browned and bubbly.
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.
I am in love with kabocha squash- it is just so creamy and sweet. This dish may be the ultimate autumn casserole. It was a little bit involved to prepare but the results were worth every minute.
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I slightly modified the proportions and method. Fabulous!
4 to 6 servings
1 small to medium kabocha squash
7 large garlic cloves
3 6-inch-long rosemary sprigs
½ cup heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch Tuscan kale (I used a 10 oz bag), ribs removed and torn into 1-2″ pieces (about 8 cups)
2 medium shallots
1 pound fresh pork sausage, such as sweet Italian (about 4 links)
2 cups crumbled cornbread, from a 6×4 inch piece
2 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
Bake cornbread. (I used Trader Joe’s Cornbread Mix.) Set aside to cool.
Position a rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection.
Cut off stem end of kabocha squash and rest on cut side. Cut squash in half. Scoop out seeds and stringy innards with a spoon; discard. Cut squash into 1″-thick slices. Using your knife, slice off the tough peel and layer of light green flesh beneath.
Smash the garlic cloves with the side of the knife and remove peel.
Combine squash, garlic, rosemary sprigs, heavy cream, and ¼ cup water in a medium saucepan. Season generously with salt and pepper and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Cover pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer until squash is tender and easily mashes when pressed with the back of a spoon, 20-25 minutes.
Meanwhile, grasp stem end of each kale leaf. Starting at stem, slide your other hand along length of leaf to strip leaves. Repeat with entire bunch; discard stems. Tear leaves into 1″–2″ pieces (you should have about 8 cups).
Peel 2 shallots and thinly slice crosswise.
Use the tip of your knife to prick the sausages all over in several places.
Crumble cornbread into coarse crumbs (you should have about 2 cups).
When squash is tender, remove saucepan from heat. Uncover and pluck out rosemary sprigs, leaving leaves inside pot. Transfer entire mixture to a medium bowl (reserve saucepan) and mash with the back of a spoon or a potato masher until no distinct pieces of squash remain. Season with salt and pepper.
Wipe out pot with paper towels and heat over medium. Add butter and heat until melted. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes.
Add kale to the pot, a couple of handfuls at a time, stirring to wilt between each batch, and cook until leaves are dark green and wilted, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
Transfer to kale to the bowl with squash, then fold to incorporate.
Heat the olive oil in the same saucepan over medium and add sausage. Cook, turning once, until browned on both sides (they won’t be cooked through), about 6 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and let cool for a few minutes (reserve saucepan again and do not pour out fat from sausages–you’re going to use it one more time).
Meanwhile, using a rubber spatula, scrape squash and kale mixture into a shallow 2-qt. baking dish and smooth top. (I coated the baking dish with cooking oil spray.)
Cut sausages crosswise into 2″ pieces and nestle into top of squash mixture, spacing evenly.
Heat the drippings remaining in the saucepan over medium and add cornbread crumbs. Cook, stirring, just until crumbs are evenly coated in fat. Scatter cornbread crumbs over squash mixture; season with more salt and pepper.
Bake gratin until crumbs are toasty and brown and sausages are cooked through (you can insert an instant-read thermometer into center of sausage to check if registers 140°, or just cut into one with a knife), about 15 minutes.
This dish could or should be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen called the dish “pizza beans” to make it more appealing to her kids- so I did the same. 😉 She also had the genius suggestion of serving it with garlic bread, giving it even more appeal. Perelman described it as “a mash-up of a giant-beans-in-tomato-sauce dish from Greece and American-style baked ziti, with beans instead of noodles.” Heaven!
My husband and I enjoyed this dish very much. We are already big fans of Greek Gigante beans, by the way. 🙂 With the name “pizza beans,” my kids were expecting pizza, but the flavors in the dish were more like minestrone soup. It may have been more well-received if I had simply called it by the original title, Tomato & Gigante Bean Bake. 😉
This dish would also be wonderful as a cold-weather comfort food casserole. The recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites by Deb Perelman, via smitten kitchen.com. I used a pressure cooker to cook the dried beans, incorporated the pressure cooker bean liquid as well as beet greens, and increased the amount of garlic. I plan to make it again in the winter and give it a different title. I’m sure it will be more well-received. It will be served with garlic bread, of course.
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large or 2 regular carrots, diced
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
To use a Pressure Cooker to “Soak” the Beans: Place 12 cups of water, 3 tsp of coarse salt and the dried beans in a pressure cooker. Raise to high pressure (2nd ring) for 2 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans.
Cook the Beans in a Pressure Cooker: Place the drained beans with 9 cups of fresh water in the pressure cooker. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Cook on low (1st ring) for 3 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans reserving the bean liquid.
Heat the oven to 475 degrees, preferably on convection.
In a 2 1/2-to-3-quart (ideally oven-safe) deep sauté pan, braiser, or shallow Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Season well with salt and black or red pepper. Cook, sautéing, until the vegetables brown lightly, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more.
Add the wine, if using, to scrape up any stuck bits, then simmer until it disappears, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the kale/greens, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until collapsed, then add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
Add the beans, and, if the mixture looks too dry or thick (canned tomatoes range quite a bit in juiciness), add up to 3/4 cup broth/bean liquid, 1/4 cup at a time.
Simmer the mixture together over medium for about 10 minutes, adjusting the seasonings as needed.
If your pan isn’t ovenproof, transfer the mixture to a 3-quart baking dish.
Sprinkle the beans first with the mozzarella, then the Parmesan, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on top. If you’re impatient and want a deeper color, you can run it under the broiler.
Finish with parsley, if desired. Serve with garlic bread.
I was immediately drawn to the photo of this dish when I first spotted it in Bon Appétit magazine because it looked incredibly saucy. Maybe my expectations were too high regarding the amount of sauce, but next time I may even make 1.5 times the amount. It’s all about the sauce! 🙂
This classic marinara sauce was described as “the little black dress of Italian-American cooking.” This version, as well as the stuffed shells recipe, is from Palizzi Social Club in Philadelphia, PA, via Bon Appétit. The magazine rated it one of the Best New Restaurants in America in 2017 (#4). Quite an endorsement!
Yield: 8 servings
For the Classic Marinara Sauce:
¼ cup olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 sprigs basil
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano tomatoes)
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat oil in a medium heavy pot over medium. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until very soft, 8–10 minutes.
Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 5 minutes; stir in basil.
Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you go; season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
Reduce heat; simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick, about 1 hour.
Season with salt and pepper. Let cool.
Note: Sauce can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill, or freeze up to 3 months.
To Complete the Dish:
12 ounces jumbo pasta shells
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
2 cups whole-milk fresh ricotta
3 ounces Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving
dried oregano and olive oil, for serving, as desired
Preheat oven to 375°, preferably on convection.
Cook shells in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente; drain. (I cooked mine for 9 minutes.) Run under cold water to stop the cooking and drain again. Place noodles on a rimmed baking sheet.
Lightly whisk egg yolks and egg in a large bowl.
Stir in ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, and 1½ cups mozzarella; season with salt and pepper.
Transfer filling to a large resealable plastic bag.
Spread 1½ cups marinara sauce in a 13×9″ baking dish.
Snip off 1 end of plastic bag and, working one at a time, squeeze filling into shells. I returned them to the rimmed baking sheet to make sure the filling was evenly distributed before placing the shells into the baking dish.
Arranging the filled shells in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.
Top with remaining 1½ cups marinara sauce and remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella.
Cover pan tightly with foil and bake shells until sauce is bubbling throughout, 35–40 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes.
Carefully move rack to top of oven and heat broiler.
Uncover pasta and broil until lightly browned on top, about 2 minutes.
Sprinkle with oregano and more Parmesan and drizzle with oil, if desired.
Note: Pasta can be baked 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat, covered, at 375°.
I have a couple family friendly comfort food pasta casseroles to share. In my house, this type of dish always seems to be the perfect meal in cold weather.
We recently enjoyed this one on a snowy evening- eating by candlelight. I thanked my lucky stars that it had finished baking before our power went out… hence the candlelight! 😉
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I used diced tomatoes and substituted fontina for provolone. I suppose half and half could be substituted for some (or all) of the heavy cream, but I went for the full indulgence on this (dark and cold) occasion.
1 pound pasta, such as medium shell or tube pasta (I used Capunti pasta)
room-temperature butter or nonstick cooking oil spray (for pan)
fresh herbs such as thyme, basil, or parsley, for garnish, optional
Preheat oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until about halfway cooked (it needs to be very firm at this stage so that it doesn’t overcook when baked). Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid, and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well.
Combine mozzarella, fontina, cheddar, Parmesan, cream, diced tomatoes, and reserved ½ cup pasta cooking liquid in a large bowl; mix to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Add cauliflower and cooked pasta and toss to coat.
Grease a 3-qt. or 13x9x2″ baking dish with butter or cooking oil spray.
Scrape in pasta mixture and spread out into an even layer.
Cover dish tightly with foil and bake pasta until hot throughout and steaming when foil is lifted, 20–25 minutes.
Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 425◦, preferably on convection.
Continue to bake pasta until sauce is bubbling and top is browned and crunchy in spots, 20–30 minutes.
Let cool slightly before serving. Garnish with fresh herbs, as desired.
Note: Pasta can be assembled 2 days ahead. Cover and chill until ready to bake.
The plus side (supposedly!) of the original recipe for this dish from Martha Stewart was that it was a vegetarian casserole without cheese. After seeing an adaptation on Kirkley Crossing, I added fresh mozzarella. Cheese makes everything better! I added fresh spinach too.
I made the polenta but did use jarred marinara as a shortcut. We enjoyed it with a green salad. Cheesy vegetarian casseroles are perfect comfort food in cold weather!
Yield: Serves 6
For the Polenta:
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup polenta or coarse yellow cornmeal (not quick cooking)
Mix one cup of liquid with the cornmeal and stir. This prevents the cornmeal from lumping when added to the boiling liquid.
Bring the remaining stock to a boil in a 3 or 4 quart sauce pot and add the salt and pepper.
To the boiling stock, pour the cornmeal slurry in a steady stream, stirring constantly until completely added.
Simmer over low heat, stirring often, until done, about 30 to 40 minutes. When done, polenta will pull away from the sides of the pot and will be soft in texture.
Remove the pot from the heat and finish as desired. Adjust the consistency with additional stock or water, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Pour onto a greased half-sheet pan and refrigerated until cool and firm. (I coated the sheet pan with cooking oil spray.)
For the Layered Eggplant & Polenta Casserole:
24 oz jar (3 cups) marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Italian Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine- delicious!)
1 batch Polenta (recipe above)
2 large handfuls organic baby spinach, coarsely chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil, or more if necessary
1 medium eggplant, preferably organic, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds