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
This dish was the first-runner up for Valentine’s Day dinner. It was a Valentine’s Day bonus that I made it in addition to our celebratory biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie. Right? Why choose when you can have both? 🙂
This recipe was adapted from The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook by Jim Lahey. I increased the amount of vegetables, modified the baking temperature, and incorporated the garlic used to make the garlic oil. We could eat some sort of cheesy, veggie pasta every night of the week. Great!
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
For the Béchamel:
5 T (70 g) unsalted butter
2 T (20 g) all-purpose flour
3 cups (650 g) whole milk
1/4 tsp (2 g) fine sea salt
1/4 tsp (1 g) freshly grated nutmeg
For the Pasta:
2 T (24 g) coarse salt
1 pound (454 g) penne or rigatoni
1 bunch Swiss chard (about 1/2 to 3/4 pound), large stems removed, cut into 1-inch ribbons
1 bunch thin asparagus (about 1/2 to 3/4 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour is a light butterscotch color, about 2 minutes.
Add the milk in a slow, steady stream, whisking continuously to keep lumps from forming.
Continue to whisk and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens and has the consistency of heavy cream.
Pour the sauce into a bowl to cool.
To Finish the Dish:
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil, add the salt, and cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente.
Drain the pasta well and spread it out over the surface of a rimmed baking sheet.
Heat the oven to 475, preferably on convection.
Steam the chard and asparagus for 4 minutes, or until tender. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat, add the garlic, and cook for a minute or so, until it begins to sizzle. Lower the heat and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Brush the inside of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with some of the garlic oil.
In the pot that was used to cook the pasta, combine the cooled pasta, the garlic oil (including the garlic, if desired), the béchamel, half of the grated cheese, the steamed asparagus and chard. Stir until well incorporated.
Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and top with remaining cheese.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pasta begins to brown on top.
I have a few broccoli pasta recipes to share. I’m always buying the 3 pound bag of broccoli florets at Costco when I’m on a break from my CSA vegetables. 😉
This first dish is one of the Most Popular Recipes of 2017 from New York Times Cooking. I’m surprised that I didn’t see it when it was first published- especially because it’s a sheet pan dish! Although it has the ingredients typical of a pasta casserole, more of the broccoli and toppings get crispy by the increased surface area exposed to direct heat by cooking it on a sheet pan.
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I increased the amount of broccoli and used Gigli pasta. We ate it with a huge green salad. Quick, easy, and tasty. It would be even more incredible if it was topped with fresh ricotta. Next time!
Yield: Serves 6
2 ½pounds broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more as needed
½teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
12ounces chiocciole, penne, or other tube-shaped pasta (I used Gigli pasta)
⅓cup grated Parmesan cheese
⅓cup panko bread crumbs
finely grated zest from 1 large lemon
½teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12ounces best quality, whole milk ricotta
fresh lemon juice, for serving (optional)
Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
On a rimmed baking sheet, toss together broccoli, 3 T olive oil, cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes.
Roast until tender and browned at the edges, 18 to 25 minutes, tossing halfway through. Remove from oven and set oven to broil.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
In a small bowl, stir together Parmesan, panko, lemon zest, a pinch of salt and the black pepper.
Toss cooked pasta with broccoli on baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then dollop with ricotta.
Sprinkle with Parmesan mix, drizzle generously with oil, and broil until topping is crisped and golden, 2 to 3 minutes.