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.

Stovetop Meatball Lasagna

This is a crowd-pleasing, lighter, stovetop upgrade to a classic lasagna. It was also less time consuming to prepare. I loved the brightness from the incorporation of fresh herbs.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Shilpa Uskokovic. I modified the method and added garlic. The grated zucchini and panko in the meatballs made them very tender. Fabulous!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 (5 in my house)

  • 1 large zucchini (about 12 oz), finely grated (about 1½ cups)(I used a food processor)
  • 1 1/2 cups panko
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped dill, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz fresh whole milk ricotta
  • finely grated lemon zest from 1/2 a large lemon
  • 10 oz lasagna noodles, broken into 2–3 pieces (do not use oven-ready noodles)(I used DeCecco)
  • grated Parmesan, for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. Using a sturdy wooden spoon or rubber spatula, vigorously stir grated zucchini, panko, oregano, garlic powder, paprika, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, and kosher salt in a large bowl until combined and nearly paste-like. (I grated the zucchini medium-large because I used a food processor.)
  2. Add ground chicken, chopped dill and parsley and mix until fully incorporated (you don’t need to worry about overmixing here; mixture will be soft). (I used a food processor to finely chop the fresh herbs.)
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium to medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  4. Using a 3 tablespoon cookie scoop, portion out half of meat mixture (meatballs don’t need to be perfectly round; rustic-looking is good) and add directly to pot. (I did 2 batches of 8 meatballs.)
  5. Cook, undisturbed, until well browned underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Carefully turn meatballs over and cook until second side is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes (it’s okay if meatballs still look misshapen).
  7. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate.
  8. Pour an additional 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil into pot and repeat process with remaining meat mixture. (the remaining 8 meatballs)
  9. Return all meatballs to pot, the add canned tomatoes with juice, lightly crushing with your hands as you go, sliced garlic and shallot, and remaining 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; season with salt.
  10. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook meatballs and sauce, gently stirring occasionally (it’s okay if meatballs start to fall apart), until sauce is slightly thickened, 15–20 minutes. (After stirring halfway through the cooking time, I reduced the heat to low.)
  11. Meanwhile, whisk together ricotta, grated lemon zest, and a large pinch of salt in small bowl until smooth; set aside.
  12. Cook broken lasagna noodles in large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente, about 3 minutes.
  13. Using tongs, drop noodles into pot with sauce and cook, stirring gently, until sauce coats pasta.
  14. Divide pasta among shallow bowls and spoon dollops of reserved lemony ricotta over each.
  15. Top with dill and grated Parmesan, as desired. 

Do ahead: Meatballs and sauce can be made 3 days ahead; let cool. Transfer to an airtight container; cover and chill. Lemony ricotta can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Raw Zucchini & Chickpea Salad with Tahini Yogurt

I loved everything about this beautiful salad. We ate it with Turkish Grilled Chicken– such a wonderful meal. It was one of the best zucchini dishes I’ve ever made.

This recipe was adapted from Milk Street, contributed by Elizabeth Mindreau. It was re-created from a salad served at Coal Office, a modern Middle Eastern restaurant in London.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • about 3/4 to 1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 T tahini
  • zest from 1 large lemon, plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp plus 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to serve
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 15 1/2 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small shallot, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp za’atar
  • 2 small/medium zucchini (12 to 16 ounces total), quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced on a steep diagonal
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro
  • ground sumac, to serve, optional
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, tahini, lemon zest and juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; set aside.
  2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, stir together the chickpeas, shallot, vinegar and za’atar. Cover and microwave until the shallot is wilted, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Uncover and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. (see Tip)
  3. When the chickpeas have cooled, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the zucchini, mint, dill and cilantro. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer the chickpea-zucchini mixture to a platter, spooning it around the edge.
  5. Scoop the yogurt mixture into a mound in the center of the chickpea-zucchini mixture.
  6. Drizzle with additional oil and sprinkle with sumac, if using.

Tip: Don’t forget to cover the bowl containing the chickpeas and shallots when microwaving. Covering traps steam that helps wilt the shallots and soften the chickpeas. And remember to occasionally stir the chickpea-shallot mixture as it cools. This helps ensure the chickpeas evenly absorb the seasonings pooled at the bottom of the bowl while also hastening the cooling.

Cucumber Caesar Salad with Dill & Crispy-Spicy Panko

This is another flavor-packed adaptation of a classic. It was a wonderful way to enjoy the bounty of delicious summer cucumbers. Although this version is lighter than a classic Caesar, I was initially concerned that the dressing may be too potent. No worries! It was perfect.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Zaynab Issa. I modified the method and proportions, used cucumbers from my CSA share, and used harissa instead of Calabrian chile paste. I loved the generous volume of fresh dill.

We enjoyed it with grilled chicken thighs and and roasted potatoes. Great.

For the Crispy-Spicy Panko Topping:

  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Harissa or Calabrian chile paste (or 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes)
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal)

For the Salad & Assembly:

  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 T anchovy paste or 5 drained oil-packed anchovy fillets, smashed
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt, plus more (or 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal)
  • 5 peeled, halved, and seeded cucumbers or 3 European hothouse cucumbers, cut on a diagonal into 1″ pieces
  • 2 oz Parmesan, shaved (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1 cup dill, chopped

To Make the Crispy-Spicy Panko Topping:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  2. Add the chile paste and stir into the warm oil.
  3. Add panko and salt (and crushed red pepper flakes, if using instead of chile paste) and cook, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are deep golden brown, about 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer spicy breadcrumbs to a shallow bowl; set aside.

Do ahead: Breadcrumbs can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

To Make the Salad & To Assemble:

  1. Whisk garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, anchovies, mustard, and salt in a large bowl to combine.
  2. If using regular cucumbers: peel, slice in half, and seed them. (I used a melon baller to seed them.)
  3. Add the cucumber slices; toss well to coat.
  4. Add shaved Parmesan and top with dill. Gently toss to distribute evenly.
  5. Taste and season with more salt, if needed.
  6. Just before serving, transfer cucumber salad to a platter and spoon reserved spicy breadcrumbs on top. (I reserved some of the breadcrumbs to pass at the table.)

Do ahead: Dressing can be made 3 days ahead; cover and chill. Salad (without breadcrumbs) can be made 3 hours ahead; cover and chill.

Greek Tzatziki

Everyone in my family loves tzatziki. This version incorporates red wine vinegar rather than lemon juice, which is apparently the way it is typically prepared in Greece. I normally use chopped cucumbers but really enjoyed the texture of the grated cucumbers in this dish.

We ate it with warm naan and grillled chicken kebabs. A perfect summer dinner! This recipe was adapted from Milk Street, contributed by Courtney Hill. I modified the proportions. I also prepared the tzatziki in advance and kept it chilled in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Wonderful.

Yield: about 2 cups

  • 1 European seedless cucumber, halved crosswise
  • coarse salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk or low-fat Greek yogurt (I used 2 percent Greek yogurt)(see Tip)
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 medium to large garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1 T chopped fresh mint, plus more for garnish
  • 2 T chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  1. Set a colander in a medium bowl, then set a box grater in the colander.
  2. Grate the cucumber halves on the grater’s large holes, rotating and grating only down to the seedy core. Discard the cores. (Make sure that you don’t shred the cores as the seeds are watery and have a slight bitterness and unappealing texture.)
  3. Sprinkle the shredded cucumber with 1 teaspoon salt and toss. Set aside to drain for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt, oil, garlic, mint, dill and vinegar.
  5. A handful at a time, squeeze the shredded cucumber to remove as much liquid as possible, then set on a cutting board; reserve 1 teaspoons of the cucumber liquid.
  6. Finely chop the squeezed cucumber, then stir into the yogurt mixture.
  7. Stir in the reserved cucumber liquid and 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt.
  8. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with additional mint and dill, as desired.

Tip: Don’t use nonfat Greek yogurt. Without any fat, the flavor of the tzatziki is weak and thin.

Creamy Ricotta & Herb Pasta

This quick summer dish gobbled up the cilantro from my CSA share. The sauce was silky and fresh.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I reduced the oil and modified the method. Next time I may add some lemon zest and/or toasted pine nuts. Easy and delicious!

  • salt
  • 1 pound short pasta, such as shells, cavatappi, chiocciole, farfalle, ditali or wagon wheels (I used cascatelli)
  • about 12 ounces fresh, whole-milk ricotta (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
  • 2 1/2 cups soft herbs, packed, such as cilantro, basil, chives, fennel fronds, parsley, mint, tarragon, chervil or dill (try for a combination of at least 3 kinds), coarsely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • lemon zest, optional
  • handful of toasted pine nuts, optional
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 2 cups pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  2. In the same pot, make the sauce: Add ricotta, Parmesan, olive oil, pepper and a large pinch or two of coarse salt, and stir until well combined.
  3. Add 1 cup pasta water to the sauce and stir until smooth.
  4. Coarsely chop the herbs with a food processor, if desired. (I used 1 cup dill, 1 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1/4 cup basil.)
  5. Add the cooked pasta and herbs, and continue to stir vigorously until the noodles are well coated. Add more pasta water as needed for a smooth, soupy sauce. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  6. Incorporate lemon zest and/or pine nuts, if using.
  7. To serve, spoon the pasta into a serving bowl or individual bowls and finish with more Parmesan, drizzle of olive oil and more pepper, as desired.

Lemony Greek Meatball Soup (Youvarlakia Avgolemono)

My mom and I absolutely love Greek avgolemono soup. Recently, I made this meatball version when she was visiting. Springtime in a bowl! Light, bright and fresh.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used homemade stock and modified the method.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 pound ground chicken, ground turkey, or beef, very cold
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh dill or parsley, plus more for garnish, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated yellow onion (from about 1 small onion)
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot (from about 1 carrot)
  • 1/4 cup uncooked long-grain rice, such as Basmati or Carolina, well rinsed and drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated, pushed through a garlic press, or minced
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 6 cups chicken stock (I used 4 cups homemade turkey stock + 2 cups chicken stock)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
  • freshly grated nutmeg, for serving, optional
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine ground chicken, 1/4 cup dill, onion, carrot, rice, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Gently mix with your hands until well combined.
  2. Gently form the mixture into 24 to 30 meatballs, each about 1 1/4 inches in diameter, placing them on a plate or baking pan. (I used a cookie scoop to evenly ration the meat mixture.)
  3. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes or up to 24 hours. This helps the meatballs keep their shape while cooking.
  4. In a large pot, bring stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium and use a slotted spoon to carefully add meatballs to the pot. The broth should cover the tops of the meatballs by about 1/2 inch. If not, add a little water. Simmer gently, adjusting the heat so the broth doesn’t boil, until meatballs are cooked through and rice is tender, 25 to 35 minutes. (You can break open a meatball to test it.) Remove pot from heat.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and lemon juice until just mixed. Slowly add a ladle of warm broth to egg-lemon mixture, whisking constantly. Whisk in another two ladles of broth to temper the egg mixture.
  6. Slowly drizzle the egg-lemon mixture back into the pot with the meatballs, stirring gently so you don’t break apart the meatballs.
  7. Return the pot to medium-low heat until it just starts to simmer. (Wait for a bubble or two to appear, but don’t let the pot boil.) The broth should be silky.
  8. Remove from heat, stir in remaining 1/2 cup dill. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. (It may need quite a bit of salt if you are starting with unsalted broth.)
  9. Garnish with nutmeg, if you like, and dill, and serve.

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