I love vegetable-loaded comfort food. 🙂 This casserole dish also has farro, a favorite, and cheese, of course. My husband said he would have loved it even without the fresh mozzarella on top! Absolutely delicious.
The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sarah DiGregorio. I doubled the amount of cauliflower, omitted the olives, used Trader Joe’s 10-minute farro, and modified the method and proportions.
We ate the casserole as a main course with garlic bread and green salad. It could also be served as a hearty side dish. The recipe is very adaptable and could be easily modified to incorporate other vegetables.
Yield: Serves 8
For the Farro and Cauliflower:
1 large head of cauliflower, florets and tender stems cut into large bite-sized pieces
8.8 oz bag Trader Joe’s 10-minute farro
1 (28 to 32-ounce) jar good-quality marinara sauce (I used Rao’s)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pitted kalamata or black olives, roughly chopped, optional (I omitted them)
10 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
3 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano (about 3/4 cup finely grated)
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano or dried basil
1 teaspoon balsamic or sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup stock (can substitute water)
2/3 cup water
For the Topping:
1 cup panko
2 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (about 1/2 cup finely grated)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 to 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into rounds (I used 12 slices)
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
In a 9-by-13-inch pan, combine the cauliflower, farro, marinara sauce, olive oil, olives (if using), garlic, grated cheese, onion powder, oregano or basil, vinegar and red-pepper flakes. Season with the salt and a generous amount of black pepper.
Pour in 1 cup stock and 2/3 cups water and stir well to combine. (can substitute with 1 2/3 cups water)
Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, make the topping: Stir together the panko, grated cheese and olive oil.
Uncover the pan and stir.
Evenly cover the top with the panko topping.
Top with the fresh mozzarella rounds.
Continue baking uncovered until the farro is tender and chewy, the sauce is thick, the topping is browned, and the mozzarella has melted, about 10 to 15 minutes more. (I baked it for an additional 12 minutes on convection roast.) (I also put my garlic bread in the same oven at this point!)
In New York, today is a day for cheesy snow-day comfort food.
This dish could be made in a single pot but I must confess that I transferred the pasta to a casserole dish prior to browning it in the oven. This was completely unnecessary but I liked the increased surface area exposed for browning.
The recipe was adapted from Cook’s Country. I modified the method and proportions. I also used crushed tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. We ate it with garlic bread and green salad. Great.
Yield: Serves 8
10 to 11 ounces (about 4 links) sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 2/3 cups water
16 ounces (1 pound) ziti
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) chopped fresh basil (chiffonade)
2 2/3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 1/3 cups), divided (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
11 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
Cook sausage in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, breaking up pieces with spoon, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and their juice, salt, oregano, sugar, and pepper flakes. Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
Stir in water, pasta, and 6 tablespoons chopped basil. Increase heat to high and bring to boil.
Reduce heat to medium and simmer vigorously, uncovered, until pasta is still very firm but just starting to soften, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
Adjust oven rack 8 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. (I set my oven to Broil+Max @450 degrees.)
Remove pot from heat and stir in spinach, half of the mozzarella, and 1 cup grated Parmesan. If using a separate casserole dish, transfer the mixture after incorporating the spinach and cheese. (I placed the casserole dish on a rimmed baking sheet and covered the handles with foil to protect them.)
Dollop surface of pasta evenly with spoonfuls of ricotta.
Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
Broil ziti until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time.
Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.
My kids love the Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese from Trader Joe’s. (It sells out daily- so they are clearly not alone!) This vegetarian comfort food dish seemed reminiscent enough to be a crowd-pleaser. 😉 I liked that it incorporated leafy greens too.
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I modified the method and proportions. I also added a poblano chile, red onion, garlic, and cilantro. Nice.
Yield: Serves 6
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, diced
1 poblano chile, seeded, ribbed, and diced, divided (or 1 jalapeño, sliced into rounds)
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1 pound rigatoni, penne, or other tubular pasta
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano), divided
4 packed cups greens (I used 2 cups turnip greens (sliced into 1-inch ribbons) and 2 cups baby spinach)
8 oz (1/2 pound) fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size chunks
1/3 cup cilantro or flat-leaf parsley and tender stems, roughly chopped, for garnish
Bring a large covered pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until not quite al dente, 3 to 4 minutes less than the package instructions. (It should be a little too firm to the bite.) Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet with high sides and a tight-fitting lid (or a Dutch oven), heat the oil over medium-high until shimmering. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
Add the diced onion and half of the diced poblano chile, season with salt, and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add the sliced garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the cubed squash and season with salt, cumin, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring every minute, until squash becomes browned in spots and feels just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to convection.)
When the squash is just tender, add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Bring to an active simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft and easily mashable, 10 to 12 minutes.
Turn off the heat, then use the back of a wooden spoon to crush about half of the butternut squash and leave the rest chunky. Season the squash to taste, keeping in mind that salty Parmesan will be added soon.
Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with the remaining 1 cup of reserved pasta water and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Stir vigorously to combine.
Stir in the greens one handful at a time until each addition wilts slightly.
Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, the mozzarella, and the remaining diced poblano chile. Place in the oven and cook until the top is melted and browned in spots, 12 to 15 minutes.
I love a dish involving warm dressing and wilted greens. I am also in love with farro- and pesto. This full-flavored vegetarian dish was made for me! Loved it. 🙂
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I used homemade pesto, Campari tomatoes, and several of the modifications and options that were suggested in the original recipe for ingredient substitutions.
It was incredible as a summer dish but could easily be served in any season with all of the possible variations. It can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature. The dish could also be topped with a protein such as grilled chicken, scallops, or shrimp, if desired. We ate it for dinner with roasted CSA vegetables and a green salad. It would also be lovely for a special lunch or brunch. Fabulous.
Yield: Serves 4
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup farro, rinsed (I used Trader Joe’s “10 minute” Farro)
2 pints (4 cups) cherry or grape tomatoes or 2 pounds of Campari tomatoes (12-14 tomatoes)
1 red onion, peeled, quartered and cut into 1-inch wedges keeping the root intact (I cut a large red onion into 8ths)(can substitute shallots)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the farro
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/4 cup (4 T) store-bought or homemade pesto, plus more to taste (recipe below)
2 packed cups baby spinach, arugula, Swiss chard (stemmed & chopped), or baby kale
1 (4 oz) ball fresh mozzarella or burrata, torn into chunks, or 1/2 cup ricotta salata or feta, crumbled, optional (I used 4 oz crumbled feta)
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil leaves and tender stems, chiffonade or roughly chopped, for garnish
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the farro and adjust the heat to maintain a medium boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom, until tender and not too chewy, about 10 to 30 minutes. (I used Trader Joe’s “10-minute” Farro which cooked in 10 minutes)
Meanwhile, on a parchment paper-lined, rimmed sheet pan, combine the tomatoes and onion wedges with the oil, making sure everything is well coated and glistening, then season with salt, pepper and the red-pepper flakes. Roast until the tomatoes blister and slightly deflate, 20 to 30 minutes.
When the farro is done, drain, then pour into a serving bowl or back into the pot. Toss with some olive oil, then mix in the pesto.
Add the lemon zest and juice, then stir in the spinach (or other greens). Set aside to cool slightly.
Scrape the onions, tomatoes and their juices into the farro; season with salt and pepper as needed.
Add the cheese, if using, then garnish with herbs and serve.
For the Pesto: (Makes about 1 cup)
2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
1 large clove garlic
2 T toasted pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
Combine the basil with a pinch of salt, the garlic, the nuts, and about half of the oil in a food processor or blender.
Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary and adding the rest of the oil gradually.
Add more oil if you prefer a thinner mixture. (Sometimes I add a little bit of stock instead to achieve the same result.)
Stir in the cheese.
The pesto recipe is from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. The amounts can be modified to reduce the volume; only 1/4 cup of pesto is used in the farro dish.
This is a variation of one of my favorite quick dishes that also uses store-bought gnocchi as a shortcut. It is less spicy which pleased my husband. 😉 The cheesiness of this version definitely made it a crowd-pleaser.
The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. It was the perfect dinner to make and serve after making cupcakes all afternoon with my daughter. Fast and fabulous.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
2 (12- to 18-ounce) packages shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi (I used Trader Joe’s)
1/4 cup (4 T) unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
8 to 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups (2 pints) small tomatoes, such as cherry, grape or Sungold
4 to 6 T thinly sliced (chiffonade) or torn basil leaves, plus more for serving
8 to 9 ounces (8 slices) fresh mozzarella, cut or torn into 1/2-inch pieces
Heat the broiler with a rack about 6 inches from the heat source.
In a large (12-inch) skillet on the stovetop, heat enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan (about 1 tablespoon) over medium-high. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
Add half the gnocchi to the pan, breaking up any that are stuck together. Cover with a lid or baking sheet and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on one side, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.
Repeat with the remaining gnocchi and olive oil.
Add the butter to the skillet and cook over medium-high, stirring often, until golden-brown and toasty, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the garlic, red-pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper, reducing the heat slightly if necessary to avoid scorching.
Add the tomatoes and 3 tablespoons water and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the tomatoes have softened and the liquid has slightly thickened, 4 to 6 minutes. Smash the tomatoes as they burst to help them along.
Add the seared gnocchi and basil, stir to coat, then shake into an even layer.
Top with the mozzarella and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Broil until the cheese is melted and browned in spots, 2 to 4 minutes. (I set my oven to 500 degrees Broil+Max.)
Top with more basil, red-pepper flakes, and black pepper as desired.
Inspired by pizza she loved on a tropical vacation many years ago, my daughter has been eating corn on her pizza for nearly 10 years. Apparently she is ahead of her time! We were so happy to see that Bon Appétit realized that this delicious pizza topping was worthy of their publication. 🙂
I loved that this pizza recipe used creamed corn instead of tomato sauce- it brought our usual “corn pizza” to the next level. It was also a sheet pan “Grandma” pie which is a family favorite. Lastly, it can be made with fresh or frozen corn. Perfect.
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Kay Chun. I used a homemade sourdough pizza crust instead of store-bought. I also used fresh mozzarella, frozen white corn, Campari tomatoes, and more garlic. I modified the method and baked the sheet pan on a pizza stone positioned on the lowest oven rack. Great.
Yield: One Grandma Pie (half-sheet pan)
For the Pizza Dough:
1 cup (241g) sourdough starter, unfed/discard
1/2 cup (113g) warm water (plus 2 tsp water- if using whole wheat flour)
1 1/4 cups (150g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups (141g) white whole wheat flour (can substitute and additional 1 1/4 cups/150g all-purpose flour)
1 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh corn (from about 2 medium ears) or thawed frozen corn, divided
2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 oz sliced pepperoni (more or less, as desired)
8 to 9 oz Campari tomatoes (sliced 1/4-inch thick) or cherry tomatoes (halved, about 1 1/3 cups)
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese
fresh basil (or oregano) leaves, sliced, for serving
To Make the Dough:
Stir any liquid on top of your refrigerated starter back into it before measuring 1 cup (241g) into a large mixing bowl. Note: This is a good opportunity to feed the remainder of your starter, if necessary.
Add the warm water, flours, salt, and yeast. Mix to combine, then knead for about 7 minutes in a mixer with the dough hook, until the dough wraps itself around the hook and cleans the side of the bowl.
Place the dough in a greased container, cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk. Depending on the vitality of your starter, this will take between 2 and 4 hours. For a faster rise, place the dough in a warm spot, or double the yeast. (I placed my dough in a warming drawer and it doubled in about 2 hours.)
Towards the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 500°F. (I heat a baking stone positioned on the lowest rack of the oven.)
Oil an 18″ x 13″ half-sheet pan or coat with cooking oil spray.
Place the dough in the pan and press it out to the edges, again giving it a 15-minute rest before continuing if it starts to snap back. After this rest, gently press the dough toward the edges of the pans. (If it starts to shrink back, cover and let rest for 15 minutes before continuing.)
Cover the pan and let the dough rise until it’s as thick as you like. (It will rise quite a bit in 30 minutes. I just let it rest while preparing the sauce and toppings.)
While the dough is rising, make the sauce.
To Make the Sauce, Toppings, & Bake the Pizza:
If using Campari tomatoes, slice and season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Let sit to remove excess moisture.
Process the Parmesan, ricotta, cream, garlic, salt, pepper, 3/4 cup corn, and 2 T oil in a food processor until mostly smooth (mixture will still have some texture). (I used a mini-food processor.)
Scrape creamed corn into a small bowl; stir in 1/4 cup corn.
Spread creamed corn over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
Top with pepperoni, then tomatoes and remaining 1/2 cup corn.
Tear the fresh mozzarella and distribute the pieces evenly over the crust.
Bake until crust is golden underneath and cooked through and the cheese is lightly browned, about 18 to 20 minutes.
Top with a drizzle of oil and sliced basil (or oregano) leaves.
Note: The creamed corn mixture can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.
WOW. This was amazing. We are battling over the leftovers. 😉
This version of this classic Italian casserole is from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. I added garlic and basil to the tomato sauce and modified the proportions. I found it interesting that breading the eggplant is an Americanized method used to prepare this dish. Hazan only coats the salted and dried eggplant slices with flour prior to frying them.
We ate it with pasta on the side but crusty bread would also be wonderful. Cheesy and delicious.
Yield: Serves 6
3 to 3 1/2 pounds eggplant (I used 4 small organic eggplants)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced, optional
28 oz can canned whole imported Italian plum tomatoes with juice (such as San Marzano), crushed by hand or coarsely chopped
3/4 to 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, preferably buffalo-milk mozzarella (I used cow-milk mozzarella)
vegetable oil, for frying (I used canola oil)
all-purpose flour spread on a plate or glass pie dish
8 to 10 fresh basil leaves plus 1 sprig for the sauce plus chopped leaves for garnish
an oven-to-table baking dish, approximately 11 inches by 7 inches or its equivalent (I used a 2-quart baking dish)
unsalted butter or cooking oil spray for the pan
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
crusty bread or pasta, for serving, optional (I used 1/2 pound penne)
Cut the green, spiky top off each eggplant and peel it. Cut each eggplant lengthwise into slices about 3/8-inch thick.
Stand one layer of slices upright against the inside of a pasta colander and sprinkle with salt.
Stand another layer of slices against it, sprinkle with salt, and repeat the procedure until you have salted all the eggplant you are working with. Place a deep dish under the colander or place the colander in a large bowl to collect the drippings and let the eggplant steep under salt for 30 minutes or more. (This process is important in order to remove excess moisture from the eggplant.)
Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a pot, turn the heat on to medium, add sliced garlic, if using. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add tomatoes (with juice), basil sprig, and salt; stir, and cooking the tomatoes down until thickened, about 15 minutes.
While the sauce is cooking, thinly slice the mozzarella.
Before cooking, pat each slice of eggplant thoroughly dry with paper towels. (I placed all of the eggplant slices in 3 layers (one for each layer of casserole) between slices of paper towels to dry.)
In a large frying pan, pour enough oil into it to come 1 to 1 1/2 inches up the sides, and turn the heat up to medium-high to high. (I used 45 to 50 oz of canola oil in a 12-inch sauté pan.)
Working a few slices at a time, with the eggplant thoroughly dried with paper towels, dredge the slices in the flour, coating them on both sides. (Do only a few slices at a time at the moment you are ready to fry them, otherwise the flour coating will become soggy.)
After coating with flour, fry the eggplant, by slipping as many slices into the pan as will fit loosely without overlapping. Cook to a golden brown color on one side, then turn them and do the other side. Do not turn them more than once. When both sides are done, use a slotted spoon, tongs, or spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack placed over a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet to drain or to a platter lined with paper towels.
Repeat the procedure until all the eggplant is done. If you find the oil becoming too hot, reduce the heat slightly, but do not add more oil to the pan.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. (I set my oven to convection.)
Wash the basil leaves, and tear each leaf into two or more pieces.
Smear the bottom and sides of the baking dish with butter or coat with cooking oil spray.
Put in enough fried eggplant slices to line the bottom of the dish (about 1/3)(the original recipe recommends placing them in a single layer but I used overlapped slices).
Spread some of the cooked tomato over the first layer of eggplant slices (about 1/3), cover with a layer of mozzarella (about 1/2), sprinkle liberally with grated Parmesan (about 1/3), distribute a few pieces of basil over it (about 1/2), and top with another layer of fried eggplant (another 1/3).
Repeat the procedure in step 16, ending with a layer of eggplant on top. (3 layers of eggplant with sauce and 2 layers of cheese with basil)
Sprinkle the top layer of eggplant slices with remaining sauce topped with remaining grated Parmesan (about 1/3), and place the dish in the upper third of the preheated oven.
Occasionally eggplant Parmesan throws off more liquid as it bakes than you want in the pan. Check after it has been in the oven for 20 minutes by pressing down the layered eggplant with the back of a spoon, and draw off any excess liquid you may find.
Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, and after taking it out allow it to settle for several minutes before bringing it to the table.
Garnish with additional fresh basil, as desired.
Note: Eggplant Parmesan tastes best shortly after it has been made, but if you must, you can complete it from several hours to 2 or 3 days in advance. Refrigerate under plastic wrap when cool. Warm it up on the top-most rack of a preheated 400°F oven.