Baked Rigatoni with Cheddar & Broccoli Rabe

I love a cheesy baked pasta loaded with greens. 🙂 This one was bursting with broccoli rabe (of which I am a huge fan) but it could have easily incorporated broccoli, baby broccolini, or other greens such as collards, spinach, and/or kale instead. We ate it with garlic bread and green salad. Great.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Alison Roman. I was a little bit concerned about the spice level after adding an entire teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, but the finished result was perfect. I baked the casserole in a Dutch oven and the cheesy bread crumb topping formed an incredible crispy crust over the entire top. I may consider adding garlic next time, but it was amazing without it!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 lb rigatoni, ziti, or fusilli
  • 8 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
  • minced garlic, optional
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe or 3 bunches baby broccolini, trimmed, coarsely chopped (I cut the stems into 2-inch pieces and the leaves into 3-inch pieces)(see alternate green vegetable alternatives above)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 12 oz sharp white cheddar, coarsely grated (about 3 cups), divided (I used 10 oz extra-sharp white cheddar and 2 oz white Beecher’s Flagship Handmade Cheese)
  • 1 bunch chives, chopped, divided (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs or panko (I used a blend of the two)
  1. Preheat oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a generous amount of salt. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking together, until just barely al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat 5 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  4. Add leeks and season with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened (but not so much that they don’t have any texture left) and starting to brown, 5–10 minutes.
  5. Add red pepper flakes and garlic, if using, to leeks and stir to incorporate.
  6. Add broccoli rabe by the handful, stirring to combine and allowing each addition to wilt before adding more.
  7. Season with salt and black pepper.
  8. Once all of the broccoli rabe has been added, cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside.
  9. Add pasta to reserved broccoli rabe mixture along with cream, three-quarters of the cheese, 2/3 of the chopped chives, and reserved pasta cooking liquid; mix well. Season with salt and black pepper and add more red pepper flakes if you prefer more heat (keep in mind that the saltiness and spiciness will increase as the pasta bakes).(I didn’t add any additional heat.)
  10. Transfer pasta to a 3-qt. baking dish (or, if your Dutch oven is ovenproof, just leave it in there). (I scraped down the sides of my Dutch oven and kept the mixture in it to bake- less dishes!)
  11. Toss breadcrumbs and remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium bowl until coated; season with salt and black pepper.
  12. Scatter breadcrumbs over pasta, then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese.
  13. Bake until pasta is bubbling across the entire surface and breadcrumbs are deep golden brown, 22 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  14. Scatter remaining chives over pasta just before serving.

Orecchiette with Swiss Chard, Basil, & Burrata

This wonderful dish was lemony and rich with burrata. I must confess that the “burrata hack” I shared in my last post was not a true match to the real thing. :/

This recipe was adapted from Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating by Gail Simmons with Mindy Fox. I increased the garlic and decreased (gasp!) the burrata.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound dried orecchiette (can substitute fusilli, cavatelli, gemelli, or conchiglie)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 4 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound (about 1 large or 2 small bunches) Swiss chard, leaves sliced into 2-inch pieces, ribs and stems thinly sliced crosswise
  • freshly grated zest from 3-4 lemons
  • 3 T fresh lemon juice
  • 3 T freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 8 oz burrata cheese
  • 1/2 cup torn or sliced basil leaves
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  1. In a large saucepan of well-salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted.
  3. Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and 3/4 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant and golden, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add half of the chard leaves and stems and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the greens are wilted.
  5. Add the remaining chard leaves and stems, the lemon zest, and the lemon juice. Cook, stirring, until all of the chard is just wilted. Remove the pan from the heat.
  6. Reserving 1 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot.
  7. Add the chard to the pasta along with the reserved pasta water; cook over medium heat, stirring, for 30 seconds.
  8. Adjust the seasoning, to taste.
  9. Place in a serving dish and stir in the Parmesan cheese.
  10. Cut the burrata into chunks.
  11. Top the pasta with the burrata and sprinkle with the basil leaves. Additional lemon zest can be added as well, if desired. Serve.

Greek One-Pan Pasta

I have one more Greek dish to share- for now. 🙂 I incorporated rotisserie chicken meat to make this a super-fast weeknight dish. The dill and lemon zest make it reminiscent of avgolemono. Cooking the pasta in chicken stock gives it wonderful flavor and adds creaminess to the finished dish.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I modified the proportions. Easy and great! We ate it warm but it would also be delicious served cold or at room temperature as a pasta salad.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound fusilli
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • finely grated lemon zest, from one lemon (reserve some for garnish)
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds shredded rotisserie chicken meat
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  1. Combine stock, pasta, oil, lemon zest, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1 3/4 cups water in a large straight-sided skillet. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, 9 minutes.
  3. Season chicken with salt and pepper; add to skillet. Continue to cook, stirring, until pasta is al dente and chicken is cooked through, about 2-3 minutes more.
  4. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice and dill. Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired.
  5. Serve immediately, topped with more lemon zest and dill, and a generous drizzle of oil.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Spinach, Peas, & Pine Nuts

IMG_9456

Every summer we drive out to Montauk to spend the day with my friend and her family when they camp by the ocean for a week at Hither Hills State Park. She and her husband are such wonderful hosts. The amount of food they prepare is amazing!! This year I brought this flavorful pasta salad and oatmeal raisin cookies to contribute. Little did I know, her husband isn’t a pesto fan. 😦 I couldn’t believe it- so unfortunate. My friend was happy that I brought a pesto dish because she doesn’t serve it and she loves it- thank goodness! (her husband did enjoy the cookies…)

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties!: Ideas and Recipes for Easy Parties that are Really Fun by Ina Garten. I reduced the amount of olive oil, mayonnaise, and Parmesan to lighten it a little. The spinach and lemon juice help to maintain the pesto’s green color. Tasty!

For the Pesto:

  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pignolis ( pine nuts)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic (I used 9 large cloves)
  • 5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 to 1 cup good olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

To Finish the Dish:

  • 3/4 pound fusilli pasta
  • 3/4 pound bow tie pasta or rigatoni
  • 1 1/2 cups prepared pesto
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup good mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/3 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Make the Pesto: Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top. (I found that I didn’t have to add additional oil; this recipe had enough olive oil that rose to the surface to coat it with a thin film.)
  2. Cook the pasta separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until each pasta is al dente. Drain and cool to room temperature.
  3. Bring the frozen peas and spinach to room temperature. I place the defrosted spinach in a colander and squeeze out the excess water using a potato masher.
  4. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the peas, pignolis, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.

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