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.

Vietnamese-American Garlic Noodles

I’m a garlic girl but even I was worried that this dish was going to be so garlicky it may be overpowering. Nope. Twenty cloves!

This recipe was adapted from the cookbook “The Wok” by J. Kenji López-Alt, based on the noodle dish originally created and served by Helene An at San Francisco’s Thanh Long restaurant, via The New York Times.

Lopez-Alt uses the genius technique of cooking the pasta in a minimal amount of liquid which expedites the cooking process. The starch-concentrated pasta water is then used in the sauce. This dish was crazy quick to prepare and was absolutely packed with flavor. We ate it with roasted asparagus on the side.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 20 medium garlic cloves, minced or smashed in a mortar and pestle
  • 4 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce or shoyu
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 pound dry spaghetti or linguine fini
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (heaping 1/4 cup)(I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  •  small handful of thinly sliced scallions (I used 4 scallions)
  1. Use a food processor to mince the garlic cloves, if desired. (I used a mini food processor.)
  2. Melt the butter in a wok or saucepan over medium heat. (I used a stainless all-in-one pan.)
  3. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce, and stir to combine. Remove from the heat.
  5. Meanwhile, bring 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil in a 12-​inch skillet or sauté pan over high heat. (Alternatively, heat up just enough water to cover the spaghetti in a large Dutch oven or saucepan.)
  6. Add the pasta, stir a few times to make sure it’s not clumping, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente (about 2 minutes short of the recommended cook time on the package). (I used linguine fini and cooked it for a total of 4 minutes.)
  7. Using tongs, transfer the cooked pasta to the garlic sauce, along with whatever water clings to it. Reserve the pasta water in the skillet; set aside.
  8. Increase the heat to high, add the cheese to the pasta and sauce, and stir with a wooden spatula or spoon, tossing vigorously until the sauce is creamy and emulsified, about 30 seconds. If the sauce looks too watery, let it keep reducing. If it looks greasy, splash some more pasta cooking water and let it re-​emulsify.
  9. Stir in the scallions and serve immediately.

Pappardelle with Pancetta, Broccoli Rabe, & Pine Nuts

I could eat broccoli rabe with a side of broccoli rabe- an absolute favorite. My husband could eat pappardelle with a side of pappardelle. 😉 Now you can see why this dish was perfect for our Valentine’s Day dinner! Everyone loved it. ❤

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Kristine Kidd. I modified the proportions and method. Fabulous.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled, flattened
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces cubed pancetta
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed (I used a mortar & pestle)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 large bunches broccoli rabe (also called rapini; generous 2 pounds), stems sliced 1/2 inch thick, tops cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • 17.64-ounce (500 g) package dried pappardelle pasta
  • 2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus additional for serving
  • 1/2 cup raw pine nuts, toasted (@375 degrees for about 5 minutes)
  1. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet, preferably with a lid, over medium heat. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  2. Add garlic and cook until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Discard garlic.
  3. Add onion, pancetta, and fennel seeds to skillet; sauté until onion is tender and pancetta begins to brown, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add dried crushed red pepper, then broccoli rabe stems and cook 4 minutes to soften slightly, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir in broccoli rabe tops, sprinkle with salt, and add 2 cups water. Cover and cook until stems and tops are tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups cooking liquid.
  7. Add pasta to skillet with broccoli rabe and stir over low heat to combine, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls to moisten if necessary.
  8. Stir in 2 cups of the cheese. Season to taste with salt and generous amount of pepper.
  9. Transfer to shallow bowls, if desired. (I served it in the pot.) Sprinkle with pine nuts and garnish with additional cheese.

Simple Sunday Soups

This first soup, Italian Bean Soup with Pappardelle, was hearty and delicious. It was inspired by a soup from Trattoria dai Mugnai in Monteveglio, a village outside of Bologna. The second soup, Spanish Garlic Soup, was inspired by an “end of the month” meal, a “meal to make quickly with whatever is on hand and money is tight,” from José Andrés.

The recipes for these simple soups were adapted from Milk Street, the Italian bean and pasta soup from Milk Street Magazine, contributed by Rebecca Richmond, and the Spanish garlic soup from Milk Street TV, contributed by Christopher Kimball and Matthew Card.

Italian Bean Soup with Pappardelle

Yield: Serves 4

  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 to 4 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 2 15.5 oz cans Roman (borlotti), cranberry, or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary or sage
  • 1 piece Parmesan rind, plus finely grated Parmesan, to serve
  • 8 to 9 oz fresh or dried pappardelle, tagliatelle, or fettucine, cut or broken into 2-inch lengths (see Note)
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
  1. In a large saucepan over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato paste and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the tomato paste darkens slightly and begins to stick to the pan, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the beans, rosemary, Parmesan rind (use if you have it!), 5 cups water, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high, then reduce to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft enough to be easily mashed with a fork, about 10 minutes.
  4. Off heat, remove and discard the Parmesan rind. Using an immersion blender, pulse the bean mixture until creamy but not completely smooth. (see Note) (Alternatively, if transferring to a blender, let cool for 10 minutes and purée in 2 batches before returning to the pot.)
  5. Bring to a simmer over medium. Add the pasta and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente (refer to the package for cooking times, but begin checking for doneness a minute or two sooner than the directions indicate). (I used dried pappardelle, broken into 2-inch lengths, and cooked it for 6 to 7 minutes.)
  6. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste.
  7. Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with oil and top with grated Parmesan and additional pepper, as desired.

Notes:

  • If you can find sheets of fresh pasta, they work nicely, too—simply cut them into rough 2-inch squares.
  • Don’t puree the beans until completely smooth; leave them with some texture.

Spanish Garlic Soup (Sopa de Ajo)

Yield: Serves 4

  • 6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, whites and greens separated
  • 6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra
  • 4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 6 oz sourdough or other rustic bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups), divided
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 T chicken bouillion (I used Better Than Boullion)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 T sherry vinegar
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low, combine the scallion whites, garlic and 3 tablespoons of the oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to color, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add both paprikas and cook, stirring, until fragrant and darkened, 30 seconds.
  3. Add 1 cup of the bread cubes and stir well.
  4. Whisk in the water and bouillon, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking occasionally to break up bread, for 15 minutes. Whisk vigorously to ensure bread is thoroughly broken up.
  5. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet over medium, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, the remaining 3 cups bread, the scallion greens, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly whisk in 1 cup of the hot broth. (It is important to do this step to prevent the yolks from curdling when added to the pot.)
  7. Remove the soup from the heat. Off heat, vigorously whisk the egg yolks into the soup, then whisk in the vinegar.
  8. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  9. To serve, fill individual bowls with the crouton mixture, then ladle the soup over them. Drizzle with additional oil, if desired.

One-Pot Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage & Spinach

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)
  • 9-10 ounces (9 cups) baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounces whole-milk fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 2/3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 1/3 cups), divided (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 11 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
  1. 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.)
  2. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. 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.
  4. Stir in water, pasta, and 6 tablespoons chopped basil. Increase heat to high and bring to boil.
  5. 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.
  6. Adjust oven rack 8 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. (I set my oven to Broil+Max @450 degrees.)
  7. 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.)
  8. Dollop surface of pasta evenly with spoonfuls of ricotta.
  9. Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
  10. Broil ziti until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time.
  11. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
  12. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.

Pasta with Pestocado (Avocado Pesto) & Broccoli

According to America’s Test Kitchen, Pestocado is the “hottest new ‘it’ sauce.” Avocado replaces the cheese in this full-flavored pesto. It was creamy and delicious.

The recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s cookbook, More Mediterranean, via americastestkitchen.com. I modified the method and used linguine fini, Meyer lemon, walnuts, and two garlic cloves. Easy and great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 T table salt, for cooking broccoli and pasta
  • 12 to 16 ounces broccoli, florets cut into 1-inch pieces, stalks peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 pound spaghettini, or spaghetti
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios or walnuts, toasted and chopped, divided
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed
  • 2 tsp toasted fennel seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice (I used Meyer lemon)
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat an oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Coarsely chop.
  2. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon table salt and broccoli stalks and cook for 1 minute. Add florets and cook until stalks and florets are tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Using slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to colander set over bowl (do not discard boiling water). Let broccoli drain and cool slightly, about 5 minutes; set aside.
  4. Add pasta to reserved boiling water and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot.
  5. Process 1 cup broccoli, 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, avocado, basil, 1/4 cup chopped nuts, anchovies, fennel seeds, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and coarse salt in food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  6. With processor running, slowly add oil until incorporated, about 15 seconds.
  7. Add pesto to pasta in pot and toss until sauce evenly coats pasta, adjusting consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed.
  8. Stir in remaining broccoli and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup pistachios. Garnish with fresh basil and drizzle with extra oil, as desired. Serve.

Italian Butter (Spritz) Cookies

I do admire people who post Christmas cookie recipes prior to Christmas! 😉

This recipe was adapted from one of my absolute favorite books, Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever. I used almond extract, Irish butter, a cookie press, and baked the cookies on convection. Simple and classic.

They can be made in any shape to suit the season. The original recipe also suggests topping the cookies with sprinkles, sparkling colored sugars, or drizzling or sandwiching them with chocolate.

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

  • 8 oz (225 g) unsalted European-style butter, at room temperature (I used Kerrygold)
  • 120 g (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp pure almond, lemon, or anise extract
  • 256 g (2 cups, spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • sprinkles or sparkling colored sugars, optional
  • melted dark or white chocolate for drizzling, optional
  1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F (180 C), preferably on convection.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper. (Silicone liners make piping a little bit easier because the they don’t lift up as the cookie press or piping tip pulls away.)(I used both!)
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy.
  4. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat in the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and the additional extract of your choice. Blend for 1 minute more.
  6. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the flour, salt, and baking powder. Scrape down the bowl well and make sure the dough is well mixed.
  7. Immediately transfer the dough to a cookie press or a heavy-duty piping bag fitted with a large open star tip, such as Ateco #826.
  8. Spritz the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets. If using a pastry bag, pipe the cookies into desired shapes- aim for cookies about 2 inches (5 cm) wide, spaced about 2 inches apart.
  9. Decorate with sprinkles or sparkling sugars, if desired.
  10. Refrigerate on the sheets for about 15 minutes, or freeze for 5 minutes. (I placed the parchment on a plastic cutting board in the freezer.)
  11. Bake until lightly golden at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies on parchment will brown faster; those on silicone mats will need a little more time to color.
  12. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheets for 2 or 3 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely. To finish non-sprinkled cookies, drizzle or sandwich with melted dark or white chocolate, if desired.

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