1 pound dried pasta, such as medium-sized shells or elbow macaroni (I used rigatoni)
12 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar, grated (about 3 cups)
2 ounces Parmesan, grated (about 2/3 cup), plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
toasted breadcrumbs, for topping prior to serving, optional
Peel, seed, and cut the squash into 1/2-inch cubes.
Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add the squash and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until tender enough to smash with a spatula without much resistance and beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
Add the rosemary, sage, and garlic and cook, stirring often, just until the garlic is aromatic and no longer raw, about 1 minute.
Increase the heat to high and add the warm water, evaporated milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. (The pasta won’t be completely covered by the liquid.)
Boil over medium (even reducing to medium-low if necessary) heat, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente and about two-thirds of the liquid has evaporated, 12 to 14 minutes (al dente). If at any point the liquid evaporates before the pasta is tender, add additional warm water (1/2 cup at a time- did once after 12 min) and continue cooking.
Remove the pot from the heat and add both cheeses. Stir until the cheese is completely melted and has emulsified into a creamy sauce.
Let the pasta sit for 10 minutes. (This is necessary to allow the sauce to thicken.) If the sauce becomes too thick, adjust the consistency by adding additional warm water 1/4 cup at a time.
Season to taste with additional salt and pepper and serve immediately with more black pepper and parmesan, if desired.
Chicken Pot Pie is one of my ultimate favorite comfort food dishes. This version was fabulous! The use of rotisserie chicken meat in the filling and puff pastry as the crust were wonderful (and delicious) shortcuts.
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Molly Baz. I modified the proportions and used rainbow carrots instead of turnips in the filling to add a little color. GREAT.
Yield: Serves 8
5 cups coarsely shredded rotisserie chicken meat
2 large yellow onions
1 lb rainbow carrots or turnips, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 garlic cloves
1 T thyme leaves
3 T unsalted butter
2½ tsp Kosher salt, divided
1½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 T all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups heavy cream, divided
10 oz bag frozen peas
1 sheet of puff pastry (1/2 box/8.6 oz), thawed overnight
Place a rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection.
Remove and discard skin from a rotisserie chicken. Using your hands, shred the meat into 1″ pieces until you have 5 cups; set aside. Reserve any leftover meat for another use.
Cut the onions in half through root, trim root ends, then peel. Finely chop onion and transfer to a medium bowl.
Peel the carrots (or turnips), then trim off the ends. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer to another medium bowl.
Lightly smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Peel, then coarsely chop. Transfer to bowl with the carrots/turnips.
Add thyme leaves to bowl with carrots/turnips and garlic.
Melt butter in a 12″ oven-proof skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft but not browned, 5–6 minutes.
Add carrot/turnip mixture, season with 1 tsp salt and 1½ tsp pepper, and cook, stirring often, until just beginning to soften, 3 minutes.
Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, until flour begins to stick to bottom of pan, about 30 seconds. The flour is going to help thicken the gravy you’re trying to create.
Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, to burn off some of the alcohol, about 1 minute.
Set aside 1 tablespoon of heavy cream. Add remaining cream, reserved chicken, peas, and 1½ tsp salt and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Cook, tossing occasionally, until warmed through, 3–4 minutes.
Transfer skillet to a rimmed baking sheet, which will prevent any juices that bubble out of the pan from spilling onto your oven floor.
Roll out the thawed puff pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 13″ square (large enough to cover skillet with a bit of overhang). Roll pastry up onto rolling pin. (You could use an empty wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling pin.) Unfurl pastry from rolling pin, draping it over skillet.
Trim pastry so that there is a 1″ border all around. Fold edge of puff pastry under itself. Crimp edges with a fork (just like you would do when making the top crust of a pie).
Using a pastry brush, brush top of pastry with reserved cream. Cut 5–6 small slits in the center so steam can escape.
Bake pot pie until crust is light golden brown, 22 to 24 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°, preferably on convection, and continue to bake until filling is bubbling around the edges and crust is well browned, 22 to 35 minutes longer.
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.
I love a quick skillet dinner- especially on a weeknight. This delicious family friendly meal is from my friend Mollie @Frugal Hausfrau. I have made it a couple of times, most recently for our Super Bowl celebration. Our meal has to complement the mandatory Super Bowl guacamole. 🙂
Even though it could be served as is straight from the skillet, we ate it in both soft and hard shell tacos. (The hard shells won as the favorite, by the way.) I think that eating it as a pre-mixed taco filling made it even more of a crowd-pleaser. I modified the recipe by using ground turkey and by increasing the beans, onions, and garlic. Great!
Yield: Serves 8
1.25 pounds ground turkey or ground beef
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Sriracha
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (I used Trader Joe’s fire roasted diced tomatoes)
1/4 cup salsa (I used Trader Joe’s garlic chipotle salsa)
1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed
3/4 cup white Basmati rice
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
hard or soft taco shells, for serving, if desired
1/4 cup sliced scallions, for garnish, as desired
sliced avocado, for garnish, as desired
chopped cilantro, for garnish, as desired
In a large skillet with a lid, over medium high heat, add ground meat and cook, crumbling as it cooks.
As soon as it starts to give up the juices, add in the onion and bell pepper, continuing to cook until the vegetables have softened and the meat is cooked through.
Add the garlic, stirring for a minute or so until it becomes fragrant.
Add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper; briefly stir.
Stir in tomatoes with the juice, salsa, black beans, and hot sauce.
Toss the rice on top and add the 1 1/4 cup of water. Gently stir together, bring to a boil.
Cover with lid and reduce to a bare simmer. Cook for 25 minutes until rice is just done. If possible, don’t lift the lid or stir until rice is finished.
Turn off the heat. Using a spatula, gently turn the mixture from top to bottom. Add cheese to the top. Cover with lid and let sit for five minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
Serve in warm taco shells garnished with green onions, avocado, and/or minced cilantro, as desired.
Adding vegetables to a baked pasta dish is a wonderful way to slim it down and make it a little bit healthier. My son enjoyed this version as much as our standard super cheesy baked ziti. Not only does this version incorporate cauliflower, it is also upgraded by adding flavor from saffron and anchovies.
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Martha Rose Shulman. The dish was inspired by another Sicilian cauliflower dish in Clifford A. Wright’s “Cucinia Paradiso.” I modified the recipe by roasting the cauliflower, increasing the garlic and tomatoes, using whole wheat pasta, and incorporating mozzarella cheese. Great.
Yield: Serves 6
1 medium cauliflower, about 2 pounds, leaves and stem trimmed, cut into florets
coarse salt, to taste
pinch of saffron threads
2-4 T extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 T chopped flat leaf parsley
¾ pound ziti or penne rigate (I used whole wheat penne)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1/2 pound part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated
Preheat an oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
On a parchment paper lined, rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower florets with 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until tender.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, on convection.
Place the saffron in a small bowl and add 3 tablespoons warm water. Let steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
Combine the grated cheeses in a bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until it smells fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute, and add the anchovies and tomatoes. Season to taste with salt (remembering that the anchovies will contribute a lot of salt) and freshly ground pepper.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the roasted cauliflower, saffron with its soaking water, and parsley, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the pasta. Cook until just al dente, a few minutes less than you would cook it to serve. It will soften further when it bakes. (I cooked the whole wheat penne noodles for 5 minutes, 2 minutes shy of al dente.) Drain and transfer to a bowl.
Oil a 3-quart baking dish. Toss the pasta with half the cauliflower mixture and half the cheese and spoon into the baking dish.
Combine the remaining cauliflower mixture with half of the remaining cheese and spoon over the pasta.
Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of oil.
Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbling. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve hot.