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.

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.

One-Pot White Bean & Sausage Stew

This is another one-pot, cold weather, comfort food stew. Before our first snow, I rescued some rosemary and thyme from my garden- I was so happy to incorporate both in this dish. 🙂

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I added parmesan rind to the pot while the beans were simmering. I also modified the method and used an immersion blender to purée some of the beans after they were cooked to add creaminess to the finished dish.

The recipe can also be adapted to make in a slow cooker, noted below. Easy and delicious with rich and deep flavor.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1+ pounds sweet Italian sausage, sliced 3/4-inch thick (I used 5 links)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound dried great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through
  • 4 cups (1 quart) water
  • 4 cups (1 quart) chicken or turkey stock (I used homemade turkey stock)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 large rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • parmesan rind, optional
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
  • minced parsley, for garnish, optional
  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add the sausage and brown until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.
  3. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic and stir for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the beans, 4 cups water, 4 cups stock, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil.
  7. Then reduce heat to low, add the parmesan rind (highly recommend!), cover the pot, and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged. (I covered the pot and did not have to add any additional liquid.)
  8. To add creaminess, use an immersion blender to purée some of the stew. (I blended for about 10 seconds.)(Alternatively, 1 or 2 cups of beans can be removed, puréed, and returned to the pot.)
  9. When beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  10. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with more vinegar and olive oil, if desired. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

To Make the Stew in a Slow Cooker:

  1. Add all of the ingredients, except the sausage and garnishes, and 7 cups water/stock (instead of 8) to the machine.
  2. Cook on low for 8 hours. (It holds well on low for 2 more hours.)
  3. When you’re ready to serve, roast the sausage on a sheet pan at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.
  4. Slice and add the sausage, as well as any accumulated juices from the pan, to the soup. Warm through and serve.

Greek Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

This flavor-packed weeknight dish was included in Milk Street Magazine’s “Tuesday Nights” series which features weeknight dishes with bold and fresh flavors. I have found that meatballs that incorporate a panade, hydrated breadcrumbs, are very tender- great.

The recipe was adapted from Milk Street Magazine, contributed by Calvin Cox. According to the original article, these Greek oblong shaped meatballs are known as soutzoukakia smyrneika. Traditionally, they are served with tiganites patates (potatoes fried in olive oil). We ate them with crusty bread to sop up every bit of sauce. The dish could also be served with roasted potatoes or a rice or orzo pilaf.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 large garlic cloves, 2 finely gratedn(I used a garlic press), 1 thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the panko, egg and 1/2 cup water, then mix until homogeneous. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the panko to hydrate. (This step is very important in order to create soft and tender meatballs.)
  2. Add the pork, cumin, the grated (or pressed) garlic, 1/2 teaspoon pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon oregano, 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, then mix well.
  3. Divide into 11 or 12 portions (each about a scant 1/4 cup), then shape each into a 2 1/2-inch-long cigar (oblong) shape.
  4. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. (Non-stick can be used; I used a 12-inch stainless all-in-one pan.)
  5. Add the meatballs and cook without disturbing until browned on the bottoms, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the meatballs and cook until browned on the second sides, another 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Remove the skillet from the heat, transfer the meatballs to a paper towel–lined plate and set aside.
  7. Return the skillet to medium-high and add the sliced garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  9. Stir in the tomatoes, cinnamon, honey and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper, then bring to a simmer.
  10. Place the meatballs in the pan and return to a simmer. Cover and simmer, undisturbed, until the centers of the meatballs reach 160°F, 12 to 14 minutes.
  11. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper.
  12. Transfer the meatballs and sauce to serving dish. Drizzle with additional oil, if desired, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oregano.

Turkey Meatballs with Romesco Sauce

Many years ago, my husband and I first tried Romesco sauce while on vacation in Barcelona. It was served with grilled ramps. We were instant fans! Using jarred fire-roasted red peppers as a shortcut is an absolute genius way to create it. I served the meatballs and sauce in this dish with slices of sourdough baguette to sop up every last drop. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Sara Frost. I modified the proportions. The original recipe notes that the delicious sauce can add richness to other lean proteins such as fish, pan-roasted chicken breast and can also be used as a dip for vegetables. Next time, I may serve this dish with grilled scallions. Yum.

My son ate the leftover meatballs and baguette as a luxurious sandwich with melted cheese, topped with Romesco sauce, of course. This dish could also be served as a fabulous appetizer.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 3/4 lbs ground turkey
  • 2 large eggs, beaten to blend
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 4 to 6 T finely chopped parsley, plus more coarsely chopped for serving
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 T plus 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds (I used toasted sliced almonds)
  • 1 12 to 16-oz jar fire-roasted peppers in water, drained (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 to 4 small garlic cloves, crushed (I used a garlic press)
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • finely grated zest of half of a lemon
  • crusty bread, for serving, optional (I served it with a sourdough baguette)
  1. Preheat oven to 425°. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
  2. Using your hands, mix ground turkey, eggs, panko, cumin, onion powder, paprika, parsley, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt in a large bowl.
  3. Working one at a time, use a 1 1/2-inch scoop out to ration out the mixture. (I had 28 meatballs.) Place on a plate.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium. (I used a large stainless steel “all-in-one” pan.)
  5. Working in 2 batches, cook meatballs until golden brown all over, about 2 minutes per side.
  6. Transfer skillet with all of the meatballs to oven and bake until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.
  7. While the meatballs are baking, pulse almonds in a food processor until coarsely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  8. Pulse drained fire-roasted peppers, garlic, vinegar, and cayenne in food processor until almost smooth.
  9. Transfer to bowl with almonds and stir in remaining 1/2 cup oil; season Romesco sauce with salt, to taste.
  10. Spoon romesco sauce onto a platter or into shallow bowls; arrange meatballs on top.
  11. Finely grate lemon zest over and scatter coarsely chopped parsley on top. Serve with crusty bread, as desired.

Sheet-Pan Chicken Meatballs with Charred Broccoli

Baked Chicken & Spinach Meatballs

Everyone loves meatballs- right? These were a healthyish version packed with cilantro and spinach. We ate them over rice topped with dollops of garlicky Greek yogurt sauce with roasted cauliflower on the side. Yum.

My husband was gifted a meat grinder for Christmas. 🙂 This was the first time he used it, grinding chicken thighs for these full-flavored meatballs. He plans to make burgers with blended meats next. Fancy!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I prepared the seasoned meat about 6 hours ahead of time but it can even sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the meat absorbs the seasoning. I baked the meatballs (in the same oven as the roasted cauliflower) and used red pepper flakes instead of a serrano chile. I also added a yogurt sauce for serving. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound spinach, washed
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (I used 5 freshly ground chicken thighs- medium grind)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used the zest from 1/2 lemon)
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (I crushed them using a mortar and pestle)
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 serrano chile, with seeds, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup soft fresh bread crumbs, from about 4 slices of crustless sandwich bread (I used 3 slices of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or ricotta cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for the baking sheet
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • cooked rice, for serving (I served the meatballs over white Basmati rice)
  • yogurt sauce (or store-bought tzatziki), for serving (see below)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh dill, cilantro or parsley, finely minced, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Blanch the spinach: Plunge leaves a handful at a time into a pot of boiling water. Leave just long enough to wilt, about 30 seconds, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and drain in a colander and cool under running water. Repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
  2. Remove and squeeze wilted leaves into a ball. I used a potato ricer and squeezed out the excess liquid in batches.
  3. Using a large knife, roughly chop spinach on a cutting board — you should have about 2 cups.
  4. Squeeze into a ball again to remove excess water. (This may be done several hours or up to a day in advance and refrigerated.) Again, I used a potato ricer and removed the excess liquid in batches.
  5. If freshly grinding the chicken, grind into a large bowl using the medium grinding disc.
  6. Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, chile (or red pepper flakes), egg, bread crumbs and cream in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, knead everything together, mixing well. Leave to absorb seasoning for 15 minutes or overnight. (I refrigerated it for about 6 hours.)
  7. Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for flavors to develop.
  8. Test for seasoning: Take a small amount and flatten into a thin patty. Quickly cook in a small skillet, about 1 minute per side. Taste, then adjust the mixture’s seasoning if necessary.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  10. Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, form 19 to 24 rough balls and place on a large plate. (The mixture will be soft.)
  11. Using a brush, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  12. Lightly form the meatballs and position them on the prepared baking sheet. Along the long side of the pan, I placed them in rows of 5. (I had 19 meatballs.)
  13. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers at least 160°, about 4 to 5 minutes more.
  14. Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with sauce (or tzatziki) and lemon wedges.

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