Vegetarian Skillet Stuffed Shells

This one-pan, stovetop recipe turns cheesy stuffed pasta into a weeknight dinner. It was a perfect crowd-pleasing dish to serve on a chilly evening. Jarred marinara is used as a shortcut- enhanced with buttery sautéed garlic and red pepper flakes. Great.

This recipe was adapted from epicurious.com, contributed by Anna Stockwell. I modified the proportions and method, and used dried oregano. I recommend eating it with crusty bread or garlic bread to mop up the sauce.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 20 jumbo pasta shells (about 6 to 6.5 oz)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 to 10 oz crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 5 oz baby spinach
  • 6 to 9 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 24 to 28 oz jarred marinara sauce (I used 28 oz Rao’s Marinara)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups (15 to 16 oz) whole-milk ricotta
  • 3 oz finely grated Parmesan (about 1 cup), plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano
  • fresh parsley or oregano, chopped, for garnish, optional
  • crusty bread or garlic bread for serving, optional
  1. Cook shells in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 9 minutes; drain. Run under cold water to stop the cooking; drain again. (I cooked 22 shells just to be safe but only used 20.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet (with a lid) over medium-high. (I used a large, wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they release juices, then are dry again and nicely browned, 5–10 minutes; season with black pepper and 1/2 tsp salt.
  4. Reduce heat to medium, add wine, and cook, stirring, until reduced by half, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  5. Add spinach, stir, cover, and cook until beginning to wilt, 1–2 minutes.
  6. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is completely wilted and most of the liquid is evaporated, 2–4 minutes more. Transfer mushroom mixture to a large bowl; reserve skillet.
  7. Add ricotta, Parmesan, 2 T fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt to mushroom mixture and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, to taste.
  8. Spoon about 2 T ricotta mixture into each shell. The shell should be filled to capacity but not overstuffed. (I used a cookie scoop to ration the filling.)
  9. Cook garlic and butter in reserved skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown, 2–3 minutes.
  10. Add marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, 6–8 minutes.
  11. Nestle stuffed shells into hot sauce in skillet.
  12. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until shells are warmed through, 5–6 minutes.
  13. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.
  14. Sprinkle with Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley or oregano. Serve with crusty bread or garlic bread, as desired.

Spinach Lasagna

Compared to the dish in my last post, my family prefers to eat leafy greens in this fashion. (I love greens in every fashion!) Cheesy pasta casseroles definitely make greens a crowd-pleaser. 🙂

This vegetarian lasagna was absolutely fabulous. The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I incorporated nutmeg, garlic, and an egg into the ricotta mixture, incorporated Pecorino-Romano cheese, and used no-boil noodles. I also modified the baking method. Yum.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 16 dried (no-boil) or fresh lasagna noodles
  • 3 to 4 cups good tomato sauce (I used 28 oz jar Rao’s marinara)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds spinach, steamed, squeezed dry and chopped (about 3 cups cooked)
  • 12 oz (1 1/2 cups) whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 large garlic cloves, pushed through a garlic press
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated mozzarella
  • 2 cups finely grated Parmesan (I used 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and 1 cup Pecorino-Romano)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. If you’re using fresh pasta sheets, cut them into long wide noodles approximately 3 inches by 13 inches, or a size that will fit into your lasagna dish. (I used 16 dried no-boil lasagna noodles from Trader Joe’s)
  2. Steam the spinach until wilted, and drain. (I steamed it in a large pasta pot for 3-4 minutes.) In batches, use a potato ricer to remove excess liquid. Coarsely chop.
  3. Combine the ricotta, egg, nutmeg, and garlic in a bowl.
  4. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  5. Grease a rectangular baking dish with the olive oil, add a large dollop of tomato sauce and spread it around.
  6. Put a layer of noodles (use four per layer) in the dish; top with a layer of tomato sauce, one-third of the spinach, and one-fourth of the ricotta mixture (in dollops), the mozzarella, and the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  7. Repeat the layers twice.
  8. Top with the remaining noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan; the top should be covered with cheese; add more ricotta and Parmesan as needed. (The lasagna may be made ahead to this point, wrapped tightly and refrigerated for up to a day or frozen. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)
  9. Cover with parchment paper topped with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes.
  10. Uncover, and continue to bake until the lasagna is bubbling and the cheese is melted and lightly browned on top, about 15 minutes more.
  11. Remove from the oven and let rest a few minutes before serving.

Note: Lasagna can be baked, cooled completely, covered well, and refrigerated for up to 3 days, or stored in the freezer.

Corn & Ricotta Sformato

Now that it’s the very very tail end of corn season, I have a couple fresh corn recipes to share. I hope I’m not too late. :/ We ate this cheesy dish for dinner but it would be wonderful for brunch as well. I also think that it could be prepared with frozen corn (gasp!) and served as a holiday side dish.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Clare de Boer. I used Kosher salt and modified the proportions. I also modified the baking dish (to have more crispy crust) and baking time. The lemony basil oil topping added a bright contrast to the indulgent and delicious dish.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 6 ears fresh corn, kernels removed (about 5 cups kernels), cobs discarded
  • 2 tsp coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan, divided (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/3 packed cup fresh basil leaves (about 20 leaves)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
  1. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat.
  2. Add the corn kernels and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer half the kernels to a food processor and purée with 2 tablespoons olive oil. (I used a Vitamix.)
  4. Transfer the corn kernels and puréed corn to a large bowl and let cool, about 30 minutes.
  5. Heat the oven to 450 degrees, preferably on convection.
  6. When the corn mixture has cooled, add the ricotta, heavy cream, crème fraîche/sour cream, 1 cup Parmesan and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt; season to taste with more salt, if desired.
  7. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks on high speed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Stir the yolks into the ricotta mixture until combined then gently fold in the whites, working delicately to avoid deflating.
  9. Rub the sides and crannies of a 6-by-10-inch oval or 8-by-8-inch square (or similar 2-inch-deep) baking dish with a knob of butter. (I used a 8×10-inch oval dish.) Add 2 to 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan, knocking it around the baking dish to coat the entire thing, then follow with a few grinds of pepper.
  10. Pour the ricotta batter into the dish. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove from oven and top with another 3 tablespoons Parmesan.  Continue to bake until the cheese has browned and the sformata has set in the center, about 5 additional minutes, a total of 30 to 40 minutes.
  11. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the basil with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt, then stir in the remaining 1/4 cup oil.
  12. Just before serving, top the warm sformata with the remaining grated Parmesan, drizzle with basil oil and serve.

Swiss Chard & Ricotta Galette

I kept waiting for Swiss chard to appear in my CSA box so that I could make this savory galette. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart. We ate it for dinner but it would be perfect for a special lunch or brunch. It was a surprisingly hearty meal served with a green salad. (I will confess that I served it with leftover pizza to please the rest of my crowd.) 🙂

The crust was particularly amazing. It is made with rolled oats and cream cheese which resulted in wonderful texture.

Yield: One 10 to 11-inch tart

For the Crust:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 large egg yolk

For the Filling & Egg Wash:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces Swiss chard, leaves sliced in half through the center rib, stems separated and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 3 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 6 ounces ricotta, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 large egg yolk

To Make the Crust:

  1. Pulse flour, oats, and salt in a food processor to combine.
  2. Add butter, cream cheese, and egg yolk; pulse until dough just holds together, 15 to 20 seconds.
  3. Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

To Make the Filling:

  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add chard stems, onion, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until stems are soft and slightly brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add vinegar and cook, stirring, until liquid is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in raisins. Transfer mixture to a nonreactive bowl.
  4. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-high. Add anchovies, if using; cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute. Stir in thyme. (I incorporated the anchovies.)
  5. Add chard leaves and cook until slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat both cheeses with 2 tablespoons cream until smooth, about 1 minute.
  7. Stir in nutmeg; season with salt and pepper.

To Make the Galette:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. On a large sheet of parchment, roll out dough to a 1/8-inch-thick round, about 13 to 14-inches in diameter.
  3. Arrange onion mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 3-inch border.
  4. Spread ricotta mixture over onion mixture; top with chard mixture.
  5. Fold edges of dough over and gently press down to seal.
  6. Transfer tart (still on parchment) to a baking sheet. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
  7. In a small bowl, beat together egg yolk and remaining 1 tablespoon cream. Brush exposed dough with egg wash.
  8. Bake until crust is golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant, Tomatoes & Ricotta

More eggplant! This dish is a great vegetarian alternative to a traditional baked ziti. A crowd-pleasing weeknight comfort-food pasta casserole. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto in NYC. I used San Marzano tomatoes instead of beefsteak and modified the proportions and method. I loved that it incorporated pesto.

To make the dish more healthy, Waxman replaces the traditional béchamel sauce with eggplant. The original recipe even suggests using whole-wheat pasta, if desired. Don’t worry… it is still an indulgent baked pasta dish with butter and plenty of cheese. 😉

Yield: Serves 8

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°, preferably on convection.
  2. Butter a 9-by-13-inch ovenproof baking dish. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  3. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the rigatoni until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Toss the pasta with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet or sauté pan, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add half of the eggplant and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant to the pasta. Repeat with another 1/4 cup of olive oil and the remaining eggplant.
  6. Add the onion, garlic and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly golden, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have broken down and thickened to a sauce consistency, 7 to 8 minutes.
  8. Stir in the 4 tablespoons of butter.
  9. Add the tomato sauce to the pasta and eggplant along with the pesto and ricotta; season with salt and pepper and toss well.
  10. Transfer the rigatoni to the prepared baking dish. Top with the mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake for about 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top.
  11. Let the pasta stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Tomato-Lemon Tart

Lucky me- I recently received several beautiful homegrown tomatoes from friends. 🙂 This quick and easy tart was a great way to showcase them.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit. I modified the method and proportions and added parmesan in lieu of creme fraiche. The punch of lemon surprised my son but I thought that it added bright and fresh flavor.

We ate this tart for dinner with a green salad. It would also be lovely served as an appetizer. A dollop of ricotta cheese may also be nice, so I included it as an option for next time.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (one 14-ounce package or half of a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
  • all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 2 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced into 1/8-inch rounds on a mandoline, seeds removed (5-6 slices)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup basil leaves, to taste, divided
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes (about 3 medium), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
  • ricotta cheese, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 375°, preferably on convection.
  2. Place tomato slices on a paper towel-lined cutting board. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roll out puff pastry on a sheet of lightly floured parchment paper, smoothing out creases, to a large rectangle measuring about 10×14 inches.
  4. Prick pastry in a few places with a fork, leaving a 1″ border around the edges, then slide parchment paper onto a rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Combine grated garlic and 1 tablespoon of oil in a small bowl and brush dough with garlic oil, staying within border.
  6. Arrange 5 to 6 lemon slices over the brushed pastry, then scatter 8 basil leaves over lemon slices.
  7. Pat the tomatoes dry with additional paper towels. Arrange tomatoes on top of the pastry (a little overlap is okay). Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil.
  8. Bake tart until edges of pastry are browned, puffed, and crisp, about 30–35 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and top with grated parmesan and basil (chiffonade).
  10. Let tart cool 10 minutes before cutting into 8 pieces. Serve with a dollop of ricotta cheese, if desired.

Strawberry Ricotta Muffins

When I saw these strawberry muffins, I knew that they would be a perfect addition to my tried and true strawberry recipes. They were very tender and minimally sweet- a perfect summer breakfast.

This recipe was adapted from Bake from Scratch, via Cooking with Aunt Juju.com. I incorporated whole wheat flour and modified the topping. The recipe also included a ricotta glaze for the topping which would also be a tasty option (see link above). Nice.

Yield: 16 muffins

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice or 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups diced fresh strawberries
  • turbinado sugar, for topping
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray 16 regular muffin wells with cooking spray or use liners.
  3. Whisk the flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl; set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl whisk the ricotta cheese until smooth.
  5. Add the eggs, milk and lemon zest or juice; whisk until smooth.
  6. Add the oil and vanilla and stir until combined.
  7. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and fold in with a spatula; gently fold in the strawberries.
  8. Divide the batter among the 16 prepared wells, filling about three-fourths full.
  9. Sprinkle the top of the batter in each well with turbinado sugar.
  10. Bake for 15-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. (mine were ready in about 17 minutes.)
  11. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes; remove. Finish cooling on the racks.

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