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.

Creamy Ricotta & Herb Pasta

This quick summer dish gobbled up the cilantro from my CSA share. The sauce was silky and fresh.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I reduced the oil and modified the method. Next time I may add some lemon zest and/or toasted pine nuts. Easy and delicious!

  • salt
  • 1 pound short pasta, such as shells, cavatappi, chiocciole, farfalle, ditali or wagon wheels (I used cascatelli)
  • about 12 ounces fresh, whole-milk ricotta (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
  • 2 1/2 cups soft herbs, packed, such as cilantro, basil, chives, fennel fronds, parsley, mint, tarragon, chervil or dill (try for a combination of at least 3 kinds), coarsely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • lemon zest, optional
  • handful of toasted pine nuts, optional
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 2 cups pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  2. In the same pot, make the sauce: Add ricotta, Parmesan, olive oil, pepper and a large pinch or two of coarse salt, and stir until well combined.
  3. Add 1 cup pasta water to the sauce and stir until smooth.
  4. Coarsely chop the herbs with a food processor, if desired. (I used 1 cup dill, 1 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1/4 cup basil.)
  5. Add the cooked pasta and herbs, and continue to stir vigorously until the noodles are well coated. Add more pasta water as needed for a smooth, soupy sauce. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  6. Incorporate lemon zest and/or pine nuts, if using.
  7. To serve, spoon the pasta into a serving bowl or individual bowls and finish with more Parmesan, drizzle of olive oil and more pepper, as desired.

Cheesy & Crunchy Baked Pasta with Cauliflower

I loved that this cheesy comfort food baked pasta dish incorporated an entire head of cauliflower. The lemon zest and capers also added brightness which had a nice balance with the cheese.

The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Ina Garten. Great comfort food.

Yield: Serves 8

  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried pasta, such as medium shells (I used Cascatelli)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds cauliflower (1 large head cut into small florets) 
  • 3 tablespoons sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 15 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups Fontina cheese, lightly packed (10 oz with rind)
  • 1 cup (8 oz) whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 6 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons parsley leaves, minced fresh
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. (I set my oven to convection.)
  2. Fill a large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until 2 minutes less than al dente, according to the instructions on the package. (Since it will be baked later, don’t overcook it! Drain and pour into a very large bowl.)
  3. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12 to 14-inch) skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat, add half of the cauliflower in one layer and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the florets are lightly browned and tender. Season with salt.
  4. Pour the cauliflower, including the small bits, into the bowl with the pasta.
  5. Add 3 more tablespoons of olive oil to the sauté pan, add the remaining cauliflower, cook until browned and tender and add to the bowl.
  6. Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl and stir carefully.
  7. Stir in the Fontina.
  8. Transfer half of the mixture to a 10 x 13 x 2–inch rectangular baking dish.
  9. Spoon 12 rounded tablespoons of ricotta on the pasta and spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  10. Combine the panko, grated Pecorino, minced parsley and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly on top.
  11. Bake for 22 minutes on convection, or 25 to 30 minutes in a standard oven, until browned and crusty on top. Serve hot.

Note: The dish can be assembled ahead of time. Assemble the dish, cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake before serving.

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.

Italian Piadina with Ricotta, Prosciutto & Arugula Topping

According to the original recipe, in Romagna, in Northern Italy, piadine are often served with cured meats, greens and fresh cheeses that soften in the warmth of the freshly cooked bread. They are folded in half and eaten like a sandwich. This version is based on the classic presentation. Yum.

The recipe was adapted from MilkStreetTV.com, contributed by Erica Bruce. I bought lard for the first time in my life to make this flatbread! Christopher Kimball convinced me that lard was the secret to both the optimal texture and flavor in this wonderful bread. In the article, they found that when using lard “the piadine were tender with just the right chew and (had) a deeper, richer background flavor. (They) also tested vegetable shortening, which gave the same supple dough but lacked a bit of flavor. Lard was the clear winner.” The flatbread was perfect.

This special sandwich was a fabulous and fast summer dinner. We hope to try piadine with all sorts of other toppings in the near future. It was dangerously easy to make. 🙂

Yield: 4 flatbread sandwiches (4 servings)

For the Piadina:

  • 1/2 cup water, divided
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 311 grams (2 cups) bread flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 63 grams (5 T or 1/3 cup) lard, at room temperature
  1. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 1/4 cup of the water and the yogurt.
  2. In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Process 5 seconds.
  3. Add the lard and process until combined, about 10 seconds.
  4. With the processor running, add the yogurt mixture.
  5. With the processor still running, add the remaining water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 1 minute. If the dough doesn’t ball up in the processor, gather it together and briefly knead it by hand.
  6. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. (I used a kitchen scale.)
  7. Roll each into a ball, then cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the topping.
  8. Using a rolling pin, form each dough ball into a 10-inch round. (The round will be approximately 1/16-inch thick.) Poke the surfaces all over with a fork.
  9. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium until a drop of water sizzles immediately, 4 to 6 minutes.
  10. One at a time, place a dough round in the skillet and cook until the bottom is charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. (I cooked mine for a little less than 1 minute.)
  11. Using tongs, flip and cook for about 30 to 40 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Repeat.

For the Topping:

  • 3/4 to 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • finely grated lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon (about 1/2 tsp), or more, to taste
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices prosciutto, at room temperature
  • baby arugula (about 1 cup per person) (we also used baby spinach)
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling, optional
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta and lemon zest. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice to the ricotta, or reserve to toss with the arugula (or spinach).
  2. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over half of each piadina, then top with 2 slices of prosciutto.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with the lemon juice (if not in the ricotta mixture) and a pinch of salt. Mound on top of the prosciutto.
  4. Drizzle with oil, if desired, and fold. (I omitted the oil.)

Lemony Pecorino-Ricotta Dip with Broccolini

Broccolini is one of the most prized items that I receive in my CSA share. Eating it with a cheesy dip was a wonderful way to enjoy it.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. We ate the leftover dip with pita chips- which was also a good vehicle. It was also delicious with sliced radishes. Easy and tasty.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer

  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • broccolini, for serving
  • pita chips, for serving
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil; season with salt. Fill a large bowl with ice water.
  2. Blanch the broccolini in the salted, boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, until bright green and tender. Remove and place in the ice water until cool. Drain, pat dry with paper towels, and set aside to continue to dry while you prepare the dip.
  3. Combine the Pecorino, ricotta, 2 T olive oil, and lemon juice.
  4. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil and more pepper. (I used Tuscan herb olive oil for the drizzle.)
  6. Serve with blanched broccolini and/or pita chips.

Creamed Corn & Pepperoni Sourdough Grandma Pizza

Inspired by pizza she loved on a tropical vacation many years ago, my daughter has been eating corn on her pizza for nearly 10 years. Apparently she is ahead of her time! We were so happy to see that Bon Appétit realized that this delicious pizza topping was worthy of their publication. 🙂

I loved that this pizza recipe used creamed corn instead of tomato sauce- it brought our usual “corn pizza” to the next level. It was also a sheet pan “Grandma” pie which is a family favorite. Lastly, it can be made with fresh or frozen corn. Perfect.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Kay Chun. I used a homemade sourdough pizza crust instead of store-bought. I also used fresh mozzarella, frozen white corn, Campari tomatoes, and more garlic. I modified the method and baked the sheet pan on a pizza stone positioned on the lowest oven rack. Great.

Yield: One Grandma Pie (half-sheet pan)

For the Pizza Dough:

  • 1 cup (241g) sourdough starter, unfed/discard
  • 1/2 cup (113g) warm water (plus 2 tsp water- if using whole wheat flour)
  • 1 1/4 cups (150g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (141g) white whole wheat flour (can substitute and additional 1 1/4 cups/150g all-purpose flour)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
  • cooking oil spray or olive oil, for the pan

For the Pizza Sauce & Toppings:

  • 1 sourdough pizza crust (recipe above) or store-bought pizza dough (about 1 pound)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup fresh ricotta
  • 2 T heavy cream
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh corn (from about 2 medium ears) or thawed frozen corn, divided
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 oz sliced pepperoni (more or less, as desired)
  • 8 to 9 oz Campari tomatoes (sliced 1/4-inch thick) or cherry tomatoes (halved, about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese
  • fresh basil (or oregano) leaves, sliced, for serving

To Make the Dough:

  1. Stir any liquid on top of your refrigerated starter back into it before measuring 1 cup (241g) into a large mixing bowl. Note: This is a good opportunity to feed the remainder of your starter, if necessary.
  2. Add the warm water, flours, salt, and yeast. Mix to combine, then knead for about 7 minutes in a mixer with the dough hook, until the dough wraps itself around the hook and cleans the side of the bowl.
  3. Place the dough in a greased container, cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk. Depending on the vitality of your starter, this will take between 2 and 4 hours. For a faster rise, place the dough in a warm spot, or double the yeast. (I placed my dough in a warming drawer and it doubled in about 2 hours.)
  4. Towards the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 500°F. (I heat a baking stone positioned on the lowest rack of the oven.)
  5. Oil an 18″ x 13″ half-sheet pan or coat with cooking oil spray.
  6. Place the dough in the pan and press it out to the edges, again giving it a 15-minute rest before continuing if it starts to snap back. After this rest, gently press the dough toward the edges of the pans. (If it starts to shrink back, cover and let rest for 15 minutes before continuing.)
  7. Cover the pan and let the dough rise until it’s as thick as you like. (It will rise quite a bit in 30 minutes. I just let it rest while preparing the sauce and toppings.)
  8. While the dough is rising, make the sauce.

To Make the Sauce, Toppings, & Bake the Pizza:

  1. If using Campari tomatoes, slice and season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Let sit to remove excess moisture.
  2. Process the Parmesan, ricotta, cream, garlic, salt, pepper, 3/4 cup corn, and 2 T oil in a food processor until mostly smooth (mixture will still have some texture). (I used a mini-food processor.)
  3. Scrape creamed corn into a small bowl; stir in 1/4 cup corn.
  4. Spread creamed corn over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
  5. Top with pepperoni, then tomatoes and remaining 1/2 cup corn.
  6. Tear the fresh mozzarella and distribute the pieces evenly over the crust.
  7. Bake until crust is golden underneath and cooked through and the cheese is lightly browned, about 18 to 20 minutes.
  8. Top with a drizzle of oil and sliced basil (or oregano) leaves.

Note: The creamed corn mixture can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

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