Pasta al Forno with Asparagus and Chard

This dish was the first-runner up for Valentine’s Day dinner. It was a Valentine’s Day bonus that I made it in addition to our celebratory biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie. Right? Why choose when you can have both? 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook by Jim Lahey. I increased the amount of vegetables, modified the baking temperature, and incorporated the garlic used to make the garlic oil. We could eat some sort of cheesy, veggie pasta every night of the week. Great!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the BĂ©chamel:

  • 5 T (70 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 T (20 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups (650 g) whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp (2 g) fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 g) freshly grated nutmeg

For the Pasta:

  • 2 T (24 g) coarse salt
  • 1 pound (454 g) penne or rigatoni
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard (about 1/2 to 3/4 pound), large stems removed, cut into 1-inch ribbons
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus (about 1/2 to 3/4 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 T (30 g) extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 batch bĂ©chamel, about 3 cups (recipe above)
  • 1 1/2 cups (130 g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

To Make the BĂ©chamel:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour is a light butterscotch color, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the milk in a slow, steady stream, whisking continuously to keep lumps from forming.
  4. Continue to whisk and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens and has the consistency of heavy cream.
  5. Pour the sauce into a bowl to cool.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil, add the salt, and cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente.
  2. Drain the pasta well and spread it out over the surface of a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Heat the oven to 475, preferably on convection.
  4. Steam the chard and asparagus for 4 minutes, or until tender. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat, add the garlic, and cook for a minute or so, until it begins to sizzle. Lower the heat and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  6. Brush the inside of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with some of the garlic oil.
  7. In the pot that was used to cook the pasta, combine the cooled pasta, the garlic oil (including the garlic, if desired), the béchamel, half of the grated cheese, the steamed asparagus and chard. Stir until well incorporated.
  8. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and top with remaining cheese.
  9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pasta begins to brown on top.

One Year Ago: Flattened Chicken Thighs with Roasted Lemon Slices

Two Years Ago: Meera Sodha’s Chicken Curry

Four Years Ago:

Five Years Ago:

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One-Pot Baked Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

So, this dish uses broccoli rabe instead of broccoli- but I’m still including it in my “series.” 🙂 This is a skillet version of one of my favorite classic Italian dishes. It was delightfully cheesy too.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I used large garlic cloves and decreased the broiling time to 2 minutes. We ate it with a large green salad. Absolutely delicious!!

Yield: Serves 6

  • coarse salt
  • 12 ounces Fontina and/or aged cheddar cheese (about 4 1/2 cups), divided
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 2 large sprigs sage
  • 1 bunch of broccoli rabe
  • ÂĽ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 pound ridged medium pasta shells, or large tube pasta, such as lumaconi or rigatoni
  1. Place racks in center and upper third of oven; preheat to 325, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, for the pasta. Salt generously.
  3. Grate the Fontina cheese on the large holds of a box grater (you should have about 4½ cups).
  4. Smash the garlic cloves, peel, and coarsely chop.
  5. Pick all sage leaves from stems and set aside about 10. Finely chop remaining leaves (you should have about 1 tablespoon).
  6. Trim tough dried ends from the broccoli rabe, then cut stems into 2″ pieces. Leave leafy ends long.
  7. Heat a deep, large, ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Add ¼ cup oil and swirl to coat.
  8. Remove sausage from casings and add to skillet. Break into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook, undisturbed, until sausage is browned, about 4 minutes. Stir a couple of times and continue to cook, undisturbed again, until sausage is fully cooked through, about 3 minutes longer.
  9. Add garlic, chopped sage, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 2 minutes.
  10. Stir in half-and-half and simmer until sauce is thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
  11. Gradually add about two-thirds of cheese, bit by bit, stirring constantly and letting cheese melt completely before adding more, until sauce is smooth and thick, about 3 minutes; season with salt and remove from heat.
  12. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water 2 minutes shy of package instructions (8–10 minutes depending on type).
  13. During the last 2 minutes, add all of broccoli rabe to pot with pasta. Drain in a colander and shake several times to remove excess water. Return pasta and broccoli rabe to empty pasta pot.
  14. Add cheesy sausage mixture from skillet to pot with pasta. Stir until pasta and broccoli rabe are coated in sauce, then transfer everything back to skillet.
  15. Cover skillet tightly with foil and bake on center rack until pasta is tender and sauce is bubbling, 30–40 minutes. Let rest a few minutes while you heat broiler.
  16. Remove foil and top with remaining cheese.
  17. Toss sage leaves with remaining 1 T oil in a small bowl and arrange over pasta.
  18. Broil until cheese is browned and bubbling in spots, about 2 to 5 minutes (depending on strength of broiler).
  19. Let pasta cool a minute or two before serving.
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Rigatoni with Sausage & Greens

This dish has a wonderful combination of flavors and textures. It’s creamy from the creme fraiche, meaty from the sausage, and earthy from the kale. I loved that the entire dish was prepared in a single pot- such a bonus. It was a great weeknight meal.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Justin Chapple. The original recipe called for mustard greens; I used an abundant amount of Toscano kale from my CSA share instead. I also increased the amount of pasta, garlic, and creme fraiche. My family will gobble up any amount of kale if it’s creamy and prepared with pasta and sausage. Genius. 🙂

Yield: Serves 6
  1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until 
al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain.
  2. In the same pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering.
  3. Add the sausage and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl.
  4. Add the leeks, garlic and a generous pinch of salt to the pot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened, 
about 5 minutes.
  5. Return the sausage to the pot.
  6. Add the mustard greens and tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the greens are just wilted and the tomatoes start to burst, 5 to 7 minutes.
  7. Add the pasta, crème fraîche and reserved pasta water and cook, tossing, until the pasta is hot and coated in a light sauce, about 2 minutes.
  8. Season the pasta with salt and pepper and serve right away.

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Shortcut Baked Rigatoni with Meatballs

There are so many end-of-the-school-year parties this time of year. A great time to share a crowd-pleasing casserole! I brought this baked pasta dish to my son’s pre-County Championship Swim Meet pasta dinner. I was thrilled when my friend’s husband asked for the recipe. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from such a fun book- Mad Genius Tips: Over 90 Expert Hacks + 100 Delicious Recipes by Justin Chapple and the Editors of Food and Wine. I love Chapple’s column in the printed magazine and knew I would enjoy this book as well. The pasta and the meatballs cook in the oven. Truly genius!

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed basil, torn or chiffonade, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ziti, rigatoni, rotini, fusilli, shells, or campanelle pasta
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 28 oz (about 3 cups) prepared marinara sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread crumbs, eggs, 1/3 cup torn basil, 1/4 cup of Parmesan and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper; mix well.
  3. Using a cookie scoop, form the meat mixture into one-inch balls.
  4. In a 9-by-13-inch ceramic baking dish, spread half of the pasta in an even layer.
  5. Arrange half of the meatballs (about 16) and mozzarella on the pasta.
  6. Spoon half of the marinara on top and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  7. Repeat with the remaining pasta, meatballs, cheese, and marinara. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  8. Place baking dish on a rimmed cookie sheet. Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil.
  9. Bake for about 1 hour, until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  10. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes longer, until lightly browned.
  11. Let stand for 5 minutes. Garnish with basil and parmesan and serve.

Make Ahead: The baked pasta can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently.

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Skillet Chicken with Tomatoes, Pancetta, & Mozzarella

Wow. This dish was AMAZING. I would describe it as a lighter take on chicken parmesan, but it even brings that classic dish to another level with its more complex flavors.

The first time I made this dish, I served it with roasted red potatoes and roasted broccoli on the side. Realizing that it would have been more perfect with pasta, we “had” to have it again. Absolute perfection served over rigatoni!

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. She referred to the dish as “Pizza Chicken.” 🙂 I used boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in, increased the garlic, decreased the pancetta, and used ciliegine instead of bocconcini. Fabulous!!

Update: I made this delicious dish using fresh tomatoes (updated below) from another version of this recipe adapted from Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark. Also incredible!

Yield: Serves 6

  • 3 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 15)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 to 4 anchovy fillets
  • ÂĽ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes OR 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (preferably mixed colors) and 3 1/2 cups diced Campari tomatoes
  • 1 large basil sprig, plus more chopped basil for serving
  • 8 ounces bocconcini or ciliegine, halved (or use mozzarella cut into 3/4-inch pieces)
  • 1 pound of cooked pasta, such as rigatoni, for serving (tossed with pasta water, olive oil, or butter, as desired)
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large oven-proof skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate.
  3. Working in two batches, add chicken to skillet. Sear, turning only occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a large plate.
  4. Add garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes to skillet; fry 1 minute.
  5. Stir in tomatoes and basil. Cook, breaking up tomatoes with a spatula, until sauce thickens somewhat, about 10 minutes.
  6. Return chicken to skillet. Transfer skillet to oven and cook, uncovered, until chicken is no longer pink, about 25 minutes.
  7. Scatter bocconcini, ciliegine, or mozzarella pieces over skillet. Adjust oven temperature to broil. Return skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes (watch carefully to see that it does not burn).
  8. Garnish with pancetta and chopped basil before serving. Serve over pasta, as desired.

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Rigatoni with Cabbage, Creme Fraiche, & Pumpernickel Bread Crumbs

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My father-in-law has lost a considerable amount of weight by eating a raw cabbage salad prior to his meals. Thank goodness he has become quite a cabbage-fan because I couldn’t believe I served him a main dish that incorporated cabbage- an entire head of cabbage! 🙂

The cabbage in this sauce is shredded and becomes completely unrecognizable in the creamy sauce. The crème fraiche added a lovely tanginess and the pumpernickel bread crumbs added a fabulous contrasting texture. We ate it on Thanksgiving Eve with a green salad. It was a delicious dish!

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Mike Lata. I used black forest bacon, mezzi rigatoni, and green cabbage instead of Savoy. I also reduced the crushed red pepper and increased the garlic. We grated additional Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top of each serving at the table. Yum!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 8 ounces pumpernickel bread (with crusts), torn into pieces (3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice (I used black forest bacon)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 head of Savoy or green cabbage (1 1/2 pounds), shredded (I used a food processor)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound rigatoni or mezzi rigatoni
  • 1/2 cup crème fraĂ®che
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  1. In a food processor, pulse the bread until coarse crumbs form. In a skillet, melt the butter in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
  2. Add the breadcrumbs and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 minutes. Season with salt.
  3. In a large straight-sided skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp; transfer to paper towels to drain.
  4. Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper to the skillet and cook until the onion is softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and stock and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until almost all of the stock has evaporated, 8 to 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  6. Toss the pasta with the cabbage.
  7. Stir in the crème fraîche, the 1/2 cup of cheese and, if necessary, the reserved pasta water; season with salt and black pepper.
  8. Transfer the pasta to bowls and garnish with the breadcrumbs, bacon and black pepper. Serve with additional cheese on the side.

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Rigatoni with Lemon-Chile Pesto & Grated Egg

This lovely dish just screams spring. It is rich and buttery and topped with grated egg yolks. It is cheesy and slightly spicy, but at the same time bright and fresh with lemon juice and zest. It really has it all. 🙂

The recipe for this fabulous dish is from Bon Appetit. It is the third vegetarian pasta I’m bringing to the party this week at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #63. This was my favorite of the three – absolutely delicious!!!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 12 ounces rigatoni or other short pasta
  • coarse salt
  • 4 hard-boiled large egg yolks
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ ounce Pecorino Romano, finely grated (about ½ cup)
  1. Cover the eggs with 1-inch of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 12 minutes, drain, and fill with cold water. When cool enough to handle, peel the eggs. Set aside.
  2. Zest and juice the lemons.
  3. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente (pasta will still be opaque and very firm in the center). Drain pasta, reserving 1½ cups pasta cooking liquid.
  4. Meanwhile, finely grate egg yolks on the small holes of a box grater and set aside.
  5. Heat 6 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high.
  6. Add both kinds of lemon zest and juice and red pepper flakes, swirling pan to incorporate.
  7. Add pasta and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid and cook, tossing often and adding more cooking liquid to help finish cooking pasta, until pasta is al dente and sauce is thickened and coats pasta, about 5 minutes.
  8. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Add Pecorino Romano and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to pasta and toss until melted.
  10. Serve pasta topped with reserved grated egg yolks.

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