This comfort food dish was very well-received in my house. Everyone in my family was fighting over the leftovers! It was easy, full-flavored, and absolutely delicious.
The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I modified the proportions and substituted sour cream for the heavy cream. I also adjusted the consistency of the finished dish with pasta cooking water. Great.
Yield: Serves 8
6 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 3/4 lbs ground pork, turkey, beef, or chicken, preferably dark meat
2 medium onions, finely chopped
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 Calabrian chiles in oil, finely chopped, or 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
7 T double-concentrated tomato paste
7 T sour cream or heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs (20 to 24 oz) rigatoni, gemelli or other short pasta
2 oz Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
basil leaves, for serving
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium to medium-high.
Add ground meat in 12–14 pieces (patties), spacing evenly, and season with salt.
Let cook, undisturbed, until deeply browned underneath, about 3 minutes.
Turn over and cook until deeply browned on opposite side, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. (It won’t be cooked through.)
Add remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to pot over medium heat.
Cook onion, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add chiles/red pepper flakes and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste is slightly darkened in color, about 3 minutes.
Return meat to the pot and break up into small pieces.
Add sour cream/heavy cream and 2 1/4 cups water.
Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, and simmer gently until liquid is reduced by one third and flavors have come together, 15–20 minutes.
Season ragù with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.
Add pasta to ragù along with 1 cup pasta cooking liquid and Parmesan.
Cook, stirring and adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes.
Transfer to a serving dish or individual bowls. Garnish with basil and reserved Parmesan. Serve.
My kids love the Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese from Trader Joe’s. (It sells out daily- so they are clearly not alone!) This vegetarian comfort food dish seemed reminiscent enough to be a crowd-pleaser. 😉 I liked that it incorporated leafy greens too.
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I modified the method and proportions. I also added a poblano chile, red onion, garlic, and cilantro. Nice.
Yield: Serves 6
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, diced
1 poblano chile, seeded, ribbed, and diced, divided (or 1 jalapeño, sliced into rounds)
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1 pound rigatoni, penne, or other tubular pasta
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano), divided
4 packed cups greens (I used 2 cups turnip greens (sliced into 1-inch ribbons) and 2 cups baby spinach)
8 oz (1/2 pound) fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size chunks
1/3 cup cilantro or flat-leaf parsley and tender stems, roughly chopped, for garnish
Bring a large covered pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until not quite al dente, 3 to 4 minutes less than the package instructions. (It should be a little too firm to the bite.) Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet with high sides and a tight-fitting lid (or a Dutch oven), heat the oil over medium-high until shimmering. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
Add the diced onion and half of the diced poblano chile, season with salt, and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add the sliced garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the cubed squash and season with salt, cumin, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring every minute, until squash becomes browned in spots and feels just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to convection.)
When the squash is just tender, add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Bring to an active simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft and easily mashable, 10 to 12 minutes.
Turn off the heat, then use the back of a wooden spoon to crush about half of the butternut squash and leave the rest chunky. Season the squash to taste, keeping in mind that salty Parmesan will be added soon.
Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with the remaining 1 cup of reserved pasta water and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Stir vigorously to combine.
Stir in the greens one handful at a time until each addition wilts slightly.
Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, the mozzarella, and the remaining diced poblano chile. Place in the oven and cook until the top is melted and browned in spots, 12 to 15 minutes.
This is a great end of summer ~ early fall dish. I loved that it gobbled up my CSA collards and chard. I really love any dish that transforms greens into a crowd-pleaser! 🙂 The mashed beans made the sauce creamy.
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz, via epicurious.com. I used garbanzo beans and a mix of collard greens, Swiss chard, and spinach. I also substituted sweet Italian sausage and modified the proportions. The fried rosemary garnish was essential.
Yield: Serves 6
1/3 cup (5 T) extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
8 to 10 oz sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (I used 3 sweet sausages)
1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas or cannellini beans, rinsed, patted dry
1/4 cup dry white wine
16 oz (1 pound) paccheri, rigatoni, or other large tubular pasta (I used pennoni pasta)
8 to 10 cups (lightly packed) cut or torn escarole, kale, or Swiss chard leaves (I used 1/4-inch ribbons stemmed and halved collard greens, 1/2-inch ribbons stemmed Swiss chard (stems cut into 1/4-inch pieces and reserved), & baby spinach)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
freshly ground black pepper
3 T unsalted butter
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium to medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
Fry rosemary, turning, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Add sausage to same pot and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a shallow bowl.
Add chickpeas to pot and cook, tossing occasionally and mashing some chickpeas with a spoon, until browned in spots, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer about half of chickpeas to plate with sausage.
Add wine to pot (and add the Swiss chard stems, if using), bring to a boil, and cook until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions.
Using a spider or a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to pot with chickpeas and add the greens and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing often, until the greens are wilted, pasta is al dente, and sauce is thickened, about 4 minutes.
Add another 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, then gradually add 1/2 cup cheese, tossing until melted and dissolved into a luxurious, glossy sauce.
Thin with more pasta cooking liquid if needed. Season with pepper, and more salt if needed. Add butter and toss to combine, then mix in reserved sausage and chickpeas.
Divide pasta among bowls or place in a large serving dish. Crumble fried rosemary over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.
This is a crowd-pleasing and quick summer dish. It was a wonderful meal served with a giant green salad. The original recipe notes that any summer vegetable, or a combination, can be used instead of the fresh corn. Chopped tomatoes, broccoli, summer squash, or even green beans would work.
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I modified the proportions. Great!
Yield: Serves 6
16 oz rigatoni
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 sprigs basil, plus 1 cup leaves for serving
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or other mild red pepper flakes)
fresh corn kernels from 3 large ears
5 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 oz (about 1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high.
Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, 6–8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium and cook sliced garlic in same pot, stirring occasionally, until light golden around edges, about 2 minutes.
Add basil sprigs and Aleppo pepper; cook, stirring, until basil is wilted, about 1 minute.
Place an ear of corn upright in a medium sized bowl. Use a knife to cut off the kernels. (The bowl will prevent the kernels from flying all over the counter.)
Add corn and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to the pot and cook, stirring often, until corn is mostly tender, about 3 minutes.
Stir in pasta and 1 cup pasta cooking water.
Add butter and cook, stirring, until butter is melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.
Add the Parmesan in several additions, stirring after each addition until sauce is smooth.
Return sausage to pot and cook until flavors meld, about 1 minute. If needed, add additional pasta cooking liquid to loosen the sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Place in a serving bowl or individual shallow bowls. Top with basil leaves and more Parmesan and serve.
This is another wonderful weeknight pasta that uses simple ingredients. I was excited to make it while Meyer lemons are still readily available. The lemon added brightness which had a nice contrast to the richness of the browned butter and cheese.
This recipe is from Bon Appétit, contributed by Andy Baraghani. I used a mandoline to slice the lemon into 1/8-inch thick (thin) rounds. I loved that the original recipe called for “an almost ridiculous amount of pepper.” I’m a huge fan. 🙂
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
1 lb. short tube pasta, such as paccheri or rigatoni (I used mezzi rigatoni)
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided
1 small regular lemon or Meyer lemon, very thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed (I used a mandoline)
1 oz Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
freshly ground black pepper
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling generously salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions (pasta will finish cooking in the sauce).
Meanwhile, heat half of the butter in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium until melted.
Add lemon slices and cook, stirring often, until softened and bottom of pot is browned in spots, 5–7 minutes.
Using tongs, transfer one-third of lemon slices to a plate; set aside.
Just before pasta is al dente, scoop out 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.
Add 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid to butter sauce. (This may seem like a lot of liquid, but it will thicken once the remaining ingredients are added.)
Add remaining butter a piece at a time, whisking until each piece is incorporated before adding more, until the sauce is emulsified and creamy.
Drain pasta and add to sauce.
Cook, stirring often and adding the grated Parmesan a little at a time.
Once all of the cheese is added, continue to cook, still stirring, until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy and clings to pasta, about 3 minutes. If sauce looks very thick, add more pasta cooking liquid 1–2 Tbsp. at a time to thin (saucier is ideal as it will thicken as it cools).
Remove from heat and sprinkle with an almost ridiculous amount of pepper (about 2 tsp.); toss once more.
Serve pasta topped with reserved lemon rounds and more Parmesan.
I first heard about this spectacularly easy viral pasta dish from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. I think I was the last to know… My daughter has seen countless people make it on TikTok, of course. 😉 She was absolutely thrilled to make it with me!
The original recipe is called “Uunifetapasta,” created by the Finnish blogger Jenni Häyrinen. The foundation of the dish is a block of feta placed in the center of a baking dish surrounded by seasoned tomatoes. After being baked, the cheese and burst tomatoes are combined to create a creamy and delicious sauce to serve over pasta. Deb Perelman incorporated chickpeas in her version- nice.
This version from the Washington Post, contributed by Aaron Hutcherson, recommended using Greek sheep’s milk feta to maximize the creaminess. I used an enameled cast iron baking pan, modified the proportions and incorporated za’atar to the seasoning on the tomatoes prior to baking. It was super creamy and tasty- and as simple and easy to prepare as expected.
Yield: Serves 6
3 pints (750 to 800 g) grape or cherry tomatoes
5 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
8 T (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 block (10.5 oz) Greek feta cheese
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
za’atar, to taste, optional
17 to 18 oz medium-length dried pasta, such as campanile, rigatoni, or rotini (I used Gigli)
fresh basil leaves, for serving
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, combine the tomatoes, garlic and 6 tablespoons of the olive oil. (I used an enameled cast iron baking pan.)
Sprinkle the tomatoes with some salt and toss to coat. Sprinkle with za’atar, if using.
Place the feta cheese in the center of the tomatoes and garlic, top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle the entire dish with red pepper flakes and a little black pepper.
Bake for about 40 minutes, until the garlic has softened and the tomatoes have burst their skins.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and stir the feta and tomatoes with a wooden spoon until evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary.
Mix the sauce with pasta, adding the reserved pasta water as needed if it looks a little dry. (I incorporated quite a bit of pasta water.)
I love a cheesy baked pasta loaded with greens. 🙂 This one was bursting with broccoli rabe (of which I am a huge fan) but it could have easily incorporated broccoli, baby broccolini, or other greens such as collards, spinach, and/or kale instead. We ate it with garlic bread and green salad. Great.
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Alison Roman. I was a little bit concerned about the spice level after adding an entire teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, but the finished result was perfect. I baked the casserole in a Dutch oven and the cheesy bread crumb topping formed an incredible crispy crust over the entire top. I may consider adding garlic next time, but it was amazing without it!
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
1 lb rigatoni, ziti, or fusilli
8 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
minced garlic, optional
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
2 bunches broccoli rabe or 3 bunches baby broccolini, trimmed, coarsely chopped (I cut the stems into 2-inch pieces and the leaves into 3-inch pieces)(see alternate green vegetable alternatives above)
1 cup heavy cream
12 oz sharp white cheddar, coarsely grated (about 3 cups), divided (I used 10 oz extra-sharp white cheddar and 2 oz white Beecher’s Flagship Handmade Cheese)
1 bunch chives, chopped, divided (about 1 cup)
1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs or panko (I used a blend of the two)
Preheat oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a generous amount of salt. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking together, until just barely al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
While the pasta is cooking, heat 5 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
Add leeks and season with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened (but not so much that they don’t have any texture left) and starting to brown, 5–10 minutes.
Add red pepper flakes and garlic, if using, to leeks and stir to incorporate.
Add broccoli rabe by the handful, stirring to combine and allowing each addition to wilt before adding more.
Season with salt and black pepper.
Once all of the broccoli rabe has been added, cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside.
Add pasta to reserved broccoli rabe mixture along with cream, three-quarters of the cheese, 2/3 of the chopped chives, and reserved pasta cooking liquid; mix well. Season with salt and black pepper and add more red pepper flakes if you prefer more heat (keep in mind that the saltiness and spiciness will increase as the pasta bakes).(I didn’t add any additional heat.)
Transfer pasta to a 3-qt. baking dish (or, if your Dutch oven is ovenproof, just leave it in there). (I scraped down the sides of my Dutch oven and kept the mixture in it to bake- less dishes!)
Toss breadcrumbs and remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium bowl until coated; season with salt and black pepper.
Scatter breadcrumbs over pasta, then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese.
Bake until pasta is bubbling across the entire surface and breadcrumbs are deep golden brown, 22 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Scatter remaining chives over pasta just before serving.