Baked Feta & Tomato Pasta with Basil

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
  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. 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.)
  3. Sprinkle the tomatoes with some salt and toss to coat. Sprinkle with za’atar, if using.
  4. 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.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the garlic has softened and the tomatoes have burst their skins.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.)
  9. To serve, top with plenty of basil leaves.

Sheet-Pan Garam Masala Chicken with Cauliflower & Chickpeas

I love yogurt-based marinades because the resulting meat is always juicy and tender. This dish not only had a yogurt marinade, it was made on a single sheet pan and had a bright and spicy “finishing condiment” as well. A winner. 🙂

The rimmed sheet pan did accumulate a lot of pan juices, but the chicken and cauliflower were still perfectly crispy on top. The cauliflower and chickpeas absorbed a lot of wonderful flavors from the pan drippings as well.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Kat Boytsova. I added chickpeas and served the roasted chicken, cauliflower, and beans over rice, drizzled with pan juices. We also had warm naan on the side. The lemony cilantro-onion-jalapeño finishing condiment was essential and absolutely delicious.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Chicken:

  • 3″ piece ginger, peeled
  • 2 cups whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup (or more) 2% Greek yogurt, for serving (can substitute whole-milk yogurt)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 T garam masala, divided
  • 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 lbs)
  • 2 T plus 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 head of jumbo cauliflower (about 3 lbs)
  • 3 T vegetable oil or olive oil

For the Finishing Condiment:

  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and ribbed- if desired
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • rice and/or warm flatbread, for serving, optional

To Marinate the Chicken & Prepare the Dish:

  1. Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 425°. (I set my oven to convection roast.) Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Finely grate 3″ piece ginger into a medium bowl. Transfer all but 1 teaspoon of the grated ginger to a large resealable plastic bag, reserving ginger in bowl for the finishing condiment. (I used a gallon-size bag.)
  3. Add 2 cups whole-milk yogurt to bag with ginger.
  4. Cut 1 lemon in half crosswise and squeeze juice from each half into the yogurt mixture.
  5. Add cayenne and 2 T plus 1 tsp garam masala. Seal bag and shake to combine.
  6. Season 8 chicken pieces with 5 tsp salt. (I placed the chicken on a plate, seasoned with half the salt, turned each piece over, and seasoned with the rest of the salt.)
  7. Place chicken pieces in the marinade bag, seal, and shake again to cover all the pieces.
  8. Squeeze out as much air as you can from the bag, which makes sure that all the chicken is covered with the marinade. Let marinate at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or keep in the fridge for up to 4 hours. (I marinated the chicken 3 hours in advance, letting it come closer to room temperature for 20 minutes or so before roasting.)
  9. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Lay out on a paper towel to dry thoroughly.
  10. Cut 1 head of cauliflower into quarters through stem end. Place quarters cut side down and remove most of the core. The cauliflower florets should fall apart and separate naturally, but you can slice any larger florets in half or into quarters until all florets are about 2″ in size. You want the more or less evenly sized so they’re cook evenly.
  11. Transfer cauliflower and beans to the prepared baking sheet.
  12. Drizzle 3 T oil and 1 1/2 tsp salt over and toss to coat. Spread evenly all the way to edges of pan, making sure that the pieces aren’t too crowded, otherwise they’ll steam instead of roasting. (If you ended up with more cauliflower than can fit in a single layer, take some out and save it for something else.)
  13. Remove chicken from marinade, slightly shaking off excess. Arrange on baking sheet skin side up, nestling into cauliflower. (It’s okay if some marinade clings to the chicken, just make sure it’s not pooling in pan.)
  14. Roast chicken and cauliflower, turning pan halfway through and moving chicken around with tongs to ensure even browning, until chicken skin is blistered, meat is tender all the way to the bone, and cauliflower is nicely charred, 35–40 minutes. (The internal temperature should reach 165 degrees.) Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

To Make the Finishing Condiment and to Serve:

  1. Chop the onion, place it in a colander, and rinse it with cold water. (This removes some of the onion’s sharpness.)
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, finely chop the cilantro.
  3. Add the onion to the food processor, finely chop.
  4. Add onion and cilantro to the bowl with the reserved ginger (from step 2 above).
  5. Finely grate zest of remaining lemon into the bowl. Cut lemon in half and squeeze 1 half into the bowl; reserve remaining half for another use.
  6. Remove seeds and ribs from the jalapeño, if desired, finely chop. Alternatively, it can be thinly sliced into rings. Add to the bowl.
  7. Season with remaining 2 tsp garam masala and 3/4 tsp salt.
  8. Mix with a spoon to combine, taste, and add more salt and lemon juice if necessary.
  9. Arrange chicken, beans, and cauliflower over rice, if desired, on individual plates or on a platter. Drizzle with pan juices, as desired.
  10. Top with lemon condiment and serve with a dollop of yogurt or yogurt to pass at the table, as desired. (I served 2% Greek yogurt with the meal.)

Roasted Cauliflower & Chickpeas with Mustard Vinaigrette

My daughter and I made this lovely dish as a side for our Thanksgiving feast- although it was practically her entire meal. She absolutely loves cauliflower and garbanzo beans and is not a big fan of other Thanksgiving dishes. Dessert is her exception. 😉

This dish was adapted from It’s All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen, via theyellowtable.com. Healthy and delicious.

Yield: Serves 6 as a side dish

  • 14 oz can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed, and dried
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • coarse salt or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain seeded mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  1. Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400ºF, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Toss the chickpeas and cauliflower florets together on a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet or in a large roasting pan with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a big pinch of salt.
  3. Roast, stirring now and then, until everything is dark brown and the cauliflower is quite soft, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the mustards, vinegar, and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, or to taste.
  5. While the chickpeas and cauliflower are still warm, toss them with the mustard dressing and the parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Slow-Roasted Carrots with Browned-Butter Vinaigrette

These caramelized carrots were part of our Thanksgiving feast. Initially, I thought that the proportions were really off in this dish- only a drizzle of the amazing browned butter vinaigrette is used and I had a tremendous amount leftover. The proportions could be reduced, of course, but I have used the leftover vinaigrette with roasted Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, CSA rutabaga, and more rainbow carrots. It is absolutely wonderful.

This recipe was adapted from chef Neil Borthwick’s “forgotten carrots” at Merchants Tavern in London via The New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I modified the proportions and cooked the carrots in a cast iron skillet. I would roast four pounds of rainbow carrots next time.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

  • 2 pounds large carrots (I used rainbow carrots)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus 3 extra tablespoons for roasting the carrots
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1-2 star anise
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons sherry vinegar, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons chervil leaves or chopped fresh parsley
  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Scrub the carrots, and peel them if you like (it really doesn’t matter but I peeled them).
  3. Set a 12-inch cast iron skillet or a roasting pan over two burners on medium heat; put the olive oil in the pan.
  4. When the oil is hot, add the carrots and cook, turning as they brown, until lightly caramelized all over, 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Add 3 tablespoons butter, spices, salt and pepper.
  6. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven, and cook, shaking the pan once or twice, until the carrots are crinkly on the outside and you can pierce them easily with the tip of a sharp knife, 45 to 60 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, put 1 stick butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the butter foam subsides and the butter turns nut brown, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  8. Put brown butter, vinegar, Dijon, salt and pepper in a blender or mini food processor. Blend until a creamy emulsion forms, about 30 seconds; taste, and adjust the seasoning.
  9. Put the carrots on a platter, drizzle the vinaigrette over the top and garnish with the chervil or parsley, and serve.

Note: Leftover vinaigrette can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator to toss with other roasted vegetables.

Buttermilk-Poblano Gravy

This Thanksgiving, we branched out from our favorite wild mushroom gravy to try this roasted poblano version. It was incredible. Because we roasted a much smaller turkey and made less mashed potatoes, I plan to gobble up any leftover gravy as a dip with tortilla chips. 🙂 It would also be wonderful in tacos or as sauce in a pot pie.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Javier Cabral and Paola Brinseño González. I incorporated a shallot as well as the roasted turkey pan dripping and juices. I also reduced the salt. Next time I will roast the poblanos in advance. I am going to start making it year-round!

Yield: about 2 cups

  • 2 large (3 ounce) poblano chilies
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 2 T roasted turkey pan fat (can substitute 2 T unsalted butter)
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted turkey pan drippings plus vegetable, chicken, or turkey stock, divided
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Place chilies on an aluminum foil lined baking pan. Place under a broiler, rotating every 5 minutes, until skin is charred on all sides. (Alternatively, using kitchen tongs, hold 1 chile directly over a medium flame of a gas stovetop. Cook until skin is blackened, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining chile.)
  2. Wrap the blackened chilies in the aluminum foil to steam. (Alternatively, place chiles in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap.) Let steam for 10 minutes.
  3. Rub off skin from chiles, removing as much of the blackened skin as you can. (Don’t worry if all of the skin doesn’t come off.) Remove and discard stems and seeds.
  4. Finely dice the roasted chilies.
  5. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add shallot and diced chiles. Cook until onion is soft, about 4 minutes.
  6. Combine shallot mixture and 1/2 cup stock in a blender, and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. (I used a Vitamix.)
  7. Place 2 tablespoons of fat from pan drippings (or 2 T butter) in same skillet over medium.
  8. Whisk in flour, and reduce heat to low. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  9. Increase heat to medium and add shallot-chile puree and remaining 1 cup pan drippings with stock, and cook, whisking constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.
  10. Reduce heat to low; add buttermilk. Simmer gently to allow flavors to meld, about 2 minutes.
  11. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Note: Poblano peppers can be roasted, peeled, and cut 2 days ahead.

Sheet Pan Chicken with Jammy Tomatoes & Pancetta

Full-flavored sheet pan dinners are a dream. I loved that this one was seasoned with smoked paprika- it has such a fabulous depth of flavor. The “jammy” roasted tomatoes were sweet and delicious. I served the chicken and sauce over a bed of brown Basmati rice to soak up every last drop.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I incorporated broccoli florets and increased the amount of garlic. In addition to rice, I served this dish with sautéed spinach and roasted potatoes. Wonderful.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 10 whole unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice, plus more for serving
  • 1 T sweet or smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (preferably different colors), halved
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, optional
  • 2 ounces diced pancetta or bacon
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh dill, parsley or other herbs, for serving (I used cilantro)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving, optional
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Season chicken all over with salt, and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Smash all the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and peel them.
  4. Finely grate two of the garlic cloves into a small bowl. Stir in the 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, paprika, oregano, brown sugar, and cumin. Pour over chicken, tossing to coat.
  5. Add tomatoes, broccoli florets (if using) and remaining smashed, peeled garlic cloves to baking sheet, spreading them out around the chicken. Season tomatoes and broccoli lightly with salt and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
  6. Scatter pancetta on top.
  7. Roast until chicken is golden and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir the tomatoes and pancetta, but don’t disturb the chicken.
  8. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  9. Stir the tomatoes, broccoli, and pancetta around in the pan, scraping up all the delicious browned bits from the bottom and sides, and stir in the herbs and black pepper to taste.
  10. Taste and add salt, if needed, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if you like.
  11. Place a bed of rice on a platter, if desired. Transfer the reserved chicken to the platter.
  12. Spoon tomatoes, broccoli, garlic and pancetta over the chicken to serve.

Apple-Brown Sugar Pie

One of my favorite columns in all of my food magazines is the “RSVP” section in Bon Appétit. Readers write in to request recipes for amazing restaurant dishes. This recipe is from that column. 🙂

I thought that it was incredible that the apple pie I made last Thanksgiving had over four pounds of apples in the filling. This pie also had four pounds of apples- and they were roasted before filling the crust- packing in even more flavor. Delicious!!

This recipe was adapted from Macrina Bakery in Seattle, via Bon Appétit. I used the recipe for an all-butter crust from my Perfect Apple Pie, used a combination of apples, and made a braided lattice-top crust sprinkled with turbinado sugar. I also covered the pie with a foil dome while baking to prevent over-browning.

Yield: 8 Servings

For the Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups (315 grams) flour
  • 1 T (15 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces, 225 grams tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten, optional
  • coarse or raw sugar for sprinkling, optional

For the Filling and Assembly:

  • 2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, sliced into ½-inch wedges
  • 2 pounds Jazz apples, peeled, sliced into ½-inch wedges
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup plus 1 heaping tablespoon all-purpose flour, plus more
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • ½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 2 T turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

To Serve:

  • Lightly sweetened crème fraîche, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream, for serving, optional

Make the Crust:

  1. Gather your ingredients: Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside.
  2. In a large, very wide bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
  3. Dice two sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces. (If the butter becomes slightly warm, re-refrigerate until very cold.)
  4. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with a pastry blender, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly.
  5. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas — this won’t take long — stop- even if it looks uneven.
  6. Start by drizzling 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the ice-cold water (but not the cubes, if there are any left!) over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together.
  7. Add an additional 1/4 cup (60 ml) of cold water to bring it together, one tablespoon as a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and use your hands to gather the damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.
  8. Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. I like to use the sides to pull in the dough and shape it into a disk.
  9. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out. (I make my dough a day in advance.)
  10. Once the dough is chilled and ready to go, roll out the first half on a well-floured counter into a 14-inch circle and transfer it to 9-inch standard (not deep-dish) pie plate.
  11. With scissors or kitchen shears, trim overhang to one inch all around. Refrigerate dish and dough until needed.
  12. For a regular pie lid, roll out the second dough half into the same sized circle, transfer it to a large parchment-lined baking sheet and chill this as well until needed. For a lattice or woven pie lid, you can use the same sized circle, or you can just roll it into a rectangle at least 14″ in one direction, and then as long or wide you can get it in the other. Transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill this as well until needed. (I made a braided lattice top.)

Do ahead: Dough will keep in the refrigerator for about a week, and in the freezer longer. If not using it that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells. To defrost your dough, move it to the fridge for one day before using it.

Make the Filling And Assemble:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  2. Toss apples, 1 cup granulated sugar, and ¼ cup flour in a large bowl. Divide between 2 rimmed baking sheets; bake, rotating baking sheets once, until apples are just tender, 25–30 minutes.
  3. Let the apples cool, then transfer apples and accumulated juices to a large bowl.
  4. Add butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and 1 heaping tablespoon of flour; toss to combine. Chill at least 1 hour.
  5. Scrape apples into prepared pie crust and place dough over top; trim, leaving 1″ overhang. (I made a lattice top.)
  6. Fold edge of top crust under bottom crust, press together to seal, and crimp. If using a full pie crust top, cut 8 slits in top to vent.
  7. Brush top crust with egg, and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of turbinado sugar.
  8. Chill pie in freezer until crust is firm, about 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat oven to 400°. Place pie on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, cover the edge with a pie shield and cover entire pie with a foil dome (see note); bake 30 minutes (crust should be slightly golden).
  10. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue baking until juices are bubbling and crust is deep golden brown, 50–70 minutes. (I kept the edge covered but removed the foil dome the last 15 minutes of baking.)
  11. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool at least 4 hours before slicing. Serve with crème fraîche, whipped cream or ice cream, as desired.

Note: If your pie is browning too fast, take a large square of foil, mold it over the back of a large bowl into a convex dome, then use that to cover the pie in the oven for the remaining baking time so it doesn’t brown much further.

Do Ahead: Roasted apples can be made 1 day ahead; keep chilled. Pie can be made 1 day ahead and stored at room temperature.

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