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.

Vegetable Baked Rice with White Beans & Leeks

Baked rice is quick and easy to prepare and is really delicious. This baked rice dish was inspired by prasorizo, the classic Greek rice-and-leek dish. It makes a great vegetarian main dish or a phenomenal side. We ate it as a main dish with rotisserie chicken on the side. 😉 The freshly grated Parmesan really added richness to the meal.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. Almost any vegetable can be incorporated into the dish.  I added my beautiful CSA Romanesco cauliflower (with its greens) as well as baby spinach. The original recipe suggests alternatively adding tomatoes, zucchini, and/or broccoli with the leeks, or arugula and/or sliced sugar snap peas after the dish is removed from the oven.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 to 5 leeks (about 2 pounds), trimmed, white and pale green parts, cut lengthwise & sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 lemon
  • chopped tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli florets, and/or cauliflower florets, optional (I used Romanesco cauliflower florets)
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds (I used raw slivered almonds), or more, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked white basmati rice
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white beans (such as cannellini or great Northern), drained and rinsed
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water or stock
  • coarsely chopped spinach and/or arugula, or sliced sugar snap peas (I used 2 cups chopped baby spinach)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced or chopped basil, chives, mint or fennel fronds, plus more for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Soak sliced leeks in a bowl of water, remove with a slotted spoon or spider, then shake or pat dry.
  3. Using a vegetable peeler, peel 1-inch-thick strips of lemon zest, then cut the lemon in half. Cut one half into four wedges and reserve the other half.
  4. In a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, combine the leeks, lemon zest strips, almonds, red-pepper flakes and olive oil. (I used an enameled cast iron baking dish.)
  5. If adding chopped tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, and/or cauliflower, add to the pan with the leeks. (I added Romanesco cauliflower florets.)
  6. Season generously with salt and pepper, and arrange in an even layer. Roast until the leeks start to caramelize, about 20 minutes.
  7. Remove and finely chop the lemon zest strips, then stir the zest back into the leek mixture. Arrange in an even layer.
  8. Sprinkle the rice evenly over the leeks, then top with the beans and 1 teaspoon salt.
  9. Add the boiling water or stock, then seal the pan tightly with foil.
  10. Bake until the rice is tender, 20 to 22 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven, and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  12. If adding spinach and/or arugula, or sliced sugar snap peas, add them in at this time. (I added the Romanesco cauliflower greens, ribs removed and finely sliced, as well as 2 cups of baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped.)
  13. Squeeze the lemon half over the rice, then stir in Parmesan and herbs.
  14. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  15. Serve with lemon wedges, and more Parmesan and herbs, as desired.

Baked Rigatoni with Cheddar & Broccoli Rabe

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)
  1. Preheat oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. Add red pepper flakes and garlic, if using, to leeks and stir to incorporate.
  6. Add broccoli rabe by the handful, stirring to combine and allowing each addition to wilt before adding more.
  7. Season with salt and black pepper.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.)
  10. 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!)
  11. Toss breadcrumbs and remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium bowl until coated; season with salt and black pepper.
  12. Scatter breadcrumbs over pasta, then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese.
  13. Bake until pasta is bubbling across the entire surface and breadcrumbs are deep golden brown, 22 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  14. Scatter remaining chives over pasta just before serving.

One-Pan Orzo with Spinach & Feta

This is another weeknight dish loaded with spinach. I also incorporated my CSA turnip greens. It features many of the flavors of my favorite Greek dishes, including lemon zest, feta, and fresh herbs. I used parsley from my CSA share as well.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. It was very quick and easy to prepare. I used a large, wide enameled cast iron pot. I increased the amount of garlic and modified the cooking method.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, divided
  • 2 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces baby spinach leaves (8 cups), coarsely chopped (I used 6oz spinach and 2oz turnip greens)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta (3 ounces), plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 cup fresh dill, or use parsley or cilantro, chopped
  1. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium, then melt butter, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pot.)
  2. Stir in about three-quarters of the scallions (saving some of the green parts for garnish) and garlic, and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in stock and bring to a simmer.
  4. Stir in orzo, lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until orzo is nearly cooked through and most of the liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  5. Stir in spinach (and other greens, if using), adding in batches if it doesn’t all fit in the pan at once, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in cheese, peas, and dill/parsley/cilantro, cover the pan, and cook for another 1 minute, to finish cooking and warm the peas.
  7. To serve, sprinkle with more cheese and the reserved scallions.

Baked Chicken & Spinach Meatballs

Everyone loves meatballs- right? These were a healthyish version packed with cilantro and spinach. We ate them over rice topped with dollops of garlicky Greek yogurt sauce with roasted cauliflower on the side. Yum.

My husband was gifted a meat grinder for Christmas. 🙂 This was the first time he used it, grinding chicken thighs for these full-flavored meatballs. He plans to make burgers with blended meats next. Fancy!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I prepared the seasoned meat about 6 hours ahead of time but it can even sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the meat absorbs the seasoning. I baked the meatballs (in the same oven as the roasted cauliflower) and used red pepper flakes instead of a serrano chile. I also added a yogurt sauce for serving. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound spinach, washed
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (I used 5 freshly ground chicken thighs- medium grind)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used the zest from 1/2 lemon)
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (I crushed them using a mortar and pestle)
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 serrano chile, with seeds, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup soft fresh bread crumbs, from about 4 slices of crustless sandwich bread (I used 3 slices of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or ricotta cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for the baking sheet
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • cooked rice, for serving (I served the meatballs over white Basmati rice)
  • yogurt sauce (or store-bought tzatziki), for serving (see below)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh dill, cilantro or parsley, finely minced, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Blanch the spinach: Plunge leaves a handful at a time into a pot of boiling water. Leave just long enough to wilt, about 30 seconds, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and drain in a colander and cool under running water. Repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
  2. Remove and squeeze wilted leaves into a ball. I used a potato ricer and squeezed out the excess liquid in batches.
  3. Using a large knife, roughly chop spinach on a cutting board — you should have about 2 cups.
  4. Squeeze into a ball again to remove excess water. (This may be done several hours or up to a day in advance and refrigerated.) Again, I used a potato ricer and removed the excess liquid in batches.
  5. If freshly grinding the chicken, grind into a large bowl using the medium grinding disc.
  6. Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, chile (or red pepper flakes), egg, bread crumbs and cream in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, knead everything together, mixing well. Leave to absorb seasoning for 15 minutes or overnight. (I refrigerated it for about 6 hours.)
  7. Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for flavors to develop.
  8. Test for seasoning: Take a small amount and flatten into a thin patty. Quickly cook in a small skillet, about 1 minute per side. Taste, then adjust the mixture’s seasoning if necessary.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  10. Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, form 19 to 24 rough balls and place on a large plate. (The mixture will be soft.)
  11. Using a brush, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  12. Lightly form the meatballs and position them on the prepared baking sheet. Along the long side of the pan, I placed them in rows of 5. (I had 19 meatballs.)
  13. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers at least 160°, about 4 to 5 minutes more.
  14. Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with sauce (or tzatziki) and lemon wedges.

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.

Chicken Baked on a Bed of Bread & Greens

This healthy one-pot dish is for fans of greens. 🙂 I thought that it could even work as a dish to serve for a small-scale Thanksgiving feast because it incorporates bread (stuffing), greens (vegetables), and chicken (poultry). It would just need potatoes on the side- which is actually how my husband ate the leftovers. 😉 It was a pre-Thanksgiving meal for us because my crowd prefers a more indulgent feast on the big day. We did end the meal with apple pie bars.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Melissa Perello. It was inspired by chef Judy Rodgers’ famous wood-fired roasted chicken at Zuni Café in San Francisco. I kept waiting for chard to appear in my CSA box so that I could make it. This dish gobbled up all of the chard, kale, and beet greens from my share! The capers and golden raisins made the base of the dish extra delicious.

Yield: Serves 4 to 8

  • 8 to 10 oz (about 1/2 loaf) day-old peasant bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used a pain au levain boule)
  • 4 to 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 T salted capers, rinsed well
  • 4 T golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 pounds tender fresh greens such as Swiss chard, kale, spinach, or beet greens (the original recipe uses Swiss chard)
  • 3 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 skinless bone-in chicken thighs or one 3 1/2 pound chicken, skinned and cut into 8 pieces
  • fresh thyme and parsley, for garnish, optional
  1. Prepare the Greens: If using Swiss Chard: Remove the stems and finely slice or chop; slice leaves in half through the ribs and cut into 2-inch ribbons. If using Kale: Remove ribs and discard; tear leaves in half and slice into 1/2-inch ribbons. If using Spinach or Beet greens: Remove stems and slice leaves into 2-inch ribbons. Wash and spin dry.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the olive oil, capers, raisins, prepared greens, shallots, and garlic. Season with salt and black pepper.
  4. Spread the bread-greens mixture in a large enameled cast-iron casserole. (My pan was almost overflowing!)
  5. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and arrange them over the bread. Sprinkle with dried thyme.
  6. Cover the chicken with a piece of parchment paper and close the casserole with a heavy lid. Bake the chicken for 35 minutes.
  7. Remove the lid and parchment paper and increase the oven temperature to 400°.
  8. Bake the chicken for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until golden on top and cooked through.
  9. Remove the casserole from the oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve the chicken with the bread and greens, garnished with fresh herbs.

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