White Lasagna with Asparagus, Spinach & Peas

This meatless lasagna was described as a showcase of spring vegetables. The filling was full of asparagus, peas, fresh herbs, greens, and leeks. It was loaded with cheese too, of course. 🙂

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used no-boil noodles. I prepared it the day it was served but it could be prepared up to two days ahead. It can be assembled ahead of time and baked before serving or baked in advance and reheated before serving. Clark notes that the lasagna is easier to slice if it is baked and then reheated.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the BĂ©chamel:

  • 4 T unsalted butter (plus additional butter or cooking spray for greasing the pan)
  • 1/3 cup (5 T) all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk, plus more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely grated or minced (I used a garlic press)

For the Filling:

  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), ends trimmed, cut into 3/4-inch pieces if thin or 1/2-inch pieces if fat
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (no need to thaw)
  • 1 cup combination of soft herbs (parsley, chives, basil, dill), finely chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced into half moons and cleaned
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces baby spinach or baby greens, like kale or arugula (about 8 cups), chopped if large
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 32 ounces whole-milk ricotta (about 4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
  • 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 12 ounces dried lasagna noodles (about 12 noodles), or substitute the same amount of no-boil, oven-ready or fresh noodles; all will work
  • 8 ounces whole-milk mozzarella, thinly sliced or torn into pieces

To Prepare the BĂ©chamel:

  1. In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat.
  2. Once melted, add flour and whisk until combined. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until pale golden.
  3. Slowly whisk in the milk, a little at a time, so that the sauce does not clump.
  4. Add the salt, nutmeg and bay leaf. Gently bring to a simmer and let cook for 9 to 12 minutes, whisking often, until the béchamel is thick but still pourable.
  5. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan and grated garlic, and taste, adding more salt if needed. (I used coarse salt.)

To Prepare the Filling & Complete the Dish:

  1. Place a 12-inch skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Let it heat until it thins out, about 30 seconds, then add the asparagus and sauté, shaking the pan, until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Season asparagus with salt and pepper, then transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the frozen peas and 2 tablespoons mixed soft herbs.
  3. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan and heat until the oil thins out, about 30 seconds, then add the leeks, fennel seeds, red-pepper flakes and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Sauté leeks until tender and golden at the edges, 4 to 6 minutes.
  4. Add the spinach and remaining herbs, working in batches if needed, and sauté until the greens are very tender and the pan is very dry, about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in lemon zest and juice. Taste and add more salt if needed. It should be well seasoned.
  6. Add leek-spinach-herb mixture to a large bowl. Stir in ricotta and 3/4 cup each Parmesan and pecorino (save remaining Parmesan for the top). Taste and add more salt if needed.
  7. Heat oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to true convection.) Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray or a little butter.
  8. Remove bay leaf from béchamel, then ladle some of the sauce into the bottom of the baking pan until just covered.
  9. Place as many noodles as will fit on top of the béchamel, breaking or cutting them to fit in one layer.
  10. Ladle a little more béchamel on top of the noodles, covering the surface.
  11. Add half of the ricotta-leek-spinach-herb mixture, spreading evenly, then sprinkle half of the asparagus-pea mixture on top.
  12. Add another layer of noodles, then béchamel, then the remaining ricotta mixture, then the remaining asparagus-pea mixture.
  13. Top with the sliced mozzarella.
  14. Add a third and final layer of noodles (don’t worry if you don’t end up using all of the noodles) and cover with remaining béchamel.
  15. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan.
  16. Cover the pan with parchment paper and then foil; place on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips.
  17. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove parchment and foil. Rotate the pan.
  18. Bake for another 30 minutes on convection or up to 40 minutes in a standard oven, or until golden brown and bubbling on top. Rotate the pan for even browning, if necessary. (If the top is still pale, you can run the lasagna under the broiler for 1 to 3 minutes.)
  19. Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Chili Crisp & Spinach

This is another rich pasta dish incorporating chili crisp. I must confess that my family preferred this one. My husband even declared that this dish was “restaurant quality.” 🙂

I added one tablespoon of chili crisp fearing that it would be too spicy otherwise, but, as the cream offset the heat, I think it could easily have incorporated the full amount for my crowd. Every brand varies in spiciness, so it is important to taste it and adjust the amount to your spice-tolerance.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Genevieve Ko. I used unsalted butter and added salt. I also included more spinach. Quick and delicious.

Yield: 6 servings

  • salt
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 1 to 2 T chili crisp, plus more to taste and for serving (I used Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp)(see Tip)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound dried fettuccine
  • 1 (6-ounce) package baby spinach
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan (2 1/4 ounces), plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. While the water heats, melt the butter with the chili crisp and a pinch or two of coarse salt in a very large skillet or Dutch oven over low heat. (Add chili crisp 1 tablespoon at a time.) (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Whisk in the cream; taste and adjust heat, if desired, by adding more chili crisp. Keep warm over low. (It should steam, not bubble.)
  4. Cook the fettuccine until al dente according to the package directions. Use tongs to transfer the noodles to the cream mixture, reserving the pasta water.
  5. Add the spinach and turn with tongs until the noodles are well coated.
  6. Add the Parmesan and toss, still over low heat, until the noodles are slicked with a creamy sauce, adding a spoonful or two of pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce.
  7. Place in a serving bowl or divide among serving dishes; top with Parmesan.
  8. Serve immediately. Additional chili crisp can be provided at the table, if desired.

Tip: For this dish, try to add more of the solids than the oil to the sauce for the most flavorful dish.

Shortcut Creamed Spinach

Oh my… this silky side can be prepared dangerously easily. We loved it too.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Julia Langbein. I modified the proportions. Although it was fabulously creamy, I would incorporate less crème fraîche next time.

The original recipe notes that heavy cream and fresh lemon juice could be substituted for the crème fraîche for a similar flavor profile. I personally loved the tanginess from the crème fraîche.

Yield: about 6 servings

  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound (16 oz) spinach (mature or baby spinach)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg, optional
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup crème fraĂ®che (I used 3/4 cup but would start with 1/2 cup next time)
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium. (I used a stainless steel sautĂ© pan.)
  2. Cook the garlic cloves, stirring occasionally, until golden around edges and very fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and add spinach, by the handful, stirring and letting it wilt slightly after each addition. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Add freshly grated nutmeg, to taste, if desired.
  4. Cook spinach, stirring often, until mostly wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  5. Add 1/2 cup crème fraĂ®che; stir until spinach is saucy and coated. Add more, as desired.
  6. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed.

Wali Ya Mboga

In Swahili, wali ya mboga translates to “rice and vegetables.” This upscale version incorporated chicken as well. This dish was similar to a biryani with layered rice with greens, caramelized onions, and yogurt-marinaded chicken in tomato curry sauce. To serve, each serving was also topped with pickled onions, called kachumbar, and salted creamy yogurt. Beyond full-flavored.

I must mention that I really browned my tomato paste during the cooking process. Recently, I have read about the importance of letting tomato paste darken for optimal flavor- apparently, I took this advice to heart! The sauce in my finished dish was much deeper in color than in the original recipe.

The recipe was adapted from Bon AppĂ©tit, contributed by Zaynab Issa. I modified the proportions and method. I boiled the rice as instructed in the original recipe but struggled with the method- and wasn’t completely thrilled with the resulting texture. Next time, I would cook the rice using a traditional method or use a much larger pot to boil the rice.

Yield: 6 servings

For the Dish:

  • 1 2/3 cups good-quality white basmati rice (such as Shahzada)
  • 1/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek) (I used whole milk cream-top plain yogurt)
  • one 1″ piece ginger, scrubbed, finely grated (about 1 T)
  • 8 large garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press, divided
  • 2 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 3/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 8 medium)
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 4.5 to 4.6 oz tube double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chile powder or a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, kale, or spinach, tough ribs and stems removed, sliced into 1″ ribbons (I used baby spinach- not cut or stemmed, about 8 cups, packed)

To Serve:

  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 green Thai chile or 1/2 large jalapeño, seeds removed if desired, sliced
  • 2 T diced cherry, grape or Campari tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek) (I used whole milk cream-top plain yogurt)

To Make the Dish:

  1. Place rice in a medium bowl and pour in cold water to cover. Agitate rice with your hands until water is cloudy. Drain and repeat until water is almost clear (about 3 times). Pour in water to cover rice by 2″; soak at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
  2. Stir yogurt, ginger, half of garlic, 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp turmeric in a medium bowl to combine. Season with pepper. Add chicken thighs, turning to coat. Let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron pot.)
  4. Add onion and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is frizzled and deeply browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer onion to a plate and set aside.
  5. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in same skillet (still over medium to medium-high).
  6. Working in batches if necessary, remove chicken from marinade and cook until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes on the first side and 4 minutes on the second side. Transfer chicken to a plate, leaving oil behind.
  7. Add tomato paste, coriander, cumin, chile powder, remaining half of garlic, remaining 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp Morton kosher salt, and remaining 1/4 tsp turmeric to skillet. Cook over medium to medium-high, stirring often, until tomato paste turns a shade darker in color, about 5 minutes.
  8. Reduce heat to low, stir in 1 cup water, and bring to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors come together and sauce has thickened, 10–12 minutes.
  9. Return chicken to pan and stir to coat in sauce. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm. (I placed the pan in a warming drawer.)
  10. Drain rice and cook in a very large pot of boiling generously salted water 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. (Alternatively, the rice can be cooked traditionally using a 1:2 ratio with boiling water. Cook, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes.)
  11. Stir the Swiss chard, kale or spinach into the rice.
  12. Continue to cook until rice is tender and greens are wilted and bright green, about 1 to 3 minutes more.
  13. Drain in a colander and let sit 10 minutes to allow moisture to steam off.

To Assemble and To Serve:

  1. While the rice rests, combine onion, lemon juice, chiles, tomatoes, and 1/4 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/8 tsp Morton kosher salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to combine, breaking up the onion slices. Let kachumbar sit 5 minutes.
  2. Stir yogurt and remaining salt in another small bowl.
  3. To serve, fluff rice with a fork, making sure the greens are evenly distributed; transfer to a platter.
  4. Scatter reserved caramelized onions over and arrange chicken on top. (Or for a more casual look, return rice to pot and gently stir in chicken and onion.)
  5. Serve with kachumbar and salted yogurt alongside.

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.

One-Pot Creamy Pasta & Greens

This dish makes creamed spinach the main event rather than a decadent side. This version is actually less indulgent as well. It incorporates milk instead of cream and uses pasta and its starch as a thickener.

The original article actually states that classic creamed spinach isn’t that good. :/ I love creamed spinach! For years, my husband and I used to celebrate his birthday at a steakhouse- the creamed spinach saved me. (I’m not a steak fan!)

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. I used loads of fresh greens from my CSA share rather than frozen chopped spinach. We ate it as a vegetarian main dish (with roasted CSA veggies on the side) but it could also be served as a hearty side, of course. Creamy and filling.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 7 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 5 cups whole milk, plus more as needed (I added an additional cup of 1% milk)
  • 1 pound stemmed and sliced fresh greens (I used a combination of kale, collard and cauliflower greens) OR 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 wide lemon peel strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • dash of red pepper flakes, optional
  • 10 to 12 ounces ditalini, orzo or pearl couscous
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  1. If using fresh greens, stem, slice, and wash them.
  2. Place the greens in a steamer basket in a large pot (I used a pasta pot); cook until wilted, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Strain the steamed greens to drain as much excess liquid as possible. (I used a ricer for this task.)
  4. Chop the steamed and strained greens; set aside.
  5. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 4 minutes.
  6. Add the 5 cups milk, chopped greens (or spinach), lemon peel, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, if using, freshly ground black pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the greens (or frozen spinach) with your spoon, until the greens have softened and the milk is just simmering, 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Add the pasta and cook, stirring often and vigorously, until the pasta is al dente, 20 to 25 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer. If it looks dry at any point, add more milk. (I ultimately added an additional cup of milk.) The mixture will continue to thicken as it sits, so it’s okay if the sauce looks a little soupy.
  8. Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat, discard the lemon peels, and stir in the Parmesan until melted.
  9. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with more Parmesan.

Stuffed Peppers with Thai Curry Rice & Mushrooms

My friend who shared her bounty of homegrown eggplant also shared mini bell peppers from her garden. Loved it! Lucky me. 🙂 I searched for a special way to use them. These stuffed peppers were a complete success- everyone in my family enjoyed them.

This recipe was originally intended to be a vegetarian main dish using full-size red bell peppers. I used these mini peppers instead and served them as a side dish with sautéed kabocha squash and rotisserie chicken.

This dish was full-flavored and delicious. The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Emilee and Jere Gettle. Absolutely wonderful.

Yield: approximately 10 mini bell peppers or 4 full-size bell peppers

  • 10 mini bell peppers or 4 large bell peppers (any color)
  • 2 T unsalted butter or grapeseed oil 
  • 2 medium shallots, minced 
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced 
  • coarse salt 
  • 3/4 cup long-grain white rice (I used Basmati) 
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk 
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger 
  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste 
  • 1 large jalapeño, finely chopped with or without seeds, as desired (I ribbed and seeded the chile)
  • 8 oz cremini or oyster mushrooms, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chopped spinach (I used baby spinach)
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil, preferably Thai, plus more for garnish (I used Italian basil)
  • freshly squeezed juice from half of a large lemon
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  2. Slice the tops off the peppers and cut the tops into 1/4-inch dice; discard the cores and stems.
  3. Boil the hollowed out peppers until just tender, about 3 minutes for mini peppers or 4 minutes for full size peppers. Using tongs, carefully transfer the peppers to paper towels to drain, cut side down. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water.
  4. Mince the shallots and garlic in a mini food processor, if desired; remove and set aside.
  5. Dice the jalapeno and pepper tops in the food processor. Set aside.
  6. In a saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallots and garlic, season with salt and cook over moderate heat until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until toasted, 2 to 4 minutes.
  8. Stir in the coconut milk, ginger, curry paste and the 1 1/2 cups of reserved pepper water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until the liquid is absorbed, 25 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  10. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the diced bell pepper tops and the jalapeño and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Add the mushrooms, cover and cook, stirring a few times, until tender, 5 minutes.
  12. Uncover and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are browned, 4 minutes longer.
  13. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
  14. Add the vegetable mixture to the rice and stir in the basil and lemon juice. Season with salt to taste.
  15. Fill the peppers with the rice mixture and set them in a shallow glass, ceramic baking dish, or rimmed baking sheet. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  16. Tent with foil and bake for about 22 to 25 minutes for mini peppers or up to 45 minutes for full size peppers, until the rice filling is steaming and heated through.
  17. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.

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