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? ūüôā

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 Béchamel:

  • 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 b√©chamel, about 3 cups (recipe above)
  • 1 1/2 cups (130 g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

To Make the Béchamel:

  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

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No-Knead Bread from Sullivan Street Bakery

Years ago, I bought a rusty old cast iron Dutch oven at a community sale. The sale was held at a local horse farm. It was so picturesque, I had to buy something! ūüôā (It’s hard for me to pass up on any cast iron anyway…) I cleaned it up and re-seasoned it, but, I will admit it has taken a back seat to my enameled cast iron pots. Finally, I know why I needed it! It was the absolute perfect vessel to bake this beautiful bread in.

This is one of the all-time most popular recipes ever published in the New York Times. It was adapted from Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery. The recipe is very forgiving and is practically effortless, but takes almost 24 hours to complete. The most difficult part for me was deciding what time frame would work the best to start the bread! (I decided to start at 3 pm, by the way.)

My house is too cold this time of year to let the dough rise at room temperature, so I used a proofing oven. I also used a greased bowl for the second rise because others had commented that the dough is so sticky it becomes difficult to manage. Next time, I would make 2 loaves at once. (Seems so obvious now!) I would also try incorporating whole wheat flour for half of the bread flour. This bread is so fabulous my family wants me to make it at least once a week!

I’m bringing my prize loaf to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #109 this week, which I’m co-hosting (fun!) with Lily of Little Sweet Baker. I am also sharing it at Throwback Thursday hosted by Mollie, Quinn, and Meaghan. Come join us! Enjoy!

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (preferably King Arthur)
  • ¬ľ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 ¬ľ teaspoons coarse salt
  • cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed
  • cooking oil spray, as needed

  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt.
  2. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. IMG_3225
  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a cotton towel. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. (I put the covered bowl in the oven under a proofing setting (85 degrees) for 6 hours, left it in the closed oven for 10 hours, and then returned it to the proofing setting for the remaining 2 hours.) Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. IMG_3240
  4. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, wash the bowl.
  6. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball.
  7. Coat the bowl with cooking oil spray and sprinkle with cornmeal.
  8. Place the dough seam side down into the bowl. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. (I placed mine back in the oven on the proofing setting.) When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  9. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. (I used the convection setting.) Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats.
  10. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven.
  11. Coat the top of the dough with cooking oil spray and lightly sprinkle with cornmeal.
  12. Turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. (It may look like a mess, but that is okay.) Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  13. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack. Enjoy! 

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