vegetable lasagna

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After spending the better part of a week visiting my parents and celebrating Christmas, Christmas Eve, my dad’s birthday, and a rare opportunity to eat sushi and get takeout from my favorite pizza joint and carne adovada breakfast burritos from my favorite burrito place (twice!), I thought maybe some vegetables were in order when we got home. On the other hand, we were still on break from work and I got a new lasagna pan for Christmas. Vegetable lasagna was clearly the answer, even if it isn’t necessarily healthy.

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I was feeling pretty good when I bought three big eggplants, three zucchini, three yellow squash (not the most seasonal recipe, but let’s face it, the quality of zucchini is pretty constant year-round even if it is a summer vegetable), and two bags of baby spinach. It seemed like an awful lot of vegetables for one pan of lasagna, but I figured they’d cook down a bunch. Besides, this is a Cooks Illustrated recipe, so they must know what they’re doing.

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Maybe they do, but my grocery store apparently doesn’t know what they’re doing when it comes to calibrating their scales in the produce department. Three eggplants resulted in quite an intimidating pile of ½-inch cubes, especially for someone who doesn’t generally love the vegetable. It didn’t lose much volume during its trip to the microwave, and the pan was so crowded when I sautéed the eggplant with the squashes that the vegetables mushed instead of browned.

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Once it became clear that I had far more vegetables than necessary, I adapted my cooking method and ended up with a big bowl of properly cooked vegetables in addition to a big bowl of mushy vegetables, plenty for two generous layers in my lasagna. The browned squash and wilted spinach were a great match for the bright tomato sauce and cheesey white sauce. But…

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That eggplant. It was just a bit rubbery and chewy. It tasted okay, but the texture was disappointing enough that I dreaded the eggplant bites, and with as much of the stuff as this lasagna contains, every bite is an eggplant bite.

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It seems like there’s a simple solution though – mushrooms. Mushrooms would go just as well with the other ingredients in this lasagna, and it’s such an easy fix that there’s no reason not to share this lasagna that has so much else going for it. And even if the eggplant was disappointing, at least I ate some vegetables and used my new pan.

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One year ago: Rice Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing
Two years ago: Pasta Puttanesca
Three years ago: Asian-Style Chicken Noodle Soup
Four years ago: Pasta with Broccoli, Sausage, and Roasted Peppers
Five years ago: Pad Thai

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Vegetable Lasagna (from Cook’s Illustrated)

I bought three of each of the eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash, but two of each would be plenty. And if you decide to substitute mushrooms for the eggplant, like I will in the future, skip the microwaving step and just sauté them separately from the squashes until they soften, release their water, dry out, and brown.

No-Cook Tomato Sauce:
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

No-Cook Cream Sauce:
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 cup whole-milk cottage cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Vegetable Filling:
1½ pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 7 cups)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 pound zucchini, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1 pound yellow squash, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
12 ounces baby spinach (about 12 cups)
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
12 ounces low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1. FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl; set aside.

2. FOR THE CREAM SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl; set aside.

3. FOR THE FILLING: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Line surface of large plate with double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Spread eggplant in even layer over filters. Wipe out and reserve now-empty bowl. Microwave eggplant, uncovered, until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure that eggplant cooks evenly. Let cool slightly. Return eggplant to bowl and toss with zucchini and squash.

4. Combine 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and thyme in small bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half eggplant mixture, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of skillet; add half of garlic mixture to clearing and cook, mashing with spatula, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir to combine garlic mixture with vegetables and transfer to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant mixture, 2 tablespoons oil, and remaining garlic mixture.

5. Return skillet to medium-high heat, add remaining teaspoon oil, and heat until shimmering. Add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer spinach to paper towel–lined plate and drain 2 minutes. Stir into eggplant mixture.

6. TO ASSEMBLE: Spray 13 by 9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of baking dish; shingle 4 noodles on top of sauce. Spread half of vegetable mixture over noodles, half of cream sauce, and 1 cup of mozzarella. Repeat layering with 4 noodles, 1 cup tomato sauce, remaining vegetables, remaining cream sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella. Place remaining 4 noodles on top layer of cheese. Spread remaining 1 cup tomato sauce over noodles and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Lightly spray large sheet of aluminum foil with vegetable oil spray and cover lasagna. Bake until bubbling, about 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack 25 minutes. Cut into pieces, sprinkle with basil, and serve.

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short rib and dried porcini lasagne

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I am in the mood to braise. It must be like the leaves changing in the fall; it’s based on the length of the day, not the temperature, because our temperatures here have been getting up to the high 70s. But I don’t care; I want to run the oven for three hours anyway, if the result is tender rich meat in a savory sauce.

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Now this recipe – it’s an endeavor. Because that three hours of oven time? It’s after 10 minutes of browning meat and 20 minutes of chopping vegetables and before, oh, about 2 hours of meat shredding, béchamel whisking, pasta rolling and cutting and boiling and rinsing, and lasagna layering. Then there’s an hour of baking while you clean up after the tornado that seemingly passed through your kitchen.

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It’s a different sort of lasagna than you might be used to, with tomatoes and cheese just playing backup roles to the meat. There isn’t a large volume of meat left after shredding the non-fatty portions of the short ribs after braising, but because the sauce spends three hours soaking up flavor from the ribs, the whole lasagna is deeply beefy. It’s just perfect. Maybe more so if you can justify four hours of oven use to warm your house, but even if you hadn’t had to turn the heater on yet, this dish is a treat.

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One year ago: Berry Chocolate Ice Cream
Two years ago: Beef in Barolo
Three years ago: English Muffins
Four years ago: Buttery Jam Cookies

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Short Rib and Dried Porcini Lasagne (adapted slightly from Fine Cooking)

Serves 6

Complete instructions on how to prepare fresh pasta for lasagna can be found in this recipe.

¾ ounce (1 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
2 pounds beef short ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
½ cup dry red wine
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
¼ cup minced parsley, plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
Pinch nutmeg
¾ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1½ ounces)
1 batch fresh pasta, rolled, cut, boiled, and rinsed

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. In a small bowl, soak the porcini in 1½ cups warm water until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the soaking liquid. (There will probably be some grit settled to the bottom of the soaking liquid. Be careful to leave this behind.) Coarsely chop the mushrooms; set aside.

2. Season the short ribs with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. In a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the short ribs, in batches if necessary, and brown all over, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Pour off and discard all but a thin layer of fat.

3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, carrot, celery, and a pinch of salt and cook until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and bay leaf and cook, stirring, until the tomato paste darkens, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the red wine and simmer, stirring and scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, until syrupy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reserved mushroom liquid and the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the porcini and the short ribs with any accumulated juices; cover, transfer the pot to the oven, and cook until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, 2½ to 3 hours.

4. Transfer the ribs to a plate to cool. Pour the sauce into a heatproof bowl and discard the bay leaf. When the fat rises to the surface, skim it off and discard. (If you have the time, refrigerate the sauce at this point so you can just pick off the hardened fat from the surface.) Mix in the parsley; season to taste with salt and pepper. When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the bones and any fat or cartilage. Shred the meat; set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

5. Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk constantly until light golden, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook at a gentle simmer, stirring often, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and the nutmeg. Stir in ½ cup (1 ounce) of the parmesan. Mix this béchamel sauce into the short rib sauce.

6. Spread about ¾ cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Mix the shredded meat into the remaining sauce. Cover the sauce in the dish with a layer of cooked noodles, cutting them as needed to fill any gaps. Alternate layers of pasta and sauce until you run out of sauce, ending with a layer of sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup (0.5 ounce) of parmesan.

7. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle additional minced parsley over the top of the lasagna. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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mussels fra diavolo

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Dave took to mussels before I did. They, along with all the other bivalves, weren’t even on my radar when he came home from a dinner with coworkers raving about them. It was one of the first foods he’d tried before I had.

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Not long after, we went to a Belgian mussels and beer restaurant, and after that I was hooked. It took me a few bites to get past the slightly boogery texture, but I was sold when I tasted the liquid they were served with. It was buttery and winey and briney, and the housemade ketchup didn’t hold a candle to it as a dip for the crisp French fries served alongside.

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We’ve eaten mussels many, many times since then, but this is our favorite way. It’s garlicky and spicy, and the pasta is the perfect vehicle to mix with the sauce the mussels cook in. And the best part? Dave likes it so much, he’s willing to make dinner. This makes me love mussels at least as much as he does.

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One year ago: Normandy Apple Tart
Two years ago: Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
Three years ago: Herbed Lamb Chops with Pinot Noir Sauce
Four years ago: Truffles (chocolate brand comparison)

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Mussels fra Diavolo (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Shrimp fra Diavolo and Gourmet)

Serves 4

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
12 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about ¼ cup), divided
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup medium-dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
salt
¾ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon sugar
1 pound linguine
3 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded
¼ cup minced fresh parsley

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.

2. Heat a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil and 9 cloves of garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is sticky and light golden and begins to foam, about 7-10 minutes. Mix in the tomatoes, wine, 1 teaspoon salt, the red pepper flakes, and sugar. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until thickened and fragrant, about 8 minutes.

3. While the sauce is simmering, add 1 tablespoon salt and the linguine to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain; return the pasta to the now empty pot and add about ½ cup of the sauce. Toss well to coat.

4. Add the mussels to the remaining sauce and cook, covered, until they just open wide, checking frequently after 3 minutes and transferring to a bowl. Discard any mussels that remain unopened after 6 minutes.

5. Stir the remaining garlic and the parsley into the sauce. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Divide the pasta among warmed serving bowls, topping with the mussels and sauce. Serve immediately.

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chicken parmesan

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I wasn’t excited about this chicken when I planned it. All I really wanted was the pasta, because I’d just made a big batch of sauce from fresh homegrown (not by me) tomatoes. I only added the chicken for protein.

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Maybe this isn’t saying much, since obviously my expectations were low, but the chicken exceeded my expectations. It exceeded my expectations by being perfect. Seasoned and not a bit dry, with a crisp coating, topped with just enough melty cheese, it almost stole the show from my precious tomato sauce.

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But now that tomato season is over, I can tell you which one I’ll be making again sooner. Chicken this good doesn’t need summer tomatoes to turn it into a great meal.

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One year ago: Flip-Over Cherry Cake (Tuesdays with Dorie)
Two years ago: Whiskey Compound Butter
Three years ago: Goat Cheese, Pesto, and Sun-Dried Tomato Terrine
Four years ago: Lavash Crackers (Daring Bakers)

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Chicken Parmesan (rewritten but not changed from Cook’s Illustrated’s The New Best Recipe)

Serves 4

I didn’t use this sauce, although I’m sure it’s good.

I hate pounding meat. My chicken breasts were already pretty thin, so I didn’t bother, but I’m more likely to cut breasts in half to form two flatter cutlets than I am to pound them thinner.

Breaded chicken cutlets:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5 to 6 ounces each)
¼ cup table salt
Ground black pepper
1½ cup fresh bread crumbs
¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for frying

Tomato sauce:
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon sugar
Salt and ground black pepper

To finish:
8 ounces spaghetti or linguine
3 ounces (¾ cup) shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup (0.5 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

1. Pound the chicken breasts to an even ½-inch thickness. In a medium mixing bowl, dissolve the salt in 4 cups of cold water; immerse the chicken in the water and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Set the chicken aside for 10 minutes to allow it to continue drying; season with pepper.

2. For the sauce: Heat the garlic and oil together in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until the garlic starts to sizzle. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, oregano, sugar, a pinch of salt, and 2 grinds of pepper and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the sauce thickens a bit and the flavors meld, 10-12 minutes. Taste the sauce, adjusting the salt if necessary. Cover and keep warm.

3. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Adjust an oven rack to the top position and heat the broiler.

4. Meanwhile, transfer the bread crumbs to a shallow bowl. Place the flour in a separate shallow bowl. In a third bowl, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of oil. Coat the chicken thoroughly in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip in the egg mixture. Dip both sides of each chicken cutlets in the bread crumbs, pressing to form an even coating. Transfer the breaded chicken cutlets to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Allow the coating to dry for 5 minutes.

5. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook according to the package instructions; drain and return to the pot.

6. Meanwhile, heat ¼-inch of olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Transfer two cutlets to the pan and cook, without moving, until golden brown and crisp, about 2½ minutes. Flip the cutlets, reduce the heat to medium, and continue cooking until the second side is thoroughly browned, 2½ to 3 minutes. Transfer the cooked cutlets to a (clean) wire rack. Repeat with the remaining cutlets, using new oil. (Otherwise the breading bits from the first batch of oil will burn.)

7. Top each cutlet with 3 tablespoons of mozzarella and 1 tablespoon of parmesan. Place the baking sheet with the chicken under the broil; cook until the cheeses melt and are spotty brown, about 3 minutes.

8. Spoon 1 tablespoon of sauce over each cutlet. Toss the remaining sauce with the pasta. Serve immediately.

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mushroom prosciutto lasagna

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So much lies in a name. If you offer me mushroom lasagna, I’ll gladly take a square of earthy dairy-rich pasta. But if you instead are giving away mushroom prosciutto lasagna, I’ll snatch it out of your hand. Roasted portobello prosciutto lasagna? Even better, and I don’t even love portobellos – but something about that more precise label makes it sound even more appetizing.

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That’s how I ended up making a lasagna recipe that isn’t, once you get down to it, all that original. It’s sautéed mushrooms with béchamel, swiss cheese, and pasta, which certainly sounds delicious but, except for possibly the Gruyère, is a fairly standard lasagna filling. The prosciutto, however, is a key factor, because I love that salty, meaty, spiced ham.

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Of course, it was good. How could it not be, with such a track record? It’s not just a name either – roasting the mushrooms (I used cremini instead of portobellos) concentrates their flavor, and the prosciutto adds a great dimension to a lasagna that could have easily ended up bland or overly earthy without it. This lasagna certainly lived up to its enticing title.

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One year ago: Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins
Two years ago: Yogurt-Marinated Lamb Kebabs
Three years ago: Tortellini Soup with Carrots, Peas, and Leeks
Four years ago: Summer Rolls

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Roasted Cremini and Prosciutto Lasagna (adapted from Bon Appetit via epicurious)

Serves 6

While I sautéed the prosciutto with some shallots, I think you could save a dish and roast them with the mushrooms instead.

To boil and rinse the pasta, follow the instructions in step 4 of this recipe.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
Salt
Ground black pepper
6 ounces prosciutto, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 large shallots, diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 ounces (about 2 cups) Gruyère cheese, shredded
½ cup (1 ounces) grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 pound fresh lasagna noodles, boiled and rinsed

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position; heat to 400 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, combine the oil, mushrooms, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Roast, stirring twice, until browned, 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven; set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

2. In a small skillet over medium heat, sauté the prosciutto, stirring occasionally, until fat begins to render, 4-5 minutes. Add two of the shallots and the herbs; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the foaming subsides, add the remaining shallots, the garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the shallots are softened and translucent. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk. Add the bay leaf, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the nutmeg and ½ teaspoon salt, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in ¼ cup parmesan.

4. Spread ½ cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Cover the sauce with a slightly overlapping layer of boiled noodles, cutting them as needed to fill any gaps. Evenly spread 1 cup of the sauce over the noodles. Top with half of the mushrooms, then half of the prosciutto mixture and half of the Gruyère cheese. Cover with another layer of noodles, then repeat the layering of 1 cup sauce, the remaining mushrooms, and the remaining Gruyère. Layer a final layer of noodles, then cover with the remaining sauce and the remaining ¼ cup parmesan.

5. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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shrimp ricotta ravioli

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The day I made these was a Saturday with weather too unpleasant to spend time outside, so it was the perfect time to blast chick music and hang out in the kitchen. My dinner plans were fairly ambitious – crab cakes, roasted asparagus, goat cheese scallion muffins, and for dessert, pizzelles with ricotta filling. While I was already in the kitchen, I went ahead and prepared some things for later in the week, like bagel pre-doughs, burger patties, and hard-boiled eggs. And I thought, if I have extra energy and time, I’ll make shrimp ravioli.

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The problem is that the shrimp ravioli would be our first course of the night, so I’d have to make it before dinner – before I stood the chance of running out of energy and time. And making ricotta, pasta, seafood broth, shrimp filling, seafood cream sauce, and ravioli is exactly the sort of ambitious project with the potential for wearing me out.

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In the end, I did manage to get everything made, and what’s even more impressive is that I managed to have fun the entire time. But, all told, I spent about six hours in the kitchen that day. It was glorious. And exhausting.

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Everything I made turned out really well, but if I had to choose a favorite, I think it would be these ravioli. Even more than the muffins and the crab cakes and the pizzelle, although that’s a tough choice. (Asparagus is not my favorite vegetable; it never stood a chance.) The crab cakes and muffins are probably a better value for your time, but who cares about time when you’re stuck inside on a Saturday?

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One year ago: Quinoa with Salmon, Feta, and Dill
Two years ago: Cheddar Shortbread
Three years ago: Tiramisu Cake
Four years ago: Peanut Butter Torte

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Shrimp Ravioli in Shellfish Cream Sauce

6-8 first-course servings

I really liked the seafood sauce I made, but I only used a bare amount of it, because I didn’t want to overpower the filling.

1 tablespoon butter
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 shallot, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 garlic clove, minced
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup white wine
1 cup clam juice
8 ounces shrimp, shells on
8 ounces ricot
1 egg
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
2 tablespoons minced parsley
½ cup heavy cream
1 recipe of fresh pasta, rolled to the second-to-last setting

1. For the seafood broth: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the butter just until the foaming subsides. Add the carrot and shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots start to brown around the edges. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook and stir until fragrant, about a minute. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the white wine, clam juice, and the shrimp with their shells. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer. Remove the shrimp when they curl and turn pink, after about 3 minutes. Peel the shrimp and return the shells to the broth. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Strain the broth, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids.

2. For the filling: Transfer the cooked shrimp to a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until minced. Combine the shrimp with the ricotta, egg, parmesan, and parsley.

3. For the ravioli: Place one rounded teaspoon of filling every 3 inches along the length of a pasta sheet. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, wet the pasta along the edges and in between the rounds of filling. If the pasta sheet is at least 4 inches wide, fold it lengthwise over the filling. If the pasta sheet is too thin to fold lengthwise, lay a second pasta sheet over the filling. Press around each ball of filling to seal the two layers of pasta together. Use a pizza roller to cut between the filling to form squares of ravioli. Transfer the formed ravioli to a dry dish towel until ready to cook (there’s no need to cover it). Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add a tablespoon of salt and lower the heat until the water is at a lively simmer. Cook the ravioli in small batches until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes, using a skimmer or large slotted spoon to remove the ravioli from the boiling water.

5. For the sauce: Combine the heavy cream and strained seafood broth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until thickened, 6-10 minutes. Gently toss the sauce with the drained ravioli; serve immediately.

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poached salmon pasta salad

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It’s a recipe that doesn’t require butter and flour! These have been few and far between around this joint lately (and an unscheduled break didn’t help matters), or at least it would seem that way if your only window into my kitchen was through this blog. We’ve actually been eating dinners that are just as healthy as always (in other words, very healthy on the weekdays, decidedly less so on weekends), but while I was going through my excessive baking phase for a few weeks, I stuck to meals that were familiar and easy, so cooking dinner would minimize the time I had to spend apart from butter and sugar.

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Now that I’ve settled down and slowly stepped away from the mixer, I’m more willing to try new recipes after work. This one was a nice way to get out of the salmon rut I’ve been in. I know I can’t go wrong with pasta and a yogurt-based sauce. This one also has several other ingredients I love, like capers, mustard, and red onion. Since there was no cooking fat in the recipe, I indulged a bit and stirred in some mayonnaise to the sauce in addition to the Greek yogurt.

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I keep trying to serve things in romaine leaves, and it keeps turning out to be a mess. But there are worse things than tangy bites of salmon and pasta falling out of their lettuce cups. There’s no butter or sugar and I didn’t get to use the mixer, but it’ll do.

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One year ago: Lentil Goat Cheese Burgers
Two years ago: Soft Chocolate and Berry Tart
Three years ago: Chicken Artichoke Pesto Calzones
Four years ago: Sushi Rolls

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Poached Salmon Pasta Salad (adapted from An Edible Mosaic via Prevention RD and from Cooks Illustrated’s Poached Salmon recipe)

Serves 6

2 lemons, 1 sliced ¼-inch thick, 1 juiced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, stems reserved
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup water
4 (8-ounce) salmon fillets, about 1½ inches at the thickest part
Salt
12 ounces dry pasta
½ red onion, minced
1 tablespoon capers
2 teaspoons mustard
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1. Arrange the lemon slices in a single layer across the bottom of a 12-inch skillet. Scatter the parsley stems and minced shallots evenly over the lemon slices; add the water and wine. Place the salmon fillets in the skillet, skin side down on top of the lemon slices; set the pan over high heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the sides of the salmon are opaque but the center of the thickest part is still translucent, 11 to 16 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully transfer the salmon to a cutting board. When cooled, remove the skin and cut the salmon into bite-sized chunks.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to rolling boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta; cook according to the package instructions. Drain.

3. Combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, the mustard, parsley leaves, capers, yogurt, and mayonnaise in a large bowl. Fold in the pasta and salmon. Serve immediately or chill for several hours.

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tomato and four cheese lasagne

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Lasagna recipes are like chocolate chip cookie recipes for me – I already have several that I love, but I can’t resist a new one. I have no loyalties about béchamel versus ricotta, meaty versus vegetarian, seafood or chicken. I love them all, and I’m a sucker for a new version.

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A recent article in Fine Cooking, which prompted me to subscribe to the magazine, showcased three recipes – the braised beef and porcini one Josie posted, a butternut squash and goat cheese lasagna I can’t wait to make, and this classic tomato and cheese lasagna. Boring, maybe, but I can never get enough of the basic combination of pasta, cheese, and tomatoes.

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I always like to make my own lasagna noodles, because I’m all about creating more work for myself. (Also it’s fun.) But this time I went a step further and made my own ricotta. Combined with a lightly spiced tomato sauce and three other favorite Italian cheeses, this lasagna is in the running for my favorite – if I could ever choose a favorite lasagna.

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One year ago: Shrimp Canapes a la Suede
Two years ago: Mediterranean Pepper Salad
Three years ago: Chocolate Whiskey Cake
Four years ago: Banana Walnut Pancakes

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Four Cheese and Tomato Lasagne (slightly adapted from Fine Cooking)

8 servings

To chop the tomatoes, just stick kitchen shears in the can and snip away. Canned tomatoes that are already diced won’t break down into the sauce like whole tomatoes will.

If you make your own ricotta, you’ll need to start with 8 cups of milk (and/or cream).

To boil and rinse the pasta, follow the instructions in this recipe through step 4.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 (28-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes, chopped (see note)
kosher salt
6 large basil leaves, torn by hand into ½-inch pieces
2 cups (15 ounces) whole-milk ricotta
2½ cups (10 ounces) grated fresh mozzarella
2 cups (8 ounces) grated fontina
1¾ cups (3.5 ounces) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1½ recipes fresh pasta, boiled and rinsed (see note)

1.Heat the oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a 4- to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Cook until the garlic is golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Discard the garlic. Add the tomatoes and 2 teaspoons salt; simmer gently, uncovered, adjusting the heat as needed, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 45 minutes. Stir in the basil; season to taste with salt if necessary.

2.Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Set aside 1¼ cups of the sauce and mix the remaining sauce with the ricotta in a medium bowl. Mix the mozzarella, fontina, and 1 cup (2 ounces) of the Parmigiano in another medium bowl.

3. Spread ½ cup of the reserved tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Cover the sauce with a slightly overlapping layer of cooked noodles, cutting them as needed to fill any gaps. Evenly spread 1½ cups of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle 1 rounded cup of the grated cheese evenly over the ricotta. Add another layer of noodles, and repeat the layers as instructed above, to make a total of 4 ricotta-and-cheese layers and 5 pasta layers. Spread the remaining ¾ cup plain sauce evenly over the top noodle layer. Sprinkle with the remaining ¾ cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

4. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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pasta with salmon in pesto cream sauce

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I never know what to do about Valentine’s Day. On the one hand, I’m not interested in the traditional stuff; I don’t want gifts or chocolate or a heart-covered card with a canned message. I’ll never say no to flowers, although I don’t love the responsibility of keeping the cat from eating them. On the other hand, Valentine’s Day is hard to ignore, because the rest of the world is definitely into it. I’m not one to scoff at something because it’s mainstream; I’d rather join in on the fun.

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I thought that, at the very least, I’d make a nice meal. But Valentine’s Day is on a Tuesday this year, so I couldn’t get too ambitious. Dave’s favorite meal, salmon pesto pasta, would have fit the bill perfectly. It hardly takes longer to cook than it takes pasta to boil, assuming that your pesto is already prepared.  For all that it’s so easy, the finished dish is deserving of being Dave’s all-time favorite dinner, with generous bites of salmon held to pasta by a sauce that’s creamy but not too heavy, since it’s made from evaporated milk instead of heavy cream.

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But, we’ve been having salmon pesto pasta a lot lately, trying to use up last year’s surplus of pesto before this year’s basil starts growing. I decided it wasn’t special enough for Valentine’s Day, even my lazy attitude toward the holiday, so instead we’re having prosciutto-wrapped salmon, farro risotto, and roasted Brussels sprouts. Dave will be so disappointed, but it will be short-lived, because salmon pesto pasta is so easy that we can just have it next week for a non-holiday.

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One year ago: Chocolate Oatmeal Drops
Two years ago: Jalapeno Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes
Three years ago: Pot Roast
Four years ago: Apple Galette

Printer Friendly Recipe
Pasta and Salmon with Pesto Cream Sauce

Serves 4

I usually make half of this recipe to serve two people, and the smaller 5-ounce can of evaporated milk is perfect.  I tried using more, so that the full recipe would use a whole 15-ounce can of evaporated milk, but all the dairy blunted the other flavors.

12 ounces pasta, preferably a short shape (rotini, penne, farfalle, orechiette)
salt
2 (6 to 8 ounce) salmon filets
10 ounces evaporated milk
½ lemon
½ cup pesto
parmesan, for serving

1. Adjust a rack to the upper position and heat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Once the water boils, add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook the pasta until it is slightly undercooked, about 1 minute less than the package indicates the pasta will be done. Drain.

3. Meanwhile, place the salmon, skin-side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Season it liberally with salt. Broil until the salmon is lightly browned on top and flakes easily with a fork, 6-10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

4. Return the empty pasta-cooking pot to medium-high heat. Add the evaporated milk and ¼ teaspoon salt. Simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot often to prevent sticking, until the milk is reduced to about ⅓ cup, about 5 minutes. Add the pasta to the milk, and cook, stirring constantly, for about one more minute, until the pasta is al dente.

5. Use two spoons to break up the salmon into bite-sized pieces. Squeeze the lemon juice over the flaked salmon. Add the salmon and pesto to the pasta; stir gently to combine and serve immediately, topping with parmesan.

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This is an update from a earlier blog entry. For a meal we love as much as this one, I thought a new entry was worthwhile.

sausage and spinach stuffed shells

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When I was a kid and cooked dinner for my family once or twice a week, stuffed shells from a freezer bag topped with jarred spaghetti sauce was one of my staples. It took 5 minutes to arrange the shells in a baking dish and dump the sauce over them, and another five minutes to make a salad from iceberg lettuce and mealy out-of-season tomatoes. My mom hated when I made this meal, but not as much as she hated the prospect of cooking dinner for a family of five every day after work. Who can blame her – for wanting a break and for not enjoying my pre-teen culinary prowess?

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These shells took longer to prepare than my standby meal as a kid, but at least by adding spinach to the filling and making my own (less-processed) tomato sauce, I figured I could skip the bland side salad. But I wasn’t just trying to add fiber to my meal, I wanted more flavor than the shells of my youth, which were stuffed with nothing but plain ricotta cheese.

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First, Italian sausage contributes more than just savory meatiness, but a range of spices. Spinach would provide earthiness (plus I had a bunch to use up). The ricotta would be richer and smoother – and, okay, fine, you can use regular store-bought ricotta too, if you haven’t become spoiled by the homemade stuff like others of us. The tomato sauce on top would be fresher and sweetened just slightly with nothing but lightly caramelized onions.

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This is a far cry from those pasta shells I made as a kid. For old time’s sake, though, I still ate them the same way I did back then, trimming off one corner of each shell for the first bite, then the next corner, then dividing the remaining square of pasta and filling into four equal bites. The biggest difference is that this filling is packed full of flavor – plus it took me almost an hour to make dinner instead of ten minutes.

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One year ago: Bourbon Bread Pudding for Tuesdays with Dorie
Two years ago: Toasted Vegetable Subs
Three years ago: Floating Islands for Tuesdays with Dorie
Four years ago: Comparison of 4 Vanilla Frosting recipes

Printer Friendly Recipe
Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells

Serves 6

You probably won’t use the whole box of shells, but a lot of them might be broken or could rip after being boiled, so it’s nice to have some extra.

Feel free to use whatever your favorite tomato sauce is. I’ve provided the recipe I used  below, which is a simple sauce I like for serving over rich pastas with a lot of their own flavors, like these shells.

1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells
salt
16 ounces Italian sausage
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 ounces spinach leaves, washed, coarsely chopped
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta (or 2 cups homemade ricotta)
8 ounces (2 cups) provolone, shredded
1 ounce (½ cup) parmesan, grated
2 eggs
Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe below, or 4 cups of your own sauce)

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bring a large pot with at least 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta shells; cook according to the package instructions. When the pasta is tender, use a large slotted spoon to transfer the shells to a dish towel.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the sausage, breaking up large pieces, until it is no longer pink and has rendered some fat. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is browned and the onion is softened. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the spinach leaves, letting the residual heat wilt the leaves. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl; stir in the ricotta, provolone, parmesan, and eggs.

4. Lightly coat the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with tomato sauce. Fill each shell with 3 to 4 tablespoons of filling. Transfer the filled shells to the baking dish. After all of the shells are filled, evenly distribute the remaining sauce over the shells. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

5. Bake for 20 minutes; remove the foil and bake for about 10 minutes longer, until bubbling around the edges. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Simple Tomato Sauce

Makes about 4 cups

Chop the tomatoes right in the can using kitchen shears. You can use diced tomatoes instead, but they won’t break down as the sauce simmers.

2 teaspoons olive oil
½ small onion or 1 large shallot, diced fine
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup red or white wine
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, undrained, chopped
1 tablespoon minced basil and/or parsley

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil until it flows like water when the pan is tilted. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion just starts to brown around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, scraping up any browned residue on the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15-20 minutes, until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the basil or parsley.

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