This zucchini baked pasta is the perfect recipe for those lazy hot days of summer as they start to slide into fall. Not too heavy, packed with bright and silky garlicky zucchini and light ricotta, but oozing with a comforting amount of gooey mozzarella.
The recipe is also super flexible and adaptable, and I did make a couple changes.
I cut back on the fresh mozzarella by a third…partly because I forgot to buy enough, but I ended up finding what I had was MORE THAN plenty. I threw in a small handful of shredded (bagged) mozzarella in the main mixture for good measure and to help bind everything together.
I also used a ton of zucchini—three medium and one ginormous. In case you’re wondering, I made my own pesto (love that fresh basil taste!) but I’m sure a jarred would work fine.
I just needed something indulgent but not *too* unhealthy, and this zucchini ziti fit the bill perfectly.
Lasagna is a very personal thing. In general, most people think their mom’s/grandma’s/wife’s/pick your relative’s lasagna is the absolute best thing in the world, and all other lasagnas are vastly inferior.
I certainly fall into this camp. I’m don’t think I even ate any other lasagna except my mom’s until I was…in college? And then I was so disappointed by it that it only reinforced my opinion.
I stand by that opinion, and have had friends reinforce it over the years. When I make this, I often get exclamations of “This is so good! It’s even better than my mom’s…though don’t tell her I said that!”
This lasagna recipe is really easy to put together, and it gets its awesomeness from a couple ingredients that are outside the norm.
Instead of a homemade marinara or a jarred tomato sauce, it uses a specific Hunt’s canned four-cheese sauce, which gives it a special flavor. And rather than the traditional ricotta, it uses cottage cheese.
Yeah, I know it sounds weird. I think we started doing that when I was a kid and I didn’t like ricotta and my mom wasn’t too crazy about it either. But what we discovered is that the little curds in the cottage cheese end up melting and take this to a whole other level of gooeyness (instead of the graininess of ricotta).
The result? Tangy, cheesy, fragrant, spice-filled awesomeness. I love it fresh out of the oven, with the steam still coming off it.
My dad loves it as leftovers, when the cheese and sauce have had a day or two to hang out and get married in the fridge. Either way, it’s out of this world. [My mom informs me that it was originally my Aunt Susan’s recipe that we tweaked over the years, so kudos to her as well!]READ THE POST
Mercy! It’s been over a month since I posted a real, honest-to-goodness main dish recipe here. I’ve had sweets and breads and pancakes, but nothing that’ll really stick to your bones.
I feel like I’ve been saying it all year, but it’s been utter madness lately. Work’s crazy, some travel, add in Thanksgiving, all the extra food and drinks around the holidays, and trying to finish everything up for the year.
That means I’ve been keeping long hours and not eating remotely normally. Pretty much no fruits and veggies, and I don’t remember the last time I cooked a real meal. But last weekend it was so cold and dreary and I really wanted to get back to real life.
I wanted comfort food, but healthy, and this baked pasta with broccolini, kale, and chicken sausage fit the bill. It’s got greens and crunch, tossed with golden sausage and firm pasta, all in the warm hug of creamy, garlicky béchamel and dots of gooey fresh mozzarella.
Basically, it’s perfect.
And fairly simple, all things considered. I was able to saute up the sausage and kale while the water boiled, then get everything else ready while the pasta and broccolini cooked, then stir everything together and pour it into the pan.
Twenty minutes later, I had a big, golden, slightly crunchy masterpiece on my hands.
The original recipe from Smitten Kitchen calls for broccoli rabe, which I couldn’t locate at my grocery store. I used broccolini instead (which isn’t quite the same, but can do in a pinch) and added some sautéed kale for some extra health and texture. Everything else was just right!READ THE POST
I used to be really scared of making mac & cheese. I mean the legit baked kind where the sauce starts with a roux and there’s whisking involved. Whisking is one of those things that kind of intimidates me. I have no idea why, but it seems very serious.
Luckily, I’ve tried a few recipes over the past year that have helped me get over my fear of making bechamel sauce, including some different mac and cheese recipes (it all started with the beer mac & cheese last Thanksgiving).
But every time I make it, I still get this anxiety right before I start whisking like my life depends on it…
For some reason I was really just craving some comfort food last weekend, but needed it to be healthy comfort food—I’ll be on a beach in a swimsuit in a couple weeks (vacay, finally!) and do have a little bit of vanity left in me.
So this roasted vegetable mac and cheese, with its hearty roasted veggies, whole wheat pasta, and olive oil-based cheese sauce, called to me.
One of the things that really intrigued me about this recipe is that the roux—basis for the bechamel cheese sauce—is made with olive oil instead of butter. Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve seen a roux recipe without butter, so I was definitely interested to see how that went.
And I quite liked it. It gives things a little bit of an olive oil-y flavor that, when combined with the flour and whole wheat pasta, was a different twist on a regular mac & cheese. READ THE POST
Garrison Keillor (he of Prairie Home Companion notoriety) famously said, “Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn”. Corn is one of those hallmarks of summer for me. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Kansas, and my grandma always had a giant garden—well, somewhere between garden and legit field—just for corn.
All the aunts and cousins would get together for a few days and pick corn, shuck it, blanch it, and cut it off the cob for preserving. But we’d always save the best ears for eating right away, rolled in butter and lightly salted. That sweet, juicy pop of kernels is synonymous with summer for me.
With my surgery happening in the middle of the summer (and all the preparation that came before it), I feel like I’ve kind of missed out on summer, particularly the glut of zucchini, tomatoes, and corn that usually accompany the hot months.
Right before I left for Colorado a couple weeks ago, I realized that the entire summer has passed by and I hadn’t made a single dish with fresh sweet corn. Which is totally unacceptable. So this creamy corn & leek fettuccine is like the last hurrah of summer!
This is actually an adaptation of two different pasta recipes I’d pinned, this one from A Cozy Kitchen, and this one from Pinch of Yum. Each featured charred sweet corn as the primary ingredient, but one focused more on fresh fennel, tarragon, and clams (which I don’t eat), while the other recipe had chipotle and cilantro (which are definitely not my style) but a sauce process I liked.
This recipe has some elements of each, but I made several changes as well…hence creamy charred corn & leek fettucine. A perfect comforting dish that will help us slide into fall.
To put my own spin on it, I added leeks as the flavor base for the sauce. I actually wanted to use shallots opposite the corn, but the store was out so I let the leek pinch-hit. They have a great, subtle flavor when sautéed and then partially pureed.
I didn’t have fresh tarragon, but used dried instead. I added the charred corn to the sauce (and would recommend lightly pureeing) as well as just tossing the whole, charred corn kernels with the pasta.
I’ll preface this one by admitting that it’s a tad rich for my blood. Which probably puts it right in most people’s wheelhouse since I have a low tolerance for that kind of thing. But the pasta combination of flavorful rotisserie chicken, garlicky spinach, and creamy goat cheese really packs a wallop.
This is another of my infamous “kitchen sink” pastas, which have a pretty doggone good track record over the years. There seem to be some really odd but delicious combinations of random pasta-friendly ingredients sitting around my house when I’m hungry.
This one, while not my favorite ever, was warm and comforting—it would have been a great winter dish. And for someone with a taste for these things, a dash of spice (like red pepper flakes or something along those lines) would add an interesting bite to the creamy richness.READ THE POST
I’ve got another “kitchen sink” pasta coming your way, and BOY is this one a goodie!
It was borne of necessity, and in the weirdest way imaginable. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I had surgery towards the end of July, and it actually happened quite fast. Typically it takes about 6-8 weeks to get a spot on the surgery list, but they had a cancellation two weeks out that I was able to grab.
But that meant I had to get a million things done in a really short amount of time—calling insurance companies, booking hotels (the surgery was out of state), figuring out what equipment I’d need for recovery, etc.
I also had to get into my regular doctor for a pre-surgery check-up. I got in, they did some bloodwork and such, and then the next day got a call that my blood clotting was the teensiest, tiniest bit below normal. Not a surprise to me, I bleed like a stuck pig, but she wanted to re-do the bloodwork after the weekend and if it wasn’t normal possibly have me see a hematologist.
So naturally, I’m freaking out, because I don’t have time for complications, and I really needed the surgery to go on as scheduled.
What does that have to do with pasta, you ask? Well, as I said, I was freaking out a little (okay, a fair amount), so I did a bunch of research on foods that help your blood clot, and foods that prevent blood clots.
Unfortunately, I learned that ALL THE GOOD FOODS keep your blood from clotting—wine, coffee, balsamic vinegar, soy, strawberries, tomatoes, basically every spice. And only a few thicken the blood. I avoided coffee and wine (yes, it was a sad weekend) and wracked my brain for what I could make for dinner Sunday night before the bloodwork Monday morning.
Veggies high in vitamin K were the first place to start, like kale, brussels sprouts, and okra, so I totally loaded up on those. I put kale and zucchini in the pasta, roasted some okra, and also had steak, goat cheese, and anything else I could find that was higher in saturated fat. I did go ahead and throw some tomatoes into the pasta, but largely avoided them when I ate it that night, just in case.
The good news is that it worked—my blood clotting came out in the normal range and the surgery went on as scheduled. It was a weekend full of worrying, but at least I was able to find a solution. And I got a delicious, super easy pasta recipe out of the bargain. So without further ado…READ THE POST
You know those days when you just don’t feel like cooking, or going through a million steps to get a meal on the table? A.k.a. every day? Or it’s just too hot to cook things for too long? That’s where this recipe comes in—a simple pasta with no-cook sauce.
You have the amazing summer flavors of fresh tomatoes and basil, the bite of the garlic, and that’s about it. Simple, basic. And super delish.
Add in a tiny bit of cheese and some hot pasta, and you have a winner, and all in the time it takes to boil the pasta.
I make up a LOT of pasta dishes. Like…a lot. But it’s only once in a blue moon I create one that becomes a life staple. This recipe is one of the all-timers, a hearty and indulgent pasta with roasted peppers and red onion, crisp chicken sausage, and a creamy goat cheese sauce. It’s my dreams in pasta form.
Specifically, I recommend sticking with yellow and orange bell (or sweet) peppers for this, because they have a mildness to them that really complements the tangy goat cheese. And similarly, the bite of red onion is definitely a winner over yellow or white. Then give them that delicious caramelization from roasting, and it’s sublime.
I’ve been trying to break out of my pasta rut a little bit lately. Don’t get me wrong, my rut is quite delicious—homemade pesto or sauteed/roasted veggies and sausage with some kind of cheese in the sauce, you can’t go wrong. But pasta can be so many things, and I really under-utilize its potential sometimes.
I found this recipe in my Cooking Light magazine and pulled it out quite a while ago. It’s been sitting on my couch since then, largely because I had to remember to buy mascarpone at Trader Joe’s. You can also find it at certain grocery stores, though not all the time. But good ol’ TJ’s always has it.
The flavor was mild and yet really interesting. While I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms, they were great in this dish.READ THE POST