Butternut Squash & Chard Lasagna

This month’s issue of Cooking Light is killing it.  Granted, it could be the preggo hormones talking, but I dog-eared almost every single page in the magazine when I got it.

Not that you asked, but here are my general thoughts on Cooking Light:

CL to me = what I imagine Pinterest is to other people.  (Pinterest is far too complicated for me to ever figure out.)  Take the recipe and then add your imagination (and more butter).  Also, I will never use anything but full fat ricotta.  So, of course this “lightened” vegetarian lasagna is really just vegetarian lasagna.  Still, way to go, CL.

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Butternut Squash & Chard Lasagna
  • 3- 4 cups cubed + peeled butternut squash
  • approx 1 cup veggie broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • salt, pepper
  • dash nutmeg (really, small dash – I find nutmeg overwhelming)
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere/Swiss
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 boxes mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 big bunch Swiss chard or other leafy green
  • half box no boil lasagna noodles
  • a little less than a cup ricotta cheese
  • parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and then simmer until squash is tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat.
  3. Place squash mixture in a blender OR – use your immersion blender!! Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg and blend until smooth.   Add the Gruyere and about half the mozzarella to the mixture; stir until it melts all the way in.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and mushrooms; cook about 5-7 minutes or until browned and liquid evaporates. Add chard and a splash of broth. Cover and cook until chard wilts.  Drain the mixture – you want all that excess moisture out of there.
  5. Spread about a cup of the squash sauce in bottom of a glass/baking dish, arrange noodles over the sauce, and top with half of the the chard/mushrooms.  Dollop and spread a bit of ricotta all across.  Then, repeat the process – squash sauce, noodles, chard mixture.  Then, more squash, and finally, mozzarella cheese (and parm, if you feel like it).
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10 minutes – and then turn the heat up and broil the whole thing for the last 3 minutes.  Serve topped with parsley..and a side salad to cut all that cheese!

 

 

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The Verdict:

This is a cheese-fest. Which obviously means it’s an A+ in my book.  Bonus: it makes servings for dayyyyyyys.

 

French Onion Mac + Cheese

Probably exactly what you need, right after the new year starts, is a recipe that combines two of the most wonderful, cheese and carb-laden treats known to humankind into one unholy meal.

Well, I can say that at least around here, “losing x pounds” didn’t make it to the resolutions list this year.  #pregnancyperks

I won’t lie to you: this recipe takes a while (about 2.5 full hours, from start to finish).  BUT, it’s worth it.  And not just if you’re pregnant.  So let’s get to it.

French Onion Mac + Cheese

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for the bechamel

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk (or cream, if you’re into that sort of thing)
  • salt & pepper
  • crushed reds
  • 2 cups grated Gruyere
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar

for the onion mixture

  • butter/olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions, sliced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • a dash of honey
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups beef stock (to make this veggie, obviously, just use veggie stock instead.)
  • 12 sprigs fresh thyme (you might want to tie these up into a bundle)
  • 1 bag arugula
  • 1 box pasta (I used cavatappi, which winds its way so delightfully around each onion slice, each delightful bite of cheese)

for the topping

  • about 1/2 cup panko
  • about 1/2 cup parmesan
  • (a little parsley, if you have it, would be nice right at the very end)
  1. Start your onions, which take the longest.  Heat a bit of butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Add onions, cover, and cook down, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.
  2. While the onions are going, start your bechamel.  Over low heat, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan; add flour and stir constantly to combine for 2-3 minutes.   Increase heat to medium, and slowly add the milk or cream; stir until thickened (this takes about 5-6 minutes; add more flour if you need).  Lower the heat, & season with s+p and the crushed red peppers.  Fold in the gruyere and cheddar until the sauce is melty and delicious – set aside and try not to eat.
  3. To the onion mixture, add garlic and dash honey.  Cook another 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions start to caramelize.  Add wine and beef broth and stir, scraping up the bottom bits.  Add the thyme and let the mixture cook down, until the liquid is almost gone.
  4. The previous step will take a while, so this is is a good time to start your pasta water boiling and to cook according to directions.  Drain and set aside when done.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a baking pan.  In the onion pot, mix together the arugula, pasta, onions, and bechamel.  Make sure it’s thoroughly combined before you pour into the baking pan – snag the bundled thyme as you do so.
  6. In a small bowl, toss together the panko and parmessan, and then spread this over the top of the pasta/onion mixture.  Pop the whole thing into the oven for 35 minutes.

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The Verdict:

You can taste how long this takes to make (in a good way, I promise).  It’s got serious flavor, from first bite to finish.  It’s two of the best meals ever, on one plate – how could you not love it?  Just make sure to serve with a side salad – you’ll want something a little…lighter.

 

Villa Pasta

I did not want to graduate from college.  College = three years (because the first one was a bust) of nonstop hanging out with my friends, beers on a Tuesday night, and late night pizza with ranch dressing.  What could be better?

Answer: Graduating, and recreating my college experience in an apartment building two miles from my university.  Only this time, I had a little bit of money in my pocket and no homework.  Plus I started (not so secretly as we imagined) dating my future Husband.

Unfortunately, post-college college life was only relevant Friday through Sunday.  In order to stave off Monday mornings, future-and-now-current husband, his roommate, my roommate (still one of my BFFs and now married to Husband’s BFF, life is grand) and I used to get together for “family dinners” on Sunday evenings.  Because a few bottles of wine will definitely make Monday feel a lot better.

My roommate had “studied” abroad in Florence, where she learned from her hosts at the Villa how to make this ridiculous pasta.  At the time of family dinner, it was the best thing any one of us could ever imagine making.  It is still ridiculously good.  Only last night, I added a few “healthy” things.  Because now that I’m old, I top my pizza with extra veggies instead of ranch dressing.  I am not nearly as cool as I was once.

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Villa Pasta

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • about 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • about 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 carton cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • s+p
  • one small handful crushed red pepper
  • handful basil, chopped
  • 1 carton mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 bag pre-washed spinach
  • freshly ground pepper
  • approximately 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese (I used mozz, but I PROMISE it’s better with Swiss)
  • 1 pound rigatoni or other tubular pasta
  1. In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil and butter.  Cook onions for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent onions from burning.
  2. When lightly browned, add both forms of tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.  Give it a toss and then cook, covered, for 25 minutes over low/medium heat. Toward the end of the 25 minutes, get (salted) water boiling for your pasta.
  3. Add mushrooms and spinach, recover, and cook for another 5-8 minutes, or until mushrooms have cooked through.  Cook your pasta in the meantime.
  4. Add cream to the sauce and adjust seasoning.  Toss hot pasta with sauce and cheese.

The Verdict:

I forgot how long this pasta takes – nearly an hour, all said and done.  But jeez louise, it is still the best thing ever.  Seriously.  Try it.  Love it.  Tell me about it.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Even though I am a terrible food blogger and have not cooked one thing for approximately two weeks now (something both my wallet and my waistband are complaining about), my offering to the interwebs today is this simple, delicious pizza the Husband made me over two weeks ago.  Better late than never, right?

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen, tweaked Chez Nous.

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Shaved Asparagus Pizza

  • 1/2 bunch asparagus
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, crushed reds
  • 1 (prepared) pizza dough – we used Trader Joe’s! – plus a little bit of flour for rolling the dough
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and/or Gruyere
  • about a cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 5-6 small balls fresh Mozzarella, cut in half
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. “Shave” the asparagus by holding by their (untrimmed) ends against a flat cutting board and running a sharp vegetable peeler across the spear.  Repeat until you have a nice little pile of asparagus shavings, and then toss them in a small bowl with olive oil, and a pinch each of salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.
  3. Roll out the pizza dough on a light floured surface; sprinkle a bit of the flour on the bottom of your baking sheet (or pizza stone, if you’re fancy) and then transfer the dough to the sheet.  Spread a mixture of the cheeses over the surface, top with asparagus and with cherry tomatoes.  Drizzle with a little olive oil if you like, and then pop the pizza in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until edges are browned and the cheese is bubbly.
  4. Top with scallions – the more the merrier – and if you like, fresh herbs, arugula, a poached, egg, whatever your heart desires.

The Verdict:

This is so simple, and yet, so good.  It even feels like it’s good FOR you (which it might be, had we not smothered it in cheese).  It’s sort of like the scallion situation I described above: the more cheese, the merrier.  Obvi.

Pancetta & Leek Quiche

I know, I can’t stop posting about quiches and tarts and things that are technically veggie oriented but are really just carbo-loaded vehicles for cheese consumption.  Guilty as charged.

On the other hand, when the Husband told me this was “the best ever,” obvi it’s going on the blog.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

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how does this end up looking like a pizza?!

Pancetta & Leek Quiche

  • 1 premade pie dough, brought to room temperature
  • about 4 oz diced pancetta
  • 4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
  • about 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup or so heavy cream (or milk, or half and half, or whatever you have)
  • about 8 oz shredded Gruyere
  • optional: handful cherry tomatoes, halved, chopped green onions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Unroll the pie dough and press into a pie plate.  Prick lightly with a fork and bake for about 5-6 minutes, just to get the color nice and light golden.  Bonus if you can use a  crust protector.
  2. In a saute pan, over medium high heat, cook the pancetta until it starts to crisp up.  Reduce heat to medium low, and in that nice bacon-y fat, add your sliced leeks.  (Note: it will look like a LOT of leeks.  Don’t worry – they’ll all fit!).  Add salt, pepper, crushed reds, and parsley and let the leeks cook down a good while – about 10-12 minutes, until they’re nice and translucent.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whip together eggs, cream, and a pinch of salt/pepper/crushed reds.
  4. In your (lightly) baked pie dough, spread the bacon and leek mixture evenly.  Top with a generous amount of cheese, and then carefully pour the egg/cream mix over the top.  Top, as desired, with cherry tomatoes for an extra pop of color.
  5. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is nice and golden, and the eggs are cooked all the way through.  Top with additional parsley and serve with a side salad.
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less pizza, more leek.

The Verdict:

I think we already established the Husband’s verdict.  As for me, any day I get to use the crust protector, that’s a good day.