Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach

The winter weather has me craving hearty pasta dishes. With quite a few tomatoes on hand, it was apparent that it was time for me to make some homemade pasta sauce to freeze. I decided on a pasta dish involving a bolognese sauce because of the richness of flavors and texture it has. That lead me to this recipe from Gourmet which combines bolognese with layers of spinach and bechamel sauce. The original recipe makes a full 9×12 pan of lasagna but I halved the recipe and baked my lasagna in a standard loaf pan. This prevents us from having lasagna for days on end and I like a thick & tall lasagna better than a wide & short one!

Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
recipe adapted from Gourmet

For bolognese sauce:
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
3 slices center cut bacon, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pounds ground pork
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cups 2% milk
3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach,thawed

For Ricotta filling:
1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/3 cup 2% milk, divided

For assembling lasagne:
6 Barilla no-boil dried lasagne noodles (from 1 box)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Make Sauce:
Heat oil in a 12-to 14-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook bacon, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, roughly 12 to 15 minutes. Add pork and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps, until meat is no longer pink, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir in wine, milk, tomato paste, thyme, and salt & pepper to taste. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated but sauce is still moist, about 1 hour.

Make ricotta filling:
Wring spinach in a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and twist to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Set aside.

Whisk together ricotta, eggs, parmesan, nutmeg, milk and salt & pepper to taste.

Assemble and bake lasagne:
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Spread a couple tablespoons of bolognese sauce in loaf pan and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parmesan. Cover with 1-2 dry noodles, leaving space in between. Spread half of ricotta filling and top with spinach; then 1 cup bolognese sauce, and top with 1 tablespoon parmesan and 1-2 noodles; repeat. Top with remaining bolognese sauce, 1 tablespoon parmesan, and remaining 1-2 noodles. Pour reserved ricotta mixture over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan.

Cover pan tightly with parchment paper and foil (or just buttered foil) and bake 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is browned in spots, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before cutting.

Creamy Pasta with Salmon, Asparagus & Dill

Last year I scored the book, The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight & Eating Great, by Pam Anderson. I’ve used it as inspiration here and there but never really made an actual recipe from it. My Chef Spotlight Dinner served as the perfect time to use a recipe from it since we were highlighting health conscious chefs! For my dinner I prepared Pam’s Creamy Pasta with Salmon, Asparagus & Dill.

Creamy Pasta with Salmon, Asparagus & Dill
recipe from Pam Anderson: The Perfect Recipe, page 208

1 pound dried pasta
3 cups asparagus, tough ends snapped, spears cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup 2-percent evaporated milk
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for sprinkling
12 ounces cooked salmon, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Ground black pepper

Bring 2 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large soup kettle. Add pasta and, using the time given on the package as a guide, cook, partially covered and stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until just tender. Add asparagus during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Meanwhile, microwave broth, milk and garlic in a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup or small microwave-safe bowl until steamy-hot, 3 to 4 minutes; let stand for a couple of minutes.

Place butter in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over low heat. When butter melts, whisk in flour, then hot milk mixture all at once, whisking constantly until sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in parmesan, salmon, lemon zest and dill. Add salt and black pepper to taste and simmer to blend flavors, about 5 minutes.

Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.

Pour cream sauce over pasta, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Toss and serve immediately with a light sprinkling of parmesan.

Shrimp Scampi

My husband is a big fan of shrimp and it’s been awhile since I made a shrimp scampi for dinner. I chose this recipe from Tyler Florence and the only change I made was to add a little basil for extra brightness in the dish.

Shrimp Scampi
recipe adapted from Tyler Florence

1 pound linguini
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large shallot, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
20 large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled and deveined, tail on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
3-5 basil leaves, chiffonaded
shredded parmesan for garnish (optional)

For the pasta, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When it has come to the boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and the linguini. Stir to make sure the pasta separates; cover. When the water returns to a boil, cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is not quite done. Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using) until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; add them to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley, basil and cooked pasta and reserved pasta water. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil and garnish with some basil and shredded parmesan. Serve immediately.

Turkey Parmigiana Lasagna

Turkey… and lots of it. What to do, what to do?! I wanted to be somewhat creative and because I couldn’t decide what to do, I ended up with Turkey Parmigiana Lasagna.

To start, I prepared my version of Turkey Parmigiana but dredging cooked turkey breast slices in a bit of flour, dipped in egg wash and then in italian seasoned breadcrumbs. Once I baked them and saw them finished on my baking sheet, I took a look and didn’t feel like having them as is. That’s when I thought of chopping them up and throwing them into a lasagna! Looking back, I think its kinda silly I went a whole roundabout way to prepare this, but the end result was wonderful. The crispness of the original coating was flavorful and still shined through despite the layers of cheese, pasta and sauce. To prepare my lasagna, I adapted Ina’s recipe with the original recipe notes in red:

Turkey Parmigiana Lasagna

courtesy of Ina Garten:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
4 garlic cloves, minced (2 garlic cloves)
1 1/2 pounds breaded cooked turkey breasts (sweet Italian turkey sausage)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
4 frozen fresh basil cubes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon italian seasoning
1/2 pound no boil lasagna noodles (Ina used cooked noodles)
15 ounces ricotta cheese
I omitted the goat cheese (3 to 4 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled)
1 cup grated Romano (Parmesan), plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
2 eggs lightly beaten (1 extra-large egg)
1 pound fresh mozzarella, shredded (thinly sliced)

Preheat the oven to350 degrees F. (Ina heated hers up to 400 degrees F).

Heat the olive oil in a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, the basil cubes, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup of Romano, the eggs, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the no boil pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one 1/3 of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Romano. Bake for 45 minutes uncovered, until the sauce is bubbling. Remove from oven and top with additional mozzarella cheese and bake until cheese is melted.

Italian chicken bruschetta soup

This soup was made for my Soup & Sandwich Swap event, which you can read about HERE for more recipes and pictures.

Joelen’s Italian chicken bruschetta soup

1 large can marinara sauce
1 large can whole tomatoes w/basil
3 tomatoes, chopped and seeded
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 onion, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cup low sodium chicken broth
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasted, diced
1-2 tablespoons italian seasoning
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup cooked small pasta (optional)

Combine everything (except pasta) in the crockpot and set on low for 6-8 hours.
Before serving, stir in cooked pasta.

Penne w/Saffron, Tomatoes & Herbs

The following recipe was prepared during my International Chefs Dinner. You can read about it and check out the other recipes that were made for the event HERE.

Penne w/Saffron, Tomatoes & Herbs
shared at the event by Shirley
recipe courtesy of Massimo Buttura

1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup chopped pitted black olives, such as Gaeta (2 ounces)
2 tablespoons salted capers—soaked briefly, rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 anchovy fillets, mashed
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon minced thyme
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons minced chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 asparagus (about 1/2 pound), cut on the diagonal into 1-inch lengths
4 slices lean bacon (3 ounces), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch matchsticks
1 cup dry white wine
4 quarts vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 1/2 pounds linguine

In a large, shallow serving bowl, combine the tomatoes with the olives, capers, anchovies, celery, scallion and thyme. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and half of the basil, cilantro and chives and season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside for up to 2 hours.

In a large skillet of boiling salted water, cook the asparagus until almost tender, about 1 minute. Drain and refresh in cold water.

In the same skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and boil over high heat for 3 minutes. Stir in the asparagus and the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and remove from the heat.

In a large pot, bring the vegetable stock to a boil with the saffron. Cover and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Salt the stock generously and return to a boil over high heat. Add the linguine and cook, stirring, until al dente. Drain the linguine and add it to the bowl with the tomatoes. Add the asparagus mixture, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Sprinkle the linguine with the remaining half of the basil, cilantro and chives and serve at once.

Toasted Spaghetti with Clams

The following recipe was prepared during my International Chefs Dinner. You can read about it and check out the other recipes that were made for the event HERE.

Toasted Spaghetti with Clams
shared at the event by Robert
recipe courtesy of Ferran Adria

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 pound spaghetti, broken into 2-inch lengths
2 garlic cloves, minced
Crushed red pepper
3 cups bottled clam broth
1 cup water
3 dozen littleneck clams, rinsed
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

In a large deep skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the spaghetti and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and a large pinch of crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the clam broth and water and bring to a boil. Cover tightly and cook over moderate heat until the pasta is barely al dente, about 8 minutes. Nestle the clams into the pasta, cover and cook until the pasta is al dente and the clams open, about 7 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of water if the pasta is too dry. Stir in the parsley and serve.

Baked Mac & Cheese

The following recipe was made for my Food Network Chefs Dinner. You can read about it and get other recipes made for the event HERE.

Baked Mac & Cheese
shared at the event by John
(an Alton Brown recipe, found HERE)

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper


3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Remember to save leftovers for fried Macaroni and Cheese.

Lemon Basil Pasta Salad

The following recipe was made for my Picnic Wine event. You can read more about it and get additional recipes HERE.

Lemon Basil Pasta Salad
shared at the event by Jen & Wayne
recipe HERE

1 pound farfalle pasta
4 plum tomatoes, cut into 1 inch dice
8 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons salt
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Fill a large pot 3/4 of the way with water and place over high heat. Add plenty of salt and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water to cool down.

Put the pasta in a large serving bowl and add the tomatoes, basil, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Toss well and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Antipasto Pasta Salad

The following recipe was made for my Picnic Wine event. You can read more about it and get additional recipes HERE.

Antipasto Pasta Salad
shared at the event by Michele
recipe HERE

1 pound seashell pasta
1/4 pound Genoa salami, chopped
1/4 pound pepperoni sausage, chopped
1/2 pound Asiago cheese, diced
1 (6 ounce) can black olives, drained and chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, and cool under cold water.
In a large bowl, combine the pasta, salami, pepperoni, Asiago cheese, black olives, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and tomatoes. Stir in the envelope of dressing mix. Cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour.
To prepare the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, parsley, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Just before serving, pour dressing over the salad, and mix well.