Orzo and Vegetable Pasta Bowl with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Onions

This time of year, there’s an amazing abundance of fresh vegetables, and it’s a great opportunity to get your children to try some new produce. Think about hitting a farmers market this weekend, and let your kids pick out something new to try. When you get home, make this recipe. With it’s grown-up and child-friendly versions, everyone in your house is guaranteed to eat dinner. The adults get to enjoy a delicious dijon vinaigrette while the kids sample the new vegetables with the buttery pasta they always enjoy.

The slow-roasted tomatoes and onions are delicious, but this dish will be tasty even without them. Although they do take a while in the oven, it’s hands-off cooking time, and the tomatoes and onions can be made up to a day in advance. I specify orzo, my personal short pasta favorite, but you can use any short pasta that’s popular with your family.

Orzo and Vegetable Pasta Bowl with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Onions
Serves: 8
This meal makes a lot, so you have delicious leftovers for a second dinner or to pack for lunch. Happy cooking!
  • Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Onions:
  • 1 red onion
  • 8 Campari tomatoes or 1 - 1½ lbs Cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • Orzo:
  • 2 cups (1 lb box) Orzo, regular or whole wheat, divided
  • Dijon Vinaigrette:
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • ¼ cup Red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup Olive oil
  • Other Ingredients:
  • 4-6 tbsp Butter, unsalted, softened
  • 1 (5 oz bag) Arugula or Baby Spinach, stems removed, divided (optional ½ bag for kids)
  • 4 cups Vegetables, cooked or raw - seasonal, divided
  • ½ cup Cheese of your choice - grated Parmesan, blue cheese, goat cheese, etc, divided (optional ½ cup for kids)
  • 4 tbsp Fresh herbs, optional (oregano, dill, thyme or basil would all work with this recipe), divided (optional 2 tbsp for kids)
  1. Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Onions:
  2. Set oven to 250 degrees and cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil. On the sheet pan, drizzle the onion and tomatoes with olive oil and Kosher salt, stir to combine. Slowly cook the tomatoes and onions until somewhat shriveled, 1¾ - 2 hours.
  3. Save the juice from the tray to mix with the pasta salad. Tomatoes and onions can be made up to a day ahead.
  4. Cook the Orzo:
  5. Make a double batch, following package instructions - 1 cup each, so you can tailor one half for grownup flavors and the the other half for a more kid-friendly meal. Whole wheat orzo will take longer. Once drained in a colander, separate the orzo into two large bowls.
  6. Dijon Vinaigrette:
  7. In a Mason jar combine Dijon mustard, Kosher salt, honey, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Shake vigorously until the dressing is emulsified.
  8. Pasta Bowls:
  9. Pour cooked orzo into 2 large bowls. While the pasta is hot - in one bowl toss the vinaigrette and slow-roasted tomatoes (if using) and in the second bowl toss the butter with the pasta. It will seem like there is too much vinaigrette, but it will all be absorbed by the hot pasta.
  10. In the bowl with vinaigrette, add arugula (or spinach), vegetables, cheese and fresh herbs if using and toss until combined.
  11. In the bowl with the butter, add vegetables, and if using arugula (or baby spinach), cheese and fresh herbs and toss until combined.
  12. Add additional salt or pepper to taste.
  13. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 4 hours, let come to room temperature before serving, about 30 minutes.


Continue Reading

Spinach & Ricotta Papparadelle

Searching for a delicious and quick pasta dinner? Need to get out of the red sauce rut? Look no further than this luscious meal – simple to prepare, full of flavor and easy to customize to fit your family’s tastes. And although it’s delicious on it’s own, this pasta is also a terrific compliment to chicken, seafood or fish. I topped ours with seared halibut which I had brushed with some of my oregano marinade. Dinner couldn’t have been easier to pull together!

Topped with Seared Halibut that I brushed with my Oregano Marinade

If you’re adding protein to this dish, try my http://whatskatecooking.com/2017/04/oregano-marinade/

Seared fish is a terrific addition to this pasta dish http://whatskatecooking.com/2017/05/seared-halibut/

Spinach & Ricotta Papparadelle
Serves: 4
Consider this recipe a template, if your family is not a fan of spinach, you can substitute different greens or even steamed or sauteed broccoli. Happy cooking!
  • 1 (8.8 oz box) Pappardelle
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Butter, unsalted
  • 1 Shallot, finely minced
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 (6 oz) bag Baby spinach, stems removed
  • 1 cup Ricotta, whole-milk
  • ¼ cup Parmesan-reggiano, grated, plus more for serving
  1. Cook pappardelle according to the package instructions. Not sure how to cook pasta perfectly? Click on this link and follow the step by step instructions. http://blog.williams-sonoma.com/how-to-cook-dried-pasta/
  2. In the meantime, heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Once butter is melted, add the shallot and cook until shallot is lightly browned, 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the spinach and toss with the shallot mixture for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat and add the ricotta. Mix the ricotta into the spinach mixture.
  6. Once pasta is finished cooking, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside (I simply scoop a 1 cup measuring cup into the pot and set that aside). Drain the pasta.
  7. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss with the spinach - ricotta sauce.
  8. Grate the Parmesan into the pasta and continue to toss. Portion the pasta onto plates and pass additional Parmesan.



Continue Reading

Roasted Meatballs

I have never been one for frying meatballs (too messy!), so I am constantly tinkering around with baking meatballs instead. This recipe was inspired by Ina Garten’s new cookbook. I have always baked my meatballs, but usually at a low temperature. I still make meatballs that way from time to time, but I really appreciate the speed with which these meatballs come together. The additional breadcrumbs and higher heat help the meatballs keep their shape and cooks them all the way through…then all you need is a quick simmer in the sauce and dinner is ready!

Have a few extra minutes? Make my delicious marinara sauce!

Marinara Sauce

Roasted Meatballs
Serves: about 50 meatballs
If your family is anything like mine, everyone has certain foods they like better than others. I thought it would be fun to show you my kid's plates - so take a look and see if your family resembles mine! By the way, this recipe makes a lot of meatballs...which freeze beautifully, so go ahead and put some meatballs in the dinner bank (i.e. freezer). Happy cooking!
  • 4 Eggs, large, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup Yogurt, whole milk Greek
  • 1½ cups Red wine, dry
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 tsp Minced garlic
  • 2 tsp Oregano, dried
  • 2 cups Grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
  • 4 cups Breadcrumbs, fresh or Panko
  • 2½ - 2¾ lbs Meat mixture (a blend of sirloin, veal and pork) (see note)
  • 2 (32 oz) jars of Marinara sauce (good quality, homemade is even better)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Make sure oven racks are in the upper and lower positions. Line two sheet pans with aluminum foil.
  2. Place eggs, yogurt and red wine in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
  3. Add Kosher salt, minced garlic, oregano, Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Mix throughly (the reason you want to mix completely before adding the meatloaf mixture is because you never want to overmix the meat - it will toughen the meatballs).
  4. Add the meat mixture to the bowl and gently mix with your hands until all ingredients are combined.
  5. Measure out enough meat mixture to form a 2 inch ball (an ice cream scoop is really helpful here) and place each ball 1 inch apart on the sheet pans.
  6. Transfer sheet pans to the oven, starting one pan on the upper rack and one pan on the lower rack. Your total cooking time with be between 20 - 30 minutes, you will want the meatballs to be lightly browned, After 10 - 12 minutes, switch the positions of your sheet pans so that the meatballs can cook evenly.
  7. Meanwhile, in large pot add the marinara sauce and simmer until heated through.
  8. Add browned meatballs and simmer until flavors are melded, 10 - 15 minutes.
  9. Serve on top of spaghetti or polenta or even on its own. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Meatball / meatloaf mixture comes in a package that is generally in packages of 1¼ or 1⅓ lbs. So, that’s why I called for a specific pound range, I am figuring on you buying two packages of the meat mix. If you are making meatloaf in the spring or summer, you won’t find the mix in the store. In that situation, I buy ground beef and ground pork (it’s hard to find ground veal so I just skip it). The meatloaf is still fantastic!


D’s plate: he loves the meatballs and noodles, but he’s not a fan of sauce
T’s plate: he LOVES my meatballs (he starts eating them right off the pan) but he’s not a noodle guy
R’s plate: this one’s the most balanced, but she really just wants to get to the noodles
Continue Reading

Baked Manicotti

I have been making this recipe for years – it’s one of my top 5 most requested client meals – but ironically it’s never been a meal I made for my kids because they one, don’t like marinara sauce smothered over everything (meatballs should have a bare dripping of sauce, that’s it) and two, casseroles, or any dish where the food is all mixed together is like torturing them. I have to face facts and accept that my kids, who are 13, 10 and 7, are not changing anytime soon. So, imagine my surprise, that along with blending our families, I get to cook for older kids that LOVE meals like this.

Baked Manicotti

If you are cooking for a big crowd, and trying to accommodate different tastes, I recommend a tray of manicotti and some meatballs for those picky eaters.

Roasted Meatballs

Baked Manicotti
Serves: 10-14
The inspiration for this recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated The Best Make-Ahead Recipe. I highly encourage you to buy any of their books, I love the background information on the science of food (a little nerdy I know) and the recipes are impeccable and always turn out perfectly. After years of tweaking, this recipe is firmly my own, but I never forget where I started. Happy cooking!
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 4 tsp Minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp Dried oregano
  • 1 (28 oz) can + 1 (14 oz) Petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz) can + 1 (14 oz) Crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 (24 oz) container Whole milk ricotta
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated (I use Kraft or the store brand)
  • 1 pkge Mozzarella or Italian blend shredded cheese, plus another ½ pkge of cheese for topping
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 20 No-boil flat noodles (Barilla makes great ones)
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Once oil is shimmering, add garlic and oregano and stir, "blooming" the spices for 3-5 minutes. Turn heat to low and mix in all four cans of tomatoes. Stir to combine and let the tomato mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes. Take saucepan off heat, and transfer mixture to a medium sized bowl to allow the mixture to cool more quickly.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl add eggs, and lightly beat. Add ricotta, Parmesan, shredded cheese, Italian seasoning and Kosher salt and mix to combine. Set aside.
  3. Here comes the tricky part, but stay with me. Once you do this one or two times, it becomes so rote and simple to do AND makes all the difference in making amazing manicotti.
  4. Fill a 2 cup Pyrex with water and microwave to boiling, 6-8 minutes. Pour water into 13 inch x 9 inch baking dish. Turning the facet to high, add another 2 cups of hot tap water to the baking dish.
  5. Slowly add the noodles, 10 at a time. You will repeat the water step for the next 10 noodles (we do not want them to get mushy).
  6. Let the noodles soak for 5-8 minutes, until they are pliable. Remove the noodles from the baking dish and place one by one on a clean tea towel.
  7. Prepare 2 baking trays (I use the aluminum ones from Sam's Club that are roughly 10 x 13). Spray with canola spray and cover the bottom of each baking dish with 1 cup of the tomato mixture.
  8. Spoon ¼ cup of the ricotta mixture on each lasagna noodle, starting at the bottom and rolling up tightly. Place each rolled noodle in the prepared baking tray. You should have 2 rows of 5 noodles each.
  9. Cover the tray of noodles with 2 cups of sauce, making sure to cover the noodles completely.
  10. Discard the warm water and start again to assemble the second tray.
  11. Once the second tray is assembled, sprinkle ¼ of a pkge of shredded cheese over each of the two trays of manicotti.
  12. Cooking now: Preheat oven to 350, and cover both dishes tightly with aluminum foil sprayed with canola spray (to prevent food from sticking). Bake until sauce is bubbly, 20-25 minutes. Remove cover and continue cooking, 10-15 minutes longer. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
  13. Cooking later: Wrap the dishes tightly with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze for up to 2 months. If frozen, thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight. Discard plastic wrap and follow all of the instructions listed above.


Continue Reading

Sun-dried Tomato Meatballs

These meatballs are perfect for warmer weather – they come together quickly, totally different than my long-simmering in red wine version. The turkey keeps them light while the pancetta and sun-dried tomatoes give these meatballs such a special flavor. Best of all, this recipe is a huge hit with kids! My secret? My kids rebel against the “green stuff” in meatballs, aka parsley. My lightbulb moment – serving the parsley on the side! Score one for mom…

Sundried Tomato Meatballs

Sun-dried Tomato Meatballs
Serves: 60 meatballs
This recipe falls into my category of "If I'm getting all these ingredients out I might as well make a lot". I just love having an extra dinner in the fridge or freezer! I made these meatballs, in addition to a huge manicotti for a recent family birthday dinner and everyone loved them! My kids don't like a lot of sauce, if your family does you might want to double the sauce. Of course, any extra sauce can go right into the fridge - another dinner ready to go. Happy cooking!
  • Meatballs
  • 8 oz Pancetta, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 8.5 oz jar Sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1½ cup Grated Parmesan-Romano cheese blend (you can also just use Parmesan)
  • ¾ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3 lb Ground turkey
  • Sauce
  • 28 oz can Crushed tomatoes
  • 28 oz can Petite diced tomatoes
  • 6 tsp Minced garlic
  • 1½ tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup Flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 450. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Heat pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes. Add onion and continue to cook until pancetta is crisp and the onion is translucent, 5-10 minutes more. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. In a large bowl lightly beat the eggs, then add tomatoes, yogurt, cheese, breadcrumbs and Kosher salt. Stir to combine, then add the turkey and mix carefully with your hands. (see note)
  4. Form the turkey mixture into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Place on prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned and cooked through.
  6. Once the meatballs go into the oven, you can get started on the sauce.
  7. In a large saucepan (remember you will be adding the meatballs into the sauce so you need enough room), heat the crushed and diced tomatoes over medium heat. Add garlic, Italian seasoning and Kosher salt. Simmer while meatballs are in the oven.
  8. Once the meatballs are cooked, add them to the sauce and continue to simmer for the flavors to combine, 10-15 minutes. NOT all of the meatballs are going into the saucepan. Depending on how tightly you want to pack them in - I usually have about 10 extra which I keep for the pickier eaters who do not want any sauce.
Why add the turkey last? You want to throughly mix the ingredients before adding the turkey because you want to treat your ground turkey with care - it keeps them from getting tough. That's why I always add the turkey last and gently mix them with my hands - the same principle as when you make burgers.
Once you bake your meatballs you will never go back to frying them - when they come out of the oven you will see they rendered off the fat - making them so much healthier! I bake my ground beef meatballs the same way - I love to get rid of that additional fat.


Continue Reading

Chicken Meatballs with Fresh Oregano and Yogurt

Love these meatballs! They are so flavorful and moist – thanks to the fresh herbs and Greek yogurt – these are Springtime comfort food! You’ll notice these make a lot of meatballs – I don’t believe in making a meal like these and not having leftovers or you could freeze the meatballs for a future dinner.

Chicken Meatballs new


Chicken Meatballs with Fresh Oregano and Yogurt
Serves: 8-10 people
Love these meatballs! They are so flavorful and moist - thanks to the fresh herbs and Greek yogurt - these are Springtime comfort food! You'll notice these make a lot of meatballs - I don't believe in making a meal like these and not having leftovers or you could freeze the meatballs for a future dinner. I personally like to have 2 of these meatballs for a protein heavy breakfast when my kids are having pancakes. With a little of the sauce spooned over them...delicious!
  • Meatballs
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup Panko or fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, minced
  • ¼ cup Greek plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt
  • ¾ cup grated cheese - Mozzarella or Romano or Romano/Parmesan or Parmesan
  • ¾ cup shredded cheese - all of the cheeses above or a combination of your favorites
  • 2 lbs ground chicken
  • Sauce
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow or Spanish onions or shallots, minced
  • ½ tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 cup white wine, sauvigon blanc or pinot grigio
  • 2 cups chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium
  • ½ - 1 bag baby spinach (optional)
  • 1-2 cups sliced grape tomatoes (optional)
  • 16 oz fresh mozzarella, bocconcini (mini mozzarella works great here) (optional)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn (optional)
  • Pasta
  • 2 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1-2 lbs pasta of your choice - both orecchiette and penne would work well with this recipe - cooked to package instructions
  1. Meatballs
  2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  3. Line a baking sheet with alumium foil and lightly spray with canola oil spray
  4. In a large bowl add eggs and lightly beat
  5. Add remaining ingredients up to and including the cheeses then stir to combine
  6. Add ground chicken and carefully combine - your hands work best - meatballs can get tough
  7. Using a melon ball scoop or a teaspoon, scoop portions of the meatballs onto the baking sheet, should be about 2 inches in diameter
  8. Once baking sheet is full, lightly spray the meatballs and the baking sheet with canola oil spray
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes in the oven. Meatballs should be fairly firm but still have a little give if you touch them - we want them to finish cooking while simmering in the sauce.
  10. Once they are finished cooking in the oven, allow to cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet before adding to the sauce.
  11. Sauce
  12. Heat unsalted butter or olive oil over medium heat in a large and deep saucepan - a Dutch oven would work well here. I have a large stainless steel combination pot and steamer from Sam's Club that I use for this recipe.
  13. Once butter or oil has melted add onions or shallots. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes until the onions or shallots start to become translucent.
  14. Add Kosher salt and white wine and let wine cook down for 2-3 minutes.
  15. Add chicken broth and the meatballs and simmer an additional 5 minutes for the flavors to meld.
  16. At this point there are a lot of options - depending on the palates of your eaters! My children want the meal as plain as possible - so I stop here and make their plates - pasta, meatballs and a little sauce.
  17. Then I continue the meal for the grown-ups and/or more adventurous eaters!
  18. Plate with pasta and meatballs and then add spinach, grape tomatoes, mozzarella and basil to each diner's portion based on their tastes.
You will notice I spray the meatballs twice with canola oil spray - once on the baking sheet and again before I shape them. Why? Just like turkey, chicken is so lean it does not have a lot of fat, so you need to add a little to work with it - so spraying with canola spray keeps the chicken from sticking to your hands while forming the meatballs AND adds a little necessary fat.
Did you know it's okay to include the stems of some herbs? Parsley and cliantro stems taste the same as the leaves, so you don't need to waste valuable time picking the leaves off - just mince the stems along with the leaves.
Ketchup is a great ingredient in these "quick" meatballs - no it's not traditional, but it's nice to skip the tomato paste for once!
You'll notice that I offer choices of the cheese you use - that's because I know kids can be picky - mine sure are - so if you are cooking for kids you could also make a cheese scale. Mozzarella is the most bland option, followed by Romano, finally Parmesan has a stronger taste, so if your kids don't like that taste then use one of the more mild options.

Chicken Meatballs in the Oven

Continue Reading