Lazy Lasagna Bake

The summer before my junior year of college, I moved into an apartment with two fabulous girls – Jackie and Isabel. We were all out on our own for the first time and, as you’d expect, we really weren’t the best cooks. They are also Filipino, so a lot of their normal was downright foreign to me. I remember cleaning out the fridge one day and finding a cake that was bright purple – and quickly pitching it, wondering how long it had managed to sit there to turn that color. When Isabel went looking for it later that night, I told her what an awful color it had turned. She stared at me dumbfounded before telling me it was from a Filipino bakery and was supposed to be that color… oops!

One day that first summer, I came home to dinner – Jackie had made lasagna. Except, instead of lasagna noodles she’d used elbow macaroni and her version of “layer the noodles, meat and cheese” was all the noodles, all the meat, all the cheese. It was our first home-cooked meal in a while and we devoured it, but I remember being really amused at her interpretation of the recipe.

So, I had to laugh when I got my latest swap recipe for a Ground Beef Ricotta Bake from Cooking for Fun. I imagine that Jackie really had a recipe like this and didn’t botch it as badly as I was imagining. I’m so sorry for doubting you, Roomie!

I made a few adjustments to make this more lasagna-like: I used broken lasagna noodles and swapped the tomato and ketchup for canned tomatos and pasta sauce. It’s got all of the flavor of lasagna without the tedious step of layering things properly – aka, Lazy Lasagna.

Lazy Lasagna Bake
(adapted from Cooking for Fun)
Serves 6

8 oz. Lasagna noodles, broken into pieces
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. basil
1 T. oregano
1 (14oz.) can diced tomatoes
3/4 c. ricotta cheese
3/4 c. pasta sauce
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 c. mozarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray an 8×8″ baking pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

Cook lasagna according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, brown ground beef and drain any excess fat. Add garlic and onion to skillet and cook until onions are transluent and soft. Stir in basil, oregano and tomatoes and heat through. Mix in ricotta cheese. Remove from heat.

Add the cooked lasagna pieces and pasta sauce to the pan. Toss until everything is well combined.

Spread in prepared baking pan and top with parmesan and mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.

White Cheddar Chicken Pasta

Today is a two-post day! I wanted to share a meatless Friday recipe, as promised, for Lent but it’s also recipe swap day.

The most recent recipe swap was a little different – rather than getting assigned a certain recipe, we were each given a blog and could pick anything we wanted from it. My assigned blog was Sarah’s A Taste of Home Cooking who hosts these recipe swaps. Sarah’s style is very much homey comfort food – right up our ally!

There are so many great recipes on her blog that I had trouble picking – so I delegated the decision to my husband.  He picked this pasta dish and I made it on a rainy evening -super warm and satisfying.

If you’re interested in more recipes like this or want to see more recipes from this swap, be sure to check out A Taste of Home Cooking.

White Cheddar Chicken Pasta
(from A Taste of Home Cooking)
Serves 3-4

1/2 lb. chicken breast, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 T. olive oil

1/2 lb. pasta
1 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 t. olive oil 
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2  small onion, finely diced
1 T. flour
1 oz. dry white wine
2 t. Dijon mustard
1 c. milk
1 c. chicken stock 
4 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried oregano

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Mix together mustard, thyme, salt and pepper and sprinkle over chicken pieces. When pan is hot, add chicken and brown about 3 minutes per side until cooked through. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt butter and oil in the now-empty skillet you used to cook the chicken. Add garlic and onions and cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Add wine and Dijon mustard. Cook about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low and slowly add milk and chicken stock, stirring to combine. Cook about 5-7 minutes more until mixture begins to thicken. Add cheese, thyme and oregano and stir to melt cheese. Add chicken and pasta and toss to incorporate sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Olives and Feta

Pasta tossed with olive oil and garlic is a staple in our dinner rotation. Often, we end up throwing in whatever veggies and leftover meat are in the fridge. Our version is rarely as put-together as this one, which made it seem extra special.

This was also ridiculously easy to make. If you can boil water, you can pull this off. Honest. And because it’s so quick, it makes a great weeknight meal.

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Olives and Feta
(from Food and Wine)
Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs. tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 c. Kalamata or other black olives, pitted
1/4 lb. feta cheese, crumbled
3 T. drained capers
3 T. chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. fresh-ground black pepper
3/4 lb. spaghetti
6 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced

In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives, feta, capers, parsley, salt, and pepper.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghetti until just done, about 12 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a medium frying pan, heat the olive oil over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta and the garlic oil to the tomato mixture and toss.

Linguini With Tex-Mex Pepper Cream Sauce

Today is Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent. Part of Lenten obligations is to abstain from meat on Fridays (and today). The typical staples for these days are pasta with red sauce and cheese pizza. Sufficient, but it can get boring. Last year, I marked Lent by featuring a different, meatless dinner recipe ever Friday – I’m going to do the same this year.

We rarely do pasta with non-Italian sauces, so this was a nice change of pace. It has a nice little kick from the chopped green chilis, but the sour cream keeps it from being over-powering. This would also be great with chicken.


Linguini With Tex-Mex Pepper Cream Sauce
(from The Cooking Photographer)
 Serves 6

2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 t. salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. sour cream
1/4 c. cilantro, plus more for garnish
4-oz. can mild diced green chiles
2/3 c. shredded Mexican cheese blend
1/2 t. black pepper
1/8 to 1/4 t. cayenne pepper, to taste
1 lb. linguini pasta

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers and salt and cook until tender stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Meanwhile cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions

Place the veggie mixture into a food processor with sour cream, cilantro, green chiles, cheese, cayenne and black pepper. Puree until smooth scraping the sides as needed.

Toss the pasta with the sauce. Plate and garnish with cilantro.

Cajun Chicken Pasta

I’ve been on a bit of a spicy kick recently – every spicy recipe I seem to come across gets bookmarked. The thing is, though, I’m a wimp when it comes to spicy. It sounds good, but I usually don’t love it. This one, I loved.

I chopped all the chicken and veggies in the morning so that when it came time to cook dinner, things moved along really quickly. This is a great weeknight dinner option.

Cajun Chicken Pasta
(from Pioneer Woman)
Serves 6

3 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Cut Into Cubes
3 t. Cajun Spice Mix, More To Taste
1 lb. Fettuccine
2 T. Olive Oil
2 T. Butter
1 Green Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
1 Red Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
1/2 Large Red Onion, Sliced
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
4 Roma Tomatoes, Diced
2 c. Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 c. White Wine
1 c. Heavy Cream
Cayenne Pepper To Taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
Salt To Taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun spice over chicken pieces. Toss around to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet over high heat. Add half the chicken in a single layer; do not stir. Allow chicken to brown on one side, about 1 minute. Flip to the other side and cook an additional minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a clean plate.

Repeat with remaining chicken. Remove chicken, leaving pan on high heat.

Add remaining olive oil and butter. When heated, add peppers, onions, and garlic. Sprinkle on remaining Cajun spice, and add salt if needed. Cook over very high heat for 1 minute, stirring gently and trying to get the vegetables as dark/black as possible. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Remove all vegetables from the pan.

With the pan over high heat, pour in the wine and chicken broth. Cook on high for 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Reduce heat to medium-low and pour in cream, stirring/whisking constantly. Cook sauce over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until cream starts to thicken the mixture. Taste and add freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, and/or salt to taste.

Finally, add chicken and vegetables to sauce, making sure to include all the juices that have drained onto the plate. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and hot. Add drained fettuccine and toss to combine.

Roasted Garlic Macaroni and Cheese

We usually have some sort of pasta with red sauce with our Christmas dinner. When I was flipping through my bookmarked recipes, looking for some inspiration for this year’s pasta dish, I came across this one.  It wasn’t what I was planning on making, but it looked too good not to try anyway.

This was one of the Christmas dinner favorites. It’s perfectly creamy and cheesy and the roasted garlic really makes this something special. I roasted the garlic the day before so I’d have less prep time when I actually made it.

Roasted Garlic Macaroni and Cheese
(from Annie’s Eats)
Serves 10-12 as a side

1 head garlic
1 tsp. olive oil
12 oz. dry pasta
3 T. unsalted butter
3 T. all-purpose flour
3 c. milk
1/4 t. dried parsley
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
8 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz. crumbled garlic and herb boursin cheese, divided
Salt and pepper

Cut about 1/2 in. off the top of the garlic. Cut the roots so that the garlic will sit flat. Remove the papery skin for the garlic, but leave enough so that the cloves stay together. Put garlic into a small casserole dish or baking pan, drizzle olive oil over it and cover with a lid or foil. Bake at 325F degrees for 1 hour. Remove garlic and let it cool until you can handle it. Squeeze all of the garlic out of the skins and smash with a fork to make a paste.

Increase the oven temperature to 400F degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the pasta until about 2 minutes shy of al dente according to the package directions. Drain in a colander. Return the pasta to the pot and set aside. Meanwhile in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and the roasted garlic paste and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, dried parsley, and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce comes to a low boil and thickens noticeably. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheddar and about 3 ounces of the boursin. Whisk until the cheese is completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the sauce over the drained pasta and toss to coat well. Transfer to a lightly greased 2 quart baking dish and top with the remaining boursin. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is browned and the cheese is bubbling. Let cool at least 5-10 minutes before serving.

Baked Ziti with Sausage

Of everything I make, this is requested the most often by far. It’s a crowd pleaser. Everytime my Mom throws a potluck, she suggests I bring it – and I’m happy to obligue because this is an easy dish to put together. I’m a big fan of sizing down dishes for just the two of us, but this is one I always make the full recipe of – there always seems to be someone happy to take some off our hands.

My Mom recently started a new job that’s keeping her extra busy so for her birthday I made her a few freezer meals that she could pull out on hectic days. This was one of them. I’m not sure who was more excited about it – her or my sister!

This can be as fancy or simple as you want. I’ve used both homemade sauce and garlic bread and store-bought and got fantastic results with both.

Baked Ziti with Sausage
(from Johnsonville Sausage)
Serves 12

1 1/2 lbs. Italian Sweet Sausage Links
8 oz. penne or rigatoni dry pasta, cooked according to package
1 jar (26 oz.) pasta sauce
3/4 c. water
1 T. fresh basil, chopped
1 T. fresh garlic, chopped
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, freshly shredded
1/4 t. black pepper
12 slices of garlic bread
3 cups (12 oz.) mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 c. olive oil
12 fresh whole basil leaves
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 12 slices

Prepare sausage according to package directions and coin slice.

In a large bowl, mix cooked sausage, cooked pasta, pasta sauce, water, chopped basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and pepper. Toss gently. Place mixture into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan.
Place twelve slices of garlic bread on top of mixture and cover with mozzarella. Dip tomato in olive oil and place on each bread slice.
Bake uncovered at 400°F for approximately 30 minutes or until heated through.
Tuck basil leaf slightly under each tomato. Let stand ten minutes to help set before slicing and serving.

Ravioli with Salsa Black Bean Sauce

The cookbook I got these out of called them “Ravi-ole!” which I think is a pretty good description. The Italian/Mexican fusion sounds a little odd but it works well.

The book it came from, Pillsbury Pasta!, has been on my shelf forever. I finally flipped through it thinking it might have a few meatless options to consider.  Aside from this dish, there weren’t many I wanted to try – meatless or not – so this book is going into the donate pile.


Ravioli with Salsa Black Bean Sauce
(from Pillsbury Pasta! June 1998)
Serves 3

1 pkg. frozen cheese-filled ravioli
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with green chilis
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. cumin

Cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan combine tomatoes, beans, chili powder and cumin; mix well. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally.

Carefully stir in cooked ravioli.

Italian Pasta Bake

I will fully admit that this dish looks funny. It’s essentially baked ziti baked into a bread crust. To get this dish to work successfully, you need to cook the pasta a little more than al dente so it “squishes” down in the pan.  I left mine more al dente, because that’s how we like it, but it didn’t work as well.

If I were to make this again, I’d skip the springform pan in favor of a 9×13 baking dish and just cover the top with buttered bread slices.

Italian Pasta Bake
(from Rachael Ray)

2 loaves day-old Italian country bread, crusts discarded, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 lb. rigatoni or ziti pasta
4 T. butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 c. frozen peas
One 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 c. heavy cream
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 c. grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Grease a 10-inch springform pan or 4-quart ovenproof bowl. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with bread slices, fitting them tightly; reserve several bread slices for the top.

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

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the peas and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and heavy cream, mixing until combined, and bring to a simmer. Set aside 1 cup of the sauce.

Drain the pasta, add to the sauce in the skillet and toss to coat. Stir in the mozzarella and half of the parmesan. Season with salt. Pour the pasta into the bread-lined pan, pressing down with a wooden spoon. Cover with the remaining bread slices. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.Bake the pasta until golden and crusty, about 40 minutes (loosely cover with foil if necessary to prevent overbrowning). Let cool for about 30 minutes, then unmold and slice. Serve with the reserved tomato sauce and extra parmesan.

Bacon Pierogi Bake

I’ve found that when life gets busy, I always return to what I know works. Go-to outfits, go-to routines, and of course – go to meals.

Bacon Pirogi Bake 2

This is one of our go-to meals – and has been since I first posted it in 2011.

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