I tried to get the essentials into the title—roasting, garden harvest, classic panzanella, and pasta. From the garden, I’m roasting tomatoes and green beans. My husband doesn’t care for tomatoes, but he tends the garden—sometimes you have to eat what you sow. The green beans are meant to draw him into the dish. I’m going to roast the bread cubes, as well, instead of toasting the bread in a skillet. Then it’s just a matter of making the right dressing and tossing it all with pasta and cheese curds. I know mozzarella is traditional, but I’m in love with Yancey’s Fancy® Fresh Cheddar Cheese Curds, and I think they will be perfect.
I’m going to use rice vinegar in the dressing, because it’s the mildest of the vinegars. I’m also going to seed the tomatoes before roasting and add all that liquidy stuff to the dressing, straining out the tomato seeds. But olive oil will be the star. The bread cubes, green beans, and tomatoes will all be tossed with extra virgin olive oil before roasting, and then some more will be in the final dressing.
I’m roasting more ingredients than I will use, but nothing is lost. The extra roasted tomatoes, beans, and bread cubes, will probably end up in lunches or snacks.
Seeding the tomatoes
Strain seeds out of dressing
Roasted Garden Panzanella Pasta
- 2 cups cubed crusty bread, such as from a batard or baguette—I toasted the whole loaf, but only used 2 cups in the dish
- enough tomatoes to make about 1.5-2 cups—use any type of tomato; mine were Early Girls, the first to ripen here. I roasted 10 tomatoes, but used only 4 in the dish.
- 1.5 cups fresh green beans
- 4 oz. pasta cooked according to package directions—I used whole wheat penne
- 6 oz. cheese curds—mine were fresh cheddar, which is much more mild than aged cheddar
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil for dressing
- 4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for roasting vegetables
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar or other mild vinegar
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely grated
- salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 425º; line 2-3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Bread: Toss bread cubes in large bowl with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil—I used 3 for the whole loaf—don’t overdo it. Spread on one of the baking sheets and toast in oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and set aside 2 cups for the dish.
- Vegetables: Core and seed the tomatoes, reserving the tomato seeds and pulp for the dressing—I had about 1 cup of liquid from the tomatoes. Place the halved tomatoes, cut side up, on one of the lined baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper.
- Toss the green beans with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread on the second lined sheet; salt and pepper.
- Roast the vegetables on separate racks in the oven, about 15 minutes for the green beans and about 30 minutes for the tomatoes. I like a little caramelization on the tomatoes.
- Dressing: In bowl with reserved tomato seeds and pulp, add the 3/4 cup olive oil and vinegar. Whisk until combined, then pour through strainer to remove seeds—whisking helps to separate the gel from the seeds before you strain them out. Whisk in garlic. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more oil or vinegar to taste.
- Panzanella: In large bowl toss pasta, bread, vegetables, and cheese with dressing until well coated. Set aside and allow the dressing to be absorbed by all the ingredients. Serve at room temperature.
We also had a roasted pork tenderloin, but that was really just a bonus for the gardener, who did eat a few of the tomatoes.
You can never have too many mac and cheese recipes.
Sometimes you might be in the mood for a sharp cheddar or a nutty Gruyere or even a little blue, but you just about always want a creamy texture, not one that separates, leaving an oily trail and little curds of cheese—well, I would eat that, too. The following recipe starts out with this one from Kraft and adds whipped ricotta to the sauce, so that it’s extra creamy. I am not adding any cheddar to the top of the casserole, just a panko topping. I like to get a little crust on my mac and cheese, but sometimes you just want to eat it out of the pan, so skip the crumb topping and baking if you like.
The base recipe starts out with a very thick white sauce, into which cubes of Velveeta® are stirred. I usually make my white sauce with 2 tablespoons of flour per cup of milk, but this one uses 4 tablespoons per cup. Like any other cheese sauce, you need this flour base to keep the cheese from separating. I’ve tried that recipe making the rounds, where you use only evaporated milk and cheese, and it does not hold up—beware fads.
Notice the whipped ricotta
Stir in Velveeta
Stir in whipped ricotta
Thick and creamy sauce
Just eat it like this…
…or bake it
Ricotta-Velveeta® Mac 'n Cheese
Preheat oven to 350°; butter a 2-quart casserole dish.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 8 oz. original Velveeta® cheese, cut into cubes
- 8 oz. whole milk ricotta, whipped in a food processor until smooth and fluffy
- 8 oz. macaroni or other pasta shape—I used whole wheat fusilli
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Boil the pasta according to the package directions while making the sauce. Drain the pasta and place in casserole dish.
- In a small saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until fully combined. Stir in milk and continue stirring until smooth and thickened.
- Stir cheese cubes into thickened white sauce until all the cheese is melted. This takes a few minutes.
- Stir whipped ricotta into cheese sauce until combined.
- Pour sauce over pasta and stir to combine. You could serve it at this point without baking, or go to the next step.
- Combine panko crumbs and 2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle over macaroni. Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly.
A dish for two, unless one of those two has lactose intolerance, in which case I get to eat it twice.
To make a sauce, half the ricotta and peas are pulsed in a food processor until green and creamy. The rest are left in their natural state for texture.
Penne, Peas, and Ricotta
I roasted some peppers early in the day to use in several recipes; otherwise you may use roasted peppers in a jar, which I rely on all the time.
- 4 oz whole wheat penne or your favorite pasta
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta, divided
- 1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed and divided
- 1 generous tablespoon roasted garlic (I freeze mine in mini muffin pans to keep handy in the freezer)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1-1 1/2 roasted red pepper, cut in large dice
- 1/4 cup grated or shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (I like the texture of the shaved cheese)
- salt & pepper to taste
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions and your taste. Whole wheat pasta takes a little longer to cook, about 12-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat two tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions until translucent, season with salt and pepper, then stir in peppers and 1/2 cup of the thawed peas. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
- In the bowl of the food processor, add 1/2 cup ricotta, garlic, and 1/2 cup thawed peas. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Process until mixture is smooth and creamy and bright green. Set aside.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water; drain off the rest.
- Add to the drained pasta the sauce, the vegetables, the remaining 1/2 cup ricotta, and 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Stir to combine, adding a little cooking water if you need to thin the sauce. I added about 2 tablespoons water.
- Serve with more Parmesan.
My taco meatballs are made with venison and pork, but you could substitute your favorite meatball ingredients.
It all started with a box of black bean spaghetti, which is made with nothing but black beans. I’m always looking for ways to avoid the high-glycemic white flour pastas when I can, and this seemed like another interesting way to do that. Then I was trying to figure out how to complement such a pasta, so I started thinking about what we usually eat with black beans. I always cook them with cumin, oregano, and garlic, and serve them alongside a variety of Mexican dishes, so I started thinking in that direction.
On the other hand, we often have some kind of meatball with pasta—thus the taco meatball idea was born. To keep it on the Mexican side, I took a tomato-based sauce idea, but added poblano peppers instead of bell peppers, and that pretty much instantly turned it into a Mexican sauce.
I also had two crispy corn taco shells in the cupboard waiting for a purpose, so I crushed them in the food processor to substitute for breadcrumbs in the meatballs. It gave them just a little corn flavor to add to the taco idea. For the taco seasoning, I made a variation of this one.
Taco shells for meatball filling
Sauce looks a lot like salsa
Taco Meatballs and Black Bean Spaghetti
Taco Pasta Sauce
- 1 large can peeled San Marzano tomatoes, drained (reserve juice in can if you want to thin the sauce later)
- 4-6 roasted poblano peppers, peeled and seeded
- 1 large onion
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Place all ingredients in bowl of food processor. Process until uniformly small, but still with visible pieces of all the elements. I think it ends up looking like salsa.
- Pour into large skillet and heat over medium-low heat while you make the meatballs.
- 1 lb ground venison
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1/2 cup ground tortilla shells (you could use flavored corn chips, but you might need to alter your seasoning)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon minced or roasted garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons taco seasoning:
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground California chiles
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- Mix all ingredients well—I used my stand mixer.
- Form into small meatballs of about 2 teaspoons each and drop into the sauce as it is heating. If it starts to bubble, lower the heat to a simmer.
- Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, uncovering the skillet during the last ten minutes to cook down any excess liquid from the vegetables. Remember that the onion and pepper in this recipe are not sauteed first, so they can water down the sauce on cooking, even though the tomato paste helps to thicken the sauce.
Serve over black bean spaghetti, cooked according to package directions. It cooks very quickly, about 6-8 minutes. This pasta has an interesting taste and texture that complements the taco flavors.