Grown-Up Tuna Casserole

Sometimes, you just crave comfort food, even when it’s the dead of summer outside. Fortunately, our air conditioner makes it bearable to turn on the oven and indulge when that happens. Even if that isn’t the case for you, bookmark this deliciousness to try in cooler months, because this hits the spot when all you want is carb-y, cheesy, tuna-y goodness!

Note: the next time I make this, I will definitely add some green veggies. I think fresh peas or artichoke hearts would make an excellent addition!


Grown-Up Tuna Casserole
(Original recipe: Bon Appetit)

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
2½ cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; from about 2 large)
¼ teaspoon celery seeds
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
½ cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
8 ounces wide egg noodles
½ cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 2½ ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped dill
10-oz albacore tuna (preferably packed in olive oil), drained, broken into ½-inch chunks
2 cups coarsely crushed salted potato chips (about 2 ounces)
S+P to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter an 8×8″ glass baking dish.

Boil egg noodles in large pot of water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt unsalted butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and celery seeds to saucepan. Cook until leeks are tender but not brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Gradually add milk and half and half; simmer until mixture thickens slightly, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine cooked noodles, leek sauce, Gruyère cheese, dill, and tuna. Fold gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil. Sprinkle crushed potato chips over and continue to bake, uncovered, until top is golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbly, 10-15 minutes longer. Serve hot.


Cheesy Chicken Pot Pie Orzo

One of my husband’s favorite meals is chicken pot pie. However, I have yet to perfect making pastry of any kind. My temporary solution? Substituting pasta. This one-dish meal comes together pretty quickly compared to traditional homemade pot pies, and it seems to temporarily satisfy that comfort food craving when it rages. It also makes enough to feed six hungry adults, so adjust as necessary.


Cheesy Chicken Pot Pie Orzo
(Base recipe: Jo Cooks)

1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, and cut into bite size pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
12 oz orzo, uncooked
1 cup frozen peas
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 cup white cheddar or Parmesan, grated
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven melt the butter over medium heat.
Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic to the pot; cook for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables soften.
Add the chicken thighs to the pot and season everything with salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.
Sprinkle the flour over the chicken and vegetables and stir. Cook for a minute or two, then add the white wine. Simmer for another minute or two to cook off the alcohol. The mixture will thicken.
Add chicken broth, orzo, thyme, and sage. Stir everything together and adjust for seasoning as necessary with salt and pepper.
Bring to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down to medium low. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the frozen peas and the rosemary. Stir everything together and continue simmering until the pasta is cooked to your liking (up to 10 additional minutes).
Gently stir in cheese, garnish with fresh parsley, and serve.

Mushroom ravioli in rosemary butter sauce

Several weeks ago, a friend’s mother-in-law offered to teach us an old Italian recipe for homemade pasta. We decided to make ravioli, and almost as an afterthought, I realized I’d need a filling. I prepared two: one salmon that was okay, and this one, which turned out to be quite possibly the best ravioli I’ve ever eaten. Do yourself a favor, and make this soon. It’s divine!

Mushroom Ravioli in Rosemary Butter Sauce
(Original recipe: Half Baked Harvest)

2 tablespoons butter
16 ounces cremini mushrooms
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup whole milk Ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt + pepper

Melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook until the balsamic coats the mushrooms, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
In a medium bowl, stir together the Ricotta, Fontina, and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the mushrooms.



150 grams of double-zero or all-purpose flour
50 grams of semolina flour
2 eggs

Combine flours and eggs until they become a dough. Knead the dough until elastic and smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let the gluten rest for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, cut off a third of the dough and re-wrap the remainder to keep it from drying out. Roll the dough through a pasta machine, starting from the thickest setting and slowly working down to the thinnest.
Lay out the large piece of thinly-rolled pasta; spoon enough of the filling on the bottom half so that folding over the top can still be sealed and cut around all sides. After pressing out all the air, press down the edges to seal and crimp the edges with a fork.
To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the ravioli in batches for 1-2 minutes or until they float. Drain to serve.
* Pasta recipe credit: M Zoda


8 tablespoon salted butter
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
chopped parsley

In a large skillet, brown the butter over medium heat, stirring often until the butter is golden and toasted. Add the rosemary and garlic and cook 30 seconds to a minute or until fragrant. Pour in the wine and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes or until the sauce has reduced slightly.

Divide the ravioli among bowls and ladle the sauce over the ravioli. Top with parmesan and parsley.

Pasta D

Grown Up Mac and Cheese

I’ve been working on a fitness goal for a couple months now. When I started this endeavor, I told myself my celebration of completion would be this recipe. It’s easily one of my absolute favorite foods. The first time I made it, I was surprised at how easy homemade macaroni and cheese actually is, not to mention the depth of flavor compared to the boxed stuff. Next time you’re feeling gluttonous or want to celebrate, give this one a try; it never disappoints!

Grown up mac and cheese

Grown Up Mac and Cheese
(Original recipe: Ina Garten)

6 ounces bacon
2 cups elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed (I use the microwave)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all­ purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra ­sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
A pinch of dry sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the bacon into chunks and fry until cooked. Drain and set aside.
Cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook over for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the warm milk. Continue whisking for 1-2 more minutes, until thickened and smooth.
Off the heat, add cheeses, sage, chives, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.
Fold in the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon. Combine well.
Pour the mixture into a 9×9 baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.
Tip: don’t be afraid to let the corners get brown and crusty; that’s my favorite part!

Pasta Fagioli

They say April showers bring May flowers, right? This hearty Italian soup will help get you through the last few months of rainy days before the sun returns. If freezes really well. Just leave out the pasta before freezing, then add in before serving. This is also an excellent meal to bring to families in need, as it is loaded with protein and carbs; a little goes a long way!

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Pasta Fagioli

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled & chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 lb mild Italian chicken sausage*
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed
1 cup ditalini pasta
Parmesan cheese for serving

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the diced onion and cook until it just begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots; cook, stirring frequently, for another 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the sausage to the pot, crumbling as it cooks (remove from casings, if necessary). Cook until the sausage is no longer pink. Stir in herbs. Stir in tomatoes and stock.
Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
Stir in the beans and pasta. Simmer for 6- 8 minutes or until pasta is tender.
Serve piping hot with Parmesan cheese.

* My favorite mild Italian chicken sausage to use is a one-pound roll made by Isernio’s.

Parmesan meatballs with orzo in basil cream sauce

I try to attempt at least one new recipe every week. Some are disappointing, but some are worth hanging onto, like this one. In our house, pasta and red meat are considered splurges, so this is a bit gluttonous for us. Don’t skimp on the basil or forget the lemon squeeze garnish; they make a huge difference. This recipe makes approximately a dozen 1-inch meatballs. I also halved the original orzo recipe; 12 oz of uncooked orzo results in way more than two adults could ever consume!

Parm meatballs with basil cream orzo.jpg

Parmesan Meatballs with Orzo in Basil Cream Sauce
(Original recipe: Carlsbad Cravings)

Start by preparing the meatballs:
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup finely freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup dry chopped onion
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 TBSP buttermilk

Combine all ingredients. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. As they bake, boil 6 oz of orzo pasta. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce:
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 shallot, diced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
10 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Combine milk and heavy cream. Whisk cornstarch into the mixture; set aside.
Melt butter in olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add shallots and garlic and sauté for 60 seconds. Sprinkle in flour and cook while stirring for 3 minutes then turn heat to low. Slowly whisk in chicken broth, then the milk/heavy cream mixture, stirring constantly until smooth. Bring the sauce to a simmer (you may have to increase the heat) while stirring constantly. Stir in mustard and dry spices; continue to simmer until almost thickened, stirring occasionally. Add peas and continue to simmer until thickened and peas are cooked through. Reduce heat to low and stir in both cheeses until melted. Fold in fresh basil.

Fold in cooked orzo and meatballs to the sauce. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, fresh basil, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.