Creamy tomato pasta with fennel and sausage

This pasta celebrates fennel by using it three ways and gets it’s creaminess not from heavy cream but from a dollop of tangy sour cream added at the end of cooking.

My family loves Italian sausage pastas in all forms, and I adore fresh fennel. This pasta is a marriage of the two – just a bit different enough when I want a break from jarred sauce but still easy enough to make on a weeknight.

If you haven’t had fresh fennel – this would be a great entry point! I know some people are put off by the description of fennel tasting licorice-y, but I will say – I am not a fan at all of black licorice but fresh fennel is one of my favorite vegetables. I love it cooked and raw (fennel slaw is BOMB) – it has great texture and such a unique flavor.

How to make creamy tomato pasta with fennel and sausage

This pasta has a relatively simple line-up of ingredients and process, making it an easy weeknight dinner. The sauce all happens in one pot, and the pasta is cooked while the sauce simmers and the flavors mingle.

First, dice your fennel and onion, making sure to reserve the fronds of the fennel (that look a lot like dill) – these will be used as a fresh herb at the end of the pasta. Then prep your other ingredients, including crushing your fennel seeds – see the tips for crushing the fennel seeds below.

If your sausage in casing, like in the photo below, make a slit down the length of the each sausage and remove the casing. This step is not necessary if you are using bulk italian sausage rather than links.

Once your ingredients are prepped, start warming a large, heavy pot – like a Dutch oven – over medium heat, and fill another large pot with water for the pasta.

Once the Dutch oven is preheated, add the olive and cook the onions and fennel until softened. Add your sausage directly in with the onions and fennel, breaking up with a wooden spoon, and cook until no longer pink. Then add the crushed fennel seeds, garlic, chili flakes to taste, and some salt & pepper, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. At this point, your kitchen should smell like heaven and you should turn on the burner under your pot of water.

To the sausage mixture, add the wine and simmer until the wine has reduced by about half, scraping up any delicious brown sausage and onion bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and let the sauce simmer on low until the pasta is done.

Once the water has come to a boil, add a good handful of salt to the water, then add the pasta. Set a timer (or keep an eye on the clock), to cook the pasta to al dente – it will finish in the sauce, so you don’t want it overcooked.

A few minutes before the pasta should be done, add the spinach to the sauce and stir in to wilt. Turn off the heat and stir in the sour cream and butter. Give it a taste and check for seasoning.

Once the pasta is ready, drain it and add it directly to the sauce, giving it a stir to get all the pasta nice and coated. Stir in about half of the chopped parsley and fennel fronds. Then serve up, topping with more herbs and a good amount of parmesan cheese, and ideally providing some garlic bread along side. Enjoy!

Tips and substitutions for creamy tomato pasta with fennel and sausage

  • Use whichever Italian sausage you like. Sweet, hot, mild – they will all work fine here.
  • Fennel swaps. While I really encourage you to use fresh fennel if you can find it, it can be left out, and you would still end up with a delicious sausage pasta. For the fennel seeds, you can leave them out if you can’t find them or are not a fan (I wasn’t a fan of fennel seeds until my 30s), or swap with ground fennel or caraway seeds. You could also substitute in your favorite pasta herb – like dried oregano.
  • Crush those seeds, no mortar needed! You can crush fennel seeds without a mortar and pestle! One option is to put them in a plastic bag and then smash them with a rolling pin or heavy skillet. You can also grind them briefly in a coffee or spice grinder (but make sure you’ve cleaned out any lingering coffee grounds first.) I prefer the fennel not completely ground, so I prefer the crush method.
  • Noodling on noodles. I’ve only made this with tube-y pasta, like rigatoni and penne, but this would probably also be really good with a extra wide pasta, like pappardelle or tagliatelle (with a mountain of fresh grated parm on top, of course.)

Creamy tomato pasta with fennel and sausage

This pasta celebrates fennel by using it three ways and gets it’s creaminess not from heavy cream but from a dollop of tangy sour cream added at the end of cooking.

Ingredients

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 fennel bulb, diced and fronds reserved

1 medium onion, diced

1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed if in links (I used mild, but you can use sweet or hot as well)

4 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp whole fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar & pestle

Pinch of crushed red chili flakes (or more to taste)

1 cup white wine

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

4 cups baby spinach (optional)

2 Tbsp sour cream

2 Tbsp butter

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Reserved fennel fronds, chopped (at least 2 Tbsp but feel free to use however much you reserved)

1 lb. rigatoni or other tube-shaped pasta

Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the diced onion and diced fresh fennel. Sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. (Turn the heat down during this process if they are getting too much color too fast.)
  2. Add the Italian sausage and cook until no longer pink, about 7 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, crushed chili flakes, 1/2 tsp salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Sauté 1-2 minutes until the garlic and crushed fennel are fragrant.
  4. Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the wine, and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine has reduced by about half.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the pasta is done.
  6. While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water generously with salt (a good handful of salt) and add the pasta. Cook according to the package directions for al dente and drain.
  7. A few minutes before the pasta is done, add the baby spinach to the pasta sauce, if using, and stir in to wilt. Once wilted, turn off the heat and add the sour cream, butter, and most of the parsley and fennel fronds (you’ll want to reserve some of each to sprinkle on top). Taste and adjust for seasonings.
  8. Add the cooked pasta directly to the sauce and mix to combine. Serve and top with reserved herbs and grated parmesan cheese.

Grilled Thai steak lettuce wraps

These crunchy and fresh lettuce wraps pack a ton of flavor with a simple Thai-inspired marinade and herby lime sauce for drizzling. By marinating the meat in advance, this dish can be made in less than 30 minutes and paired with steamed rice to make an easy weeknight dinner.

I’ve been feeling ready for spring, grilling season, and the move toward lighter, fresher meals. These lettuce wraps are a dish I’ve been making for years with various tweaks and changes along the way. But always involving flavorfully marinated steak seared to perfection, wrapped in crunchy lettuce, and topped with a an herby lime sauce.

With spring fully arrived in Texas, and soon on the way for my Northern friends (hang in there!), it seemed like the perfect time to share these beauts! The beauty of these wraps is that both the marinade and lime sauce come together super quick, no special equipment needed, but add superb flavor. You can prep almost everything in advance so that when it’s time to eat, all you have to do is grill the steak, slice it, and serve it all up, preferably with some steamed rice. (If you don’t have a grill, you can still sear these indoors on a grill pan or cast-iron skillet, but you’ll want to make sure you’re vent hood is in good working order.)

How to make grilled Thai steak lettuce wraps

To make these lettuce wraps, there are two main stages: marinading/prep and grilling.

In the first stage, you’ll make your marinade. We take a flavor shortcut in this marinade by using store-bought Thai green curry paste and then enhance it with a few extra pantry and fresh ingredients. The marinade has all the flavors of a curry, but concentrated down to pack umami flavors into the steak. You’ll want to marinate your steak for at least 4 hours but up to 12 hours, so this could totally be done in the morning or on your lunch break to be ready for grilling at dinner time.

In addition to marinating the steak in advance, the herby lime sauce and vegetables can all be prepped in advance as well, meaning you can turn dinner out super quick. The lime sauce gets its flavor from tons of lime juice, a little fish sauce and brown sugar, and tons of herbs – cilantro, mint, and green onions. You can make it as spicy as you like with the addition of hot sauce – whatever hot sauce is your favorite. I’ve used a variety, from Cholula to Sriracha to a potent green chile sauce, and all of them have worked.

To make the lettuce wraps, I love to use butter lettuce or green leaf lettuce, but any lettuce that can make a cup of sorts will work. (You could even do it on hearts of romaine for a more boat-style “wrap”.) Then I make little juliennes of carrot and cucumber for extra crunch and freshness, but feel free to play around with your toppings! If you learn anything from me, I hope it’s to use what you have and like, and that you make any recipe your own.

Finally, all that’s left is grilling! An important step here is to make sure you take the steak out of the fridge to lose the chill for awhile before grilling. Grilling room temperature (or close to room temp) meats allows for more even grilling and more control to cook it to your liking. You can end up with a really rare center and charred exterior if the steak is too cold when it goes on the grill.

These steaks grill pretty quickly, just 3-4 minutes per side, on high heat to caramelize the sugars in the marinade while keeping a nice, medium-rare center. Leave on the grill longer if you prefer a more well-cooked steak. After grilling the steak, let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing into thin strips against the grain. (If you’re not sure what it means to slice against the grain, this article may be helpful.)

Then simply serving everything up! I like to serve it DIY style so everyone can make the lettuce wraps to their liking, as well as some steamed white rice.

Tips and substitutions for Thai steak lettuce wraps

  • Use different cuts of steak. If you want to switch up the steak, feel free! But you’ll always want to use something intended for a high-heat, short cook time; think ribeye, flank steak, strip steak, etc. Tough cuts of meat, like chuck roast, won’t work here. Be mindful of the cook time for the cut you use. Depending on the cut and thickness, you may need to grill longer to achieve medium-rare.
  • Change up the protein! While I haven’t tested it with anything but beef, this marinade should work perfectly well on chicken (especially boneless skinless chicken thighs) and pork as well. Maybe even on shrimp and fish with a much shorter marinating time.
  • Customize your wraps. You could use a wide variety of lettuces or even collard greens, as well as changing up the toppings – thinly slivered onions and peanuts could be great. If you don’t like wraps – this would also be great as a salad. Honestly, the steak is excellent on it’s own, especially with the sauce, so you could ditch the wrap concept all together (though I still highly recommend it).

Grilled Thai steak lettuce wraps

These crunchy and fresh lettuce wraps pack a ton of flavor with a simple Thai-inspired marinade and herby sauce for drizzling. By marinating the meat in advance, this dish can be made in less than 30 minutes and paired with steamed rice to make an easy weeknight dinner.

Ingredients

For the steak & marinade

3 Tablespoons Thai green curry paste

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 Tablespoon fish sauce

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

2 garlic cloves, grated

juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 pounds skirt steak (or steak of choice – see note above)

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil for grilling

For the sauce

1/3 cup fresh lime juice (usually about 4-6 limes)

1 1/2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 1/2 Tablespoons fish sauce

1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped

1/3 cup mint, finely chopped

1/3 cup green onion, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

hot sauce to taste

For the lettuce wraps

1 head butter or boston lettuce

1 English cucumber, julienned

2 medium carrots, julienned (or one bag pre-shredded carrots)

Extra mint and cilantro

Directions

  1. Marinate the steak. In a large, non-reactive bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients – Thai green curry paste through salt – until fully combined. Pat the steak dry, and if needed, cut into 2 or 3 pieces to fit on the grill. (Skirt steak often comes as one long piece.)
  2. Add the steak to the marinade and turn until all parts of the steak are well-coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a reusable bowl cover. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours. If the steak isn’t fully submerged in the marinade, turn the steak a few times while marinating.
  3. Prep the vegetables and herbs. While the steak marinates, this is when I like to prep the vegetables and herbs for the wraps. Separate and wash the lettuce leaves, and peel and julienne the cucumber and carrot.
  4. Wash and chop the herbs and green onions for the sauce, and keep some whole herb leaves for topping. Juice the limes for the sauce into a medium bowl and add the brown sugar, fish sauce, hot sauce, garlic, and chopped herbs. Cover everything and refrigerate until serving.
  5. Grill the steak. An hour before you want to serve the meal, take the steaks out of the fridge and move them to a plate or sheet pan to come to room temperature. Toward the end of the hour, preheat the grill. For a gas grill, heat for 10 minutes on medium-high heat with the lid closed – you want the temperature between 450-500F. For a charcoal grill, prepare enough coals for a hot charcoal fire. (Note: If you are making steamed rice, this is also the perfect time to get it cooking.)
  6. When the grill is hot or the coals are ready, use a paper towel to grease the grill grates with the vegetable oil. Grill the steak for about 3-4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  7. Serve. Cut the steak into thin slices against the grain. Arrange a platter (or two) with the steak, lime sauce, lettuce, vegetables, and extra herbs for DIY lettuce wrap making. Serve with steamed white rice, if desired.

Caramelized brussels sprouts with citrus soy vinaigrette

This super easy side dish combines brussels sprouts that have been roasted till deeply browned and crunchy with a citrusy soy vinaigrette that gives a zesty, umami punch.

Cauliflower has been getting all the attention lately, but I still love all the ways brussels sprouts have been reinvented over the last 10 years. One of my favorite versions is served at Eloise Nichols in Houston – served super crunchy and tossed in a dressing of white soy, lime, and togarashi. This recipe is my version of that dish using lots of my favorite ingredients: miso, soy sauce, lime zest, and my new love – yuzu kosho.

What is yuzu kosho?

Yuzu kosho is a fermented Japanese condiment combining yuzu, chiles, and salt. It’s a new discovery for me after ordering some for an Alison Roman recipe, and I am IN. LOVE. I have been mixing it into marinades, dressings, and sauces with abandon, and it has yet to disappoint. Bon Appetit has a great article all about the wonders of this silver bullet condiment. While you may be able to find this at your local Asian market or well-stocked grocery store, it is easily available to buy online.

While yuzu kosho is not strictly necessary for this dish – I provide substitutions to get a fantastically citrusy dressing without it – I highly recommend trying it out! You may also find yourself with a new favorite condiment.

How to make caramelized brussels sprouts

Roast them. I mean, REALLY roast them. That’s it. Honestly.

To be more specific, start by trimming a pound of brussels sprouts and pulling the first few layers of leaves off. These leaves will become crispy, crunchy brussels sprout chips in the roasting process. The inner part of the brussels sprout needs to be quartered or halved (depending on its size), and then they all get tossed with a bit of olive oil and salt on a sheet pan.

Next, throw them into a 425 F degree oven for 20 – 30 minutes until deeply browned and crunchy. This can be a little nerve-wracking because you will wonder if they are burning, but BE BRAVE. Your patience will be rewarded in crispiness. However, if the leaves are already very browned and crispy and making your nervous, and the larger brussels sprout pieces still need more color, you can remove the leaves from the sheet pan and let the larger pieces continue to roast.

Once everything is browned and crispy, toss the brussels sprouts with the vinaigrette, top with cilantro and sesame seeds, and serve immediately. While the brussels sprouts are still good as they cool, they do lose some of their crunch. I only know this from having to wait to eat them while taking photos – in recipe testing, we always devoured the entire bowl before they had a chance to cool.

Tips and substitutions for caramelized brussels sprouts

  • Use your favorite soy sauce replacement. There are so many fantastic substitutes for soy sauce these days and all of them should work marvelously in the dressing. I have tried both soy sauce and tamari, but I expect coco aminos, liquid aminos, and maggi would all work.
  • Substituting yuzu kosho. While there is no great one-to-one replacement for yuzu kosho, you can achieve the same effect (spicy and citrusy) by using hot sauce or fresh chiles and extra lime zest. Sriracha would be great in this or some finely minced or thinly slivered green chiles. This doesn’t replace the fermented flavor of the yuzu kosho, but the miso paste in the dressing is sufficient for that.
  • Don’t substitute the miso. If you don’t have miso paste, just leave it out. I have made the dressing without it and it’s still really good. However, miso is great in so many things and lasts for at least a year in the fridge, so I highly recommend grabbing some. You will see it come up again in future recipes of mine if you’re worried about using it all! (I also use it almost weekly to make this killer miso caesar dressing that my son is obsessed with.)
  • Measure the oil right before the honey. This is kind of a silly tip but do it! If you measure the oil first, the honey will pour right out of the tablespoon with no sticking.

If you make these caramelized brussels sprouts, please let me know by leaving a rating and review below!

Caramelized brussels sprouts with citrus soy vinaigrette

This super easy side dish combines brussels sprouts that have been roasted till deeply browned and crunchy with a citrusy soy vinaigrette that gives a zesty, umami punch.

Ingredients

1 pound brussels sprouts

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon neutral oil, like safflower, grapeseed, or canola

1 1/2 tablespoons honey (I just let the honey overflow the spoon a bit as I measure)

Zest from 1/2 lime (~1/2 teaspoon)

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon white or red miso paste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon yuzu kosho (or more if you want more kick)

1/4 teaspoon white pepper or a few grinds of black pepper

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon white sesame seeds (toasted or untoasted)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  2. While the oven preheats, prep your brussels sprouts. Wash the brussels sprouts and dry with a clean kitchen towel. Trim the end of each sprout and pull off several of the outer leaves – you want these extra leaves to get crispy and crunchy in the oven. Halve or quarter the inner part of the brussels sprouts, depending on the size.
  3. Add all the brussels sprouts – leaves and cores – to a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil and a large pinch of salt. Roast for 20 – 30 minutes or until deeply browned, tossing once or twice.
  4. While the brussels sprouts roast, mix the dressing. Add all the dressing ingredients – soy sauce through yuzu kosho – to a bowl and whisk until combined.
  5. Once the brussels sprouts come out of the oven, move to a serving bowl and toss with as much of the dressing as desired (start with half and then add more to taste) and half of the cilantro leaves. Top with the remaining cilantro leaves and sesame seeds, and serve immediately.

Southwest Spinach and Artichoke Dip

This hot spinach and artichoke dip has a southwest flare from the addition of poblanos, tomatillos, and chipotle chile powder. A jazzed up party favorite that is sure to wow your family and friends.

Warm, cheesy, slightly spicy, complex in flavor – this is what I want in a dip. Living in Texas, I often filling this craving with queso, but sometimes I want something a little different. Enter this southwest spinach and artichoke dip.

I’ve been making various forms of spinach dip for years, and while they all have their virtues (still a huge fan of the Knorr’s cold spinach dip recipe), this is my favorite. I took inspiration from the flavors I love in queso and other tex-mex staples, and incorporated them with a tried-and-true method for making spinach artichoke dip. There is smokiness, a little heat, and the excuse to continue eating more and more – I mean, it’s full of vegetables, right? I promise this will be a fan favorite anytime you serve it.

How to Make Southwest Spinach Artichoke Dip

To make this spinach artichoke dip, you’ll need to become friends with your broiler. We use it twice – first for charring a poblano pepper and some tomatillos, and then at the end of the recipe to melt and brown the dip. Charring the poblano pepper and tomatillos first adds so much complexity to the flavor of the dip – the thing that will make your friends and family say, “Woah. What is in this??”

The rest of the dip comes together on the stovetop until the cheese is melted and all the flavors have had a chance to combine. I like to then take the extra step of transferring the dip to an oven-safe serving dish, sprinkling more cheese on top, and broiling it until it is golden brown and bubbly. But you could absolutely serve this straight from the pot in all its ooey gooey goodness

Southwest spinach artichoke dip after baking in white pie dish

Tips and Substitutions for Southwest Spinach Artichoke Dip

  • Char it, char it good. When broiling the poblanos and tomatillos, you are looking for a really good char on the poblano. You’ll need to turn it over once or twice to get all sides nice and blackened. The tomatillos likely won’t get as charred, and that is ok. You’re looking for something like in the image below.
  • Use other peppers. Feel free to swap out the poblano for other peppers based on how much heat you want. Poblano is my favorite and adds a subtle heat, but you could increase the heat by using a couple jalapeños or dial it back with a cubanelle pepper or even a bell pepper. Just keep in mind that the time required to char the pepper will vary based on its size.
  • No tomatillos – no problem! If you can’t find tomatillos, try drained, canned tomatillos or even add a few tablespoons of a mild tomatillo salsa. If you use canned, they do not need to be broiled first.
  • Chile powder, not chili powder. I know chipotle chile powder is not a staple in most homes, but I highly recommend it! What is called “chili powder” is actually a blend of spices (like ground chiles, cumin, and garlic powder) meant for making chili, whereas chipotle powder is just dried, smoked jalapeños crushed into a powder. You could substitute with other single-chile powders, like ancho chile powder, or use smoked paprika to add a smoky flavor like you get from chipotle without adding any heat.
  • Shred your own cheese! Anytime I’m making a dish where I want really gooey, melty cheese, like this dip or mac and cheese, it is so worth shredding your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese is coated in an additive, like potato starch, to prevent it from clumping in the bag but also prevents it from getting quite as melty too.

If you make any substitutions, I would love to hear from you in the comments to know how it turned out!

Southwest Spinach Artichoke Dip

Try out this smoky, slightly spicy spinach artichoke dip for a southwest spin on a classic favorite.

Ingredients

1 poblano pepper

4 fresh tomatillos, removed from husks and rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 large yellow or white onion (about 1 cup chopped)

4 garlic cloves

10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed

1 can (~15 ounces) quartered artichoke hearts, drained

8 ounces freshly shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

8 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions

  1. Move an oven rack within 6 inches of the top heat source, and set the oven to broil. While the broiler preheats, place poblano and tomatillos on a foil-covered baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the tomatillos only and sprinkle them with salt – leave the poblano dry. Broil for about 10-15 minutes, turning the poblano and tomatillos once or twice, until the poblano is charred all over and the tomatillos have blistered and softened.
  2. Once the poblano and tomatillos are charred, place the poblano in a plastic bag (or in a small bowl and then cover with plastic wrap), and let it cool for 10 minutes while the tomatillos cool on the sheet pan.
  3. While the poblano and tomatillos char and cool, prep the other ingredients. Place the thawed spinach in a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth and squeeze as much liquid out as possible. Chop half of an onion into a small dice and mince the garlic, then roughly chop the drained artichoke hearts. If you haven’t already, grate the Monterey Jack and Parmesan cheese, and cut the cream cheese into cubes. If you plan to broil the dip at the end, remove a small handful of the Monterey Jack and Parmesan cheese to a separate bowl for topping.
  4. Remove the poblano from the plastic bag and peel off the charred skin. You can also use a paper towel to help rub the skin off. Remove the stem and seeds, then chop the pepper. Roughly chop the charred tomatillos. (They will be very soft and probably already bursting out of their skin – this is normal).
  5. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until starting to soften. Season with a large pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper, then add the chipotle powder. Sauté for 1 more minute, then add the spinach, artichokes, poblano, tomatillos, and Worcestershire sauce, breaking up the spinach with your hands as you add it to the pot. Mix thoroughly and cook together for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the cubed cream cheese to the pot and stir continuously until it has melted and combined. Then add the Monterey Jack and Parmesan cheeses, stirring until melted. Taste, adjust for seasonings, and remove from heat. At this point, you can serve the dip as-is, or continue to the next step to broil the top.
  7. Grease an oven-safe serving dish with cooking spray and transfer the dip into the dish. Spread out somewhat evenly (you don’t want a perfectly smooth top), and then sprinkle the reserved cheeses all over. Broil on high for about 5 minutes or until parts of the cheese are golden brown. Cool slightly, then serve with your favorite dippers (like crostini, bagel chips, or tortilla chips) and enjoy.

Caramelized vegetables with balsamic and roasted garlic

Roasted vegetables are a go-to in so many homes. They are easy to make, keep your stove free, and can pair up with a variety of proteins to complete a meal. But they are rarely a star in their own right. With this recipe, the humble roasted veggie gets a glow up from a super quick balsamic & roasted garlic glaze that gets added to the pan in the last few minutes. This glaze allows the vegetables to get glossy and slightly caramelized, elevating them from supporting cast to a star of the show.

What vegetables can I roast?

Honestly, pretty much anything. This is where you can use up all those vegetables that you got excited about when grocery shopping but didn’t have an exact plan for, the extra odds and ends leftover from other meals, and the ones that came in your CSA that you’re not sure what to do with. I’ve used carrots, mushrooms, all kinds of onions, bell peppers, green beans, tomatoes, and a variety of squash. I think this would be great with brussels sprouts, broccoli, and even potatoes.

Can the vegetables roast all together?

Yes! But you will likely need to roast in stages to prevent over/under cooking, and you’ll want to try to keep your dices roughly the same size. In my version, I start with onion, bell pepper, and the garlic for the glaze, and then add mushrooms and zucchini later in the process. The heartier the vegetable (think carrot, potato, winter squash, onion), the longer it will need to cook, depending on how small you cut it. More tender veggies (like zucchini, summer squash, green beans, tomatoes) will need to be added later.

Additionally, the garlic needs at least 30 minutes to roast (but can stay in for up to 60 minutes), so if you are only cooking more tender vegetables, you may need to give the garlic a head start.

For tips on roasting times for specific vegetables, The Kitchn has a useful guide.

I would always love to hear from you if you make it and what veggies you included!

Caramelized vegetables with balsamic and roasted garlic

Ingredients

1 large red onion, chopped into 1″ pieces

2 bell peppers (any color, but I prefer red, orange & yellow), chopped into 1″ pieces

1 head garlic, cut in half

4 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. cremini or button mushrooms, stems trimmed and quartered

2 medium zucchini (or 3 small), halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 inch half-moons

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, divided

1 1/2 tsp honey

1-2 Tbsp warm water

3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. On a large sheet pan, combine the chopped onion and bell pepper with 1 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil, a large pinch of kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Toss everything together to get the vegetables nicely coated. Add the halved garlic head to the sheet pan, cut side down, making sure the cut side gets coated in a little of the olive oil on the pan. Place the pan in the preheated oven and roast for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the oven and give the onions and bell peppers a toss. Add the mushrooms and zucchini to the pan, drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to combine. (Make sure the garlic stays cut side down without any bits of onion or bell pepper underneath.) Return the pan to the oven and roast for another 20 minutes. Halfway through this roast, remove the pan from the oven and give the vegetables a stir.
  4. Remove the pan from the oven and change the oven to the Broil setting (High). Move the garlic from the pan to a plate or cutting board to cool slightly.
  5. Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into a medium bowl. This can be done by pinching the end of the garlic halves to push the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins through the cut side. If any skins come out, remove them from the bowl and discard. Add 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar to the bowl, and use a fork to mash the garlic into the vinegar. You should end up with a slightly thick paste.
  6. Add the other Tbsp of vinegar to the bowl, as well as 2 Tbsp olive oil, the honey, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk together with the fork, and then mix in 1-2 Tbsp of warm water to loosen the glaze. The amount you need will depend on how thick your paste was – you want to loosen the glaze just enough to evenly coat the vegetables. (Feel free to add more water as needed if your garlic head was large and created a very thick paste.)
  7. Drizzle the balsamic/garlic mixture all over the vegetables and toss to coat. Return the pan to the oven and broil for about 5 minutes, until the glaze has started to thicken and caramelize on the vegetables.
  8. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Taste and adjust for seasonings, then serve and enjoy!

Cauliflower puttanesca pasta with lemony breadcrumbs

Perfect for a plant-foward meal, this twist on the classic puttanesca features braised cauliflower florets, which act like sponges soaking up all the garlicky, briny flavors of the sauce. Puttanesca gets its punch from a combo of anchovies, garlic, capers, and olives. The bold flavor of the puttanesca sauce can already hold its own, but when topped with a shower of lemony, golden-brown breadcrumbs, the texture is out of this world. I enjoy topping leftovers with a crispy fried egg (runny yolk of course) – maybe even an excuse to eat pasta for breakfast?

To make this dish vegetarian, you can leave out the anchovies and bump up the amount of capers and olives to add that extra umami. To make it vegan, also leave out the parmesan or swap with some nutritional yeast.

A note about fresh breadcrumbs: For this recipe, fresh breadcrumbs are really the way to go. Any time you have stale bread, instead of throwing it away, chop it into about 1-inch pieces and throw it into the food processor. (I leave the crust on unless it is a pretty dark crust.) Pulse it until you have pea-sized crumbs. If you don’t plan to use them right away, freeze them to have fresh breadcrumbs anytime you need them – you don’t even need to thaw them before use. If you must substitute, you can try panko breadcrumbs, but they may become hard and crunchy, rather than airy and crispy.

Adapted from Food52

Ingredients

1 pound linguine or spaghetti (or whatever pasta you have)

2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil, divided

4 anchovies or 1 tablespoon anchovy paste

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons non-pareil capers, drained

1 to 2 cups of pitted and halved olives, such as kalamata or Castraveltrano (go with 1 cup if you just want a little salty punch, 2 cups if you are an olive lover like me and want a bit of olive in nearly every bite)

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), broken into florets

1 pound fresh tomatoes, cut into large bite-sized pieces (such as quartered campari or roma tomatoes)

Finely grated zest from 1 large lemon

Juice from 1/2 a lemon, or more to taste

Kosher salt (I love Diamond Crystal) and freshly ground black pepper

Grated parmesan for serving (optional)

Lemony breadcrumbs (optional – recipe below)

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a handful of salt (about 2 tablespoons) and the pasta. Cook until al dente according to package directions – err on the side of underdone than overdone so the pasta can finish cooking in the sauce. Before straining, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. (If your linguine is done before your cauliflower, toss it will a little olive oil and pasta water to keep it from sticking together.)
  2. While the pasta cooks, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large, deep pan over medium heat. Add anchovies or anchovy paste and stir until they melt into the oil, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, capers, olives, and red pepper flakes, and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add cauliflower florets, lemon zest from 1 lemon, and remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Stir to combine and let sauté for a few minutes to start cooking the cauliflower. Add the tomatoes and sauté 1 more minute.
  4. Add 1/4 to 3/4 cup of pasta water to make about 1″ of juice in the pan. If the tomatoes were large and very juicy, you may only need 1/4 cup of pasta water to give the cauliflower enough liquid to braise. If you are using smaller, firmer tomatoes, use the full 3/4 cup. Cover and braise until tender, about 10 minutes, depending on the size of the florets. Feel free to stir occasionally and add a little extra cooking water, if needed. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  5. Once the cauliflower is about done, toss the pasta in the pot with the cauliflower. If the sauce has become a little dry, add 1/4 to 1/3 cup more pasta water. Add the juice from the lemon you zested (to taste – I used the whole lemon but start with half) and do a final taste for seasoning. To finish, top with grated parmesan cheese and lemony breadcrumbs (if using). If you want to go really over the top, throw on a crispy egg with a runny yolk.

Lemony Breadcrumbs

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (see note above)

1/4 cup olive oil

Zest of 1 large lemon

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a medium-large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until deeply golden brown and crunchy, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Remove breadcrumbs from heat and add lemon zest and parsley. Transfer to a bowl to cool before serving.

Note: The breadcrumbs can be made and refrigerated up to 5 days ahead without the lemon zest and parsley. To use, reheat in a skillet and then toss in the additional ingredients.