Energizing eggplant Parm

I know at one point I had a recipe for chicken Parmesan. It’s how I learned to cook it, as it wasn’t a traditional family recipe I learned by osmosis. But anymore, I just wing it.

The recipe is easy enough to mostly remember, and I like it and its partner in crime, eggplant Parmesan, enough that I make it fairly regularly. So, somewhere along the way, I just stopped consulting whatever recipe it was I used, and it always turns out fine.

*All* of the ingredients for eggplant Parmesan.

Well, OK, I actually usually forget one ingredient, but it’s the ones that are served with the dish, i.e., pasta or pasta sauce. And, OK, one special time where I forgot mozzarella.

But a quick trip to the grocery store later and I’m back on track.

This time was no exception. I, of course, forgot pasta sauce, but it otherwise worked out well.

I was a little nervous because I usually saute the eggplant (or the chicken) before a short time in the oven to melt the cheese. This time, though, it was all sheet pan.

My experience in — holy cow! — more than six months of working with sheet pans, however, prepared me quite well for the endeavor. While it took a long time, it was more or less the amount of time I expected. And, yeah, it was pretty great.

Tastes great any way you slice it, and any way you serve it. Generally, pretty great.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced about ¼-inch thick
  • 1 c. whole wheat bread crumbs
  • ½ c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 T. dried basil
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 1 t. onion powder
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Olive oil, preferably the spray kind
  • 1 c. mozzarella, shredded
  • Pasta sauce, such as marinara, to taste
  • Pasta or bread, for serving

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray or coat lightly with oil.

On a large plate, mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, herbs, and spices, and salt and pepper. Add a little water to the beaten eggs, and stir to combine in a small bowl. Set up a workstation so you can easily go from dipping the eggplant in the beaten eggs to coating them with the bread crumb mixture. Then, individually dip the eggplant slices in the egg mixture, and then coat in the bread crumb mixture before placing on the sheet pan. Repeat until you’ve used up all the eggplant.

Spray or coat with more oil.

Bake for about 45 minutes, turning halfway through, until the eggplant is fully cooked through and the bread crumbs have browned. Add the sauce (we used about ½ a 24 oz container), and then top with the mozzarella. Bake for another 15 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and the sauce is warm.

Serve with pasta and some additional sauce, or serve on hoagie buns for a warm sandwich, and enjoy!

More sheet pan pasta goodness

I got a hankering again for one of my earlier recipes — the spicy broccoli pasta — but knew I couldn’t just make the same recipe again, so I scoured for a second sheet pan pasta recipe.

Thankfully, those aren’t hard to find. I’m not the only one who loves cheesy carbs.

(So many) Sheet pan pasta ingredients.

The recipe was a bit more involved than the last one, and a bit heartier, but it was worth it.

Having shared this one with friends, I can say that it was well liked by a variety of people, and half the reason to make a good dish is to get the compliment. The other half is getting to eat in 10 minutes what took 1 hour or more to prepare. And this one didn’t take nearly that long to prepare.

But at least there’s plenty of leftovers; even if you share with a half-dozen friends, you may have more to take home. So, the extra work isn’t as bothersome since it fills so many bellies or a couple bellies so many times.

It’s nothing fancy but who doesn’t love a hearty pasta dish?

So much cheese. *drool*

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 box (16 oz.) penne pasta or similar, prepared according to package instructions (and reserving ½ c. pasta water)
  • 1 c. panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan, divided
  • 4 T. olive oil, divided
  • 1 bunch chard, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 4 c. shredded cooked chicken (I used 4 chicken breasts I pre-cooked but you can buy a pre-made rotisserie if that’s your thing)
  • 2 c. shredded mozzarella, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix together the panko, ¼ c. Parmesan, 2 T. oil, salt and pepper.

On a large rimmed sheet pan (15 inches by 12 inches or so), toss together the chard and tomatoes with the remaining olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.

When the pasta’s ready, drain it but reserve about ½ c. pasta water, and return the pasta to the pot. Mix in sour cream, mustard, the remaining ¾ c. Parmesan, salt and pepper, and about ¼ c. of the pasta cooking liquid, and stir to blend. Stir in the chicken and half the mozzarella. Add more pasta water if necessary to get to desired creaminess.

Once mixed, spread on the prepared sheet pan and stir carefully to mix with vegetables.

Top the mixture with the panko/Parmesan mix and the remaining mozzarella.

Bake for about 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese is melted and the mixture on top is lightly browned. Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

Impossible to fail pasta dinner

After last week’s miserable failure (twice!), I was looking for something a wee bit easier this week, so I turned to the New York Times Cooking page and found a spicy roasted broccoli pasta recipe.

It was perfect for our little family. My sweetie loves broccoli (which I like fine), and I love carbs and cheese (which he likes fine), and this dinner has plenty of all of that. Plus, it’s hearty for these cold Iowa winter nights, and it’s none too difficult to boot.

Broccoli pasta ingredients

But what really helped make this such a gem was that I completely fiddled with the recipe to make things easier on myself, and it turned out just fine. It was impossible to fail!

It was hard to judge the what the recipe meant when it called for “2 ½ lbs. broccoli, cut into bite-size florets.” Did that mean 2 ½ lbs. of broccoli, and then cut the florets from that? Did it mean I should have 2 ½ lbs. of just florets? If I didn’t have enough florets, could I skim the rough edges from the stem and chop that too? It turns out, who knows and who cares? It worked fine.

I bought two bundles of fresh broccoli (about seven pieces in total), because I couldn’t find a scale at the store and figured that *had* to be enough. Well, when I cut the florets, at home I learned with my scale I only had 1 ½ lbs. of florets. I added some pared stems, but didn’t want to overwhelm it with them so I added enough to get to nearly 2 lbs. And, it turned out, I’m sure it would have been fine either way, just depending on how much you like broccoli.

Then, I totally changed the amounts of ricotta and pasta, because I didn’t want to be left with scant-ish amounts of both. So, extra pasta and extra cheese, it all fit on the baking sheet and turned out fine.

It’s one of those great recipes where you can kind of bend it to your tastes. If you want more broccoli to carb ratio, go for it; if you love cheese, toss on a little more.

All in all, it is well worth the (limited effort) to make.

Nom nom noms. I’m hungry just looking at it again.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of broccoli, cut into bite-size florets and some stem if desired (or whatever)
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil (I estimated), plus at least as much for drizzle
  • 1 T. cumin seeds, optional (more than it called for but I love cumin)
  • ¾ t. kosher salt (again, I estimated)
  • ½ t. red pepper flakes (I’m sure I used more)
  • 16 oz. tube shaped or shell pasta (more than it called for but I wanted to use the whole box)
  • ⅓ c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ c. panko bread crumbs
  • Zest from one lemon
  • ½ t. ground black pepper (I didn’t measure)
  • 15 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese (more than it called for but I wanted to use the whole tub)
  • Fresh lemon juice, optional (hey, I already zested the lemon, may as well use the juice)

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees. On a 15 ½ x 12 inch sheet pan (or so) toss together the cut broccoli, the oil, the salt, red pepper flakes, and cumin, if using. Roast until tender and browned, 18 to 25 minutes, and tossing while halfway through. Remove from oven, set aside, and turn the oven up to broil.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of (salted) water to boil, and cook the pasta according to package instructions and then drain. Separately, in a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan, panko, lemon zest, and salt and black pepper.

Toss the pasta together with the broccoli, and then dollop with the ricotta. Sprinkle with the Parmesan mix, top with salt and black pepper, and drizzle with (a good amount of) oil. Broil the mixture until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Sprinkle with lemon juice, if desired, and enjoy!