Baked pasta dishes should be hearty, but sometimes they turn out heavy, too—and those two things don't necessarily need to go hand in hand. Sure, it's easy enough to load up a baking dish with pasta and cheese and meat and whatever else, but this recipe from Martha Stewart is a little more delicate. There's plenty of kale to stand in for some of the pasta, and an airy ricotta to keep things light.
Why I Picked This Recipe: Mostly for the reasons stated above: a casserole dish that would satisfy the fall craving for warm, satisfying dinner with protein, vegetables, and carbs all together, but without being a gut bomb.
What Worked: The dish is definitely lighter than you'd expect, and the ricotta works wonderfully in that regard (the lemon zest mixed into it also brightens it considerably); using kale to bulk out the dish instead of more pasta is key.
What Didn't: I found the dish a little dry, but that's easily fixed with a some pasta water saved from the cooking process, along with a drizzle of olive oil before serving.
Suggested Tweaks: The ratios of ingredients in this dish are quite malleable; adding even more kale to replace the pasta is probably what I'd do if I made this again.
Adapted from MarthaStewart.com.
- 3/4 pound large pasta shells
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, diced medium
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bunches kale (1 1/2 pounds), tough stems and ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped
- 2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken (from 1/2 rotisserie chicken)
- 1 container (48 ounces) ricotta
- 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
- 3/4 cup Parmesan, grated (2 1/4 ounces)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining, then return the pasta to the pot.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat until the foam subsides, then add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, occasionally until the onion is soft, 5-7 minutes.
Add kale, cover, and cook until the kale is almost tender, about ten minutes more. Transfer mixture to the pot with the pasta.
Stir in ricotta, lemon zest, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, pasta water, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well, then transfer to a 9 x 13” baking dish and top with the remaining Parmesan. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.