It’s finally feeling like a real New England winter here in Boston as temperatures have fallen into the teens and twenties.  That inspired me yesterday to pick up a container of ricotta and a box of Italian No-Bake Lasagne Noodles from Trader Joe’s in order to assemble a comforting Lasagne Bolognese for dinner tonight, with leftovers for sure.

I had 3 freezer bags full of my Bolognese Giordano from efforts a few weeks ago, and had already purchased a 12-ounce package of TJ’s shredded Quattro Formaggio, so quick prep of a ricotta/milk bechamel and the assembly was all the work required to get this ready for dinner tonight.

I like an assertive lasagne bursting with flavor, and tender noodles that define each layer.  That’s why I prefer the 4-cheese blend over mozzarella, and the no-bake noodles imported from Italy that I’m hard-pressed to differentiate from fresh lasagne sheets.

Here’s the recipe.  I haven’t tasted it yet but all my instincts and previous lasagne  experience tell me it’s gonna be great!



assembled and ready for oven



16 No-Bake Italian Lasagne Noodles, preferably from Trader Joe’s (best value) softened in hot water for about 10 minutes and  laid out on  tea towels to absorb  excess water.

5 cups Bolognese Giordano or your favorite Bolognese sauce

12-ounce package Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio shredded cheese

3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano

For Ricotta-Bechamel Filling

4 tbsp unsalted butter

4 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole milk (or add a bit of half & half to low-fat or fat-free milk)

1 cup whole milk ricotta

Pinch of salt

A couple grinds of black pepper


Make the bechamel…

In a medium sauce pan melt the butter over low heat and whisk in the flour until it’s incorporated.  Slowly add the milk, whisking, until the mixture is thick and smooth.  Remove from heat, add the ricotta, salt & pepper, and allow to cool in fridge about 15 minutes.

Use a 9 x 13 or similar size 3″ deep baking dish for this.  My Emile Henry baker is slightly smaller, about 8-1/2 x 12, but it worked out perfectly.

Spread 1 cup of sauce over bottom of baking dish.  Lay 4 noodles over this, slightly overlapping.  Spread 1/3 of the bechamel evenly over the noodles, then spread another cup of the sauce, sprinkle with 1/4 of the shredded cheese (3 ounces), and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese.

Make two more layers using 4 noodles, 1/3 of bechamel, sauce, 1/4 of shredded cheese, and 1/4 cup grated cheese.  Then finish with final layer of noodles topped with remaining 1 cup sauce and remaining 3 ounces of shredded cheese.

If baking right away, cover with foil and bake at 375º for one hour.  remove foil and bake a little longer until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.  Let sit 15 minutes before slicing and serving.


and done!

(prep can be done early in the day, refrigerated, and baked later after letting it sit at room temperature for about an hour)








Primavera Pasta Salad

While combing through my thick binder of favorite saved recipes this morning, I came across the menu and guest list for my son’s first birthday party in 1985.  The menu was an ambitious buffet entirely from the original Silver Palate Cookbook, except for the clown birthday cake from Montilio’s Bakery.

Following the pre-luncheon nibbles, there was Chicken Marbella, Glazed Corned Beef,  New Potato Salad, Tossed Green Salad, and Pasta Primavera Gregory – a pasta dish originally wrtitten for fettuccine, but which I had undoubtedly adapted into a more fork-friendly pasta salad.

Thirty-three years later, the taste memory was sufficient to reimagine what I had done to put together this pasta salad bursting with color, flavor, and texture:


inspired by The Silver Palate



8 ounces good Italian rotini, cooked al dente

1/4  cup finely chopped red onion

2 Tbsp EVOO

6 ounces snap peas or snow peas, blanched, shocked, and sliced thinly on the diagonal

4 scallions sliced thinly on the diagonal (about 1/3 cup)

1/3 cup diced roasted red peppers or same amount fresh red bell pepper

1/2 cup seeded & chopped ripe tomato

6 ounces thinly sliced Boar’s Head Rosemary Ham, broken by hand into small pieces

1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives

2 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano

2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

1/2 tbsp dried oregano

Grated zest of one lemon

S&P to taste


Drain the pasta and toss it with the olive oil and chopped onion in a very large bowl.  Add the next six ingredients, toss again.  Add the cheese, vinegar, oregano and lemon zest, toss again.  Season to taste with S&P and serve immediately or chill.

This makes enough for 3-4 servings for a light lunch, or 6-8 as a side dish with dinner.  If chilled, take it out of the fridge about a half hour before serving to allow all the flavors to come through.




Foolproof Sausage & Cheese-Stuffed Canneloni

Several years ago an episode of America’s Test Kitchen gave me another of their superb cooking hacks – a way to make manicotti or canneloni without struggling to fill pasta shells that often cracked, sometimes just in the box from shipping, but more often from the pressure exerted in stuffing them.  The trick is to use no-cook lasagna noodles in lieu of manicotti shells, softening them in very hot water until pliable, and then doing rolls-ups with your stuffing of choice – in this case, a combination of fully-cooked Italian chicken sausages, a mix of shredded Italian cheeses, and ricotta.

This dish has much of the character of lasagna, but is far easier to serve in specific portions.   I have an obvious preference for ingredients from Trader Joe’s for this, but wherever I specifiy that, feel free to substitute your favorite brand.  But I do believe the TJ’s products used in this are superior in flavor and value to other supermarket brands.  The no-bake noodles from Italy develop a tender texture as they bake in the sauce.  the sauce is the best store-bought marinara I’ve ever cooked with, and the Quattro Formaggio obsoletes the task of purchasing and shredding multiple Italian cheeses.


Sausage & Cheese-Stuffed Canneloni

(serves 6-8)




16 sheets of Trader Joe’s No-Cook Lasagna noodles

2 28-ounce cans Trader Joe’s Low-Fat Tuscano Marinara

12-ounce package Trader Joe’s fully cooked Italian Chicken Sausages (either mild or spicy, as you prefer)

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion

1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth

2 tsp EVOO

15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta

1 cup Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio shredded cheese blend

2 tbsp + 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley


Sauté the whole sausages and chopped onion in the olive oil over medium heat until onions begin to turn color. Turn sausages over, continue to cook another 3 minutes. Add the wine or vermouth and turn up the heat, stirring often until all the wine is absorbed and onions are golden. Remove to a plate to cool.

Combine the ricotta, shredded cheese mix, 2 tbsp romano, parsley and pepper in a medium bowl. Cut the cooled cooked sausages into 1/4″ dice and add, with the onions, to cheese mixture. Filling should weigh about 2 lbs. on a kitchen scale.

Fill a 13 x 9 x 2″ baking dish with 1″ very hot water, and immerse the uncooked noodles in the water, making sure to keep them separate. Allow to soak at least 10 minutes, until pliable enough to be rolled. Lay them out flat on a tea towel.

Lightly brush bottom of that baking dish with olive oil and spread about 1 cup of the sauce in it. Spread about 2 ounces (scant 1/3 cup) of the filling on lower two-thirds of each noodle, and roll up from the short side. Lay them in the baking dish seam side down. All 16 should fit perfectly in 2 rows of 8. Cover completely with most or all of the remaining sauce and sprinkle top with remaining 3/4 cup grated cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Uncover, raise oven temperature to 425, and bake just a few minutes longer until cheese on top is just golden. Let rest about 5 minutes and serve.

Note: The filling can be made a day ahead and kept refrigerated.

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Served with lightly dressed green salad and Dutch-oven-baked Artisan rosemary bread.