Southern Chicken & Veggie Spaghetti

This is one of those very simple, yet surprising delicious old-fashioned casseroles and I think the recipe is from Southern Living.   You could add mushrooms or cooked spinach or zucchini and it would be just as good.  The sauce soaks into the pasta and creates a nice, satisfyingly creamy main dish.

6 cups chicken stock or water
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups chopped bell pepper, any color
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, chopped
8 oz spaghetti
1/2 cup half n half or milk
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp kosher salt
pinch of black pepper
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (lightly drained to remove excess liquid)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Bring chicken stock or water to boil in a dutch oven.  Add chicken and cook 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  (If you start with frozen thighs, which I did, just allow a little extra cooking time.  If you don’t have stock, you can always just use water – the thighs have enough fat and flavor to create a good stock.

Remove chicken  to a plate and add spaghetti to the stock. Cook spaghetti about 9 minutes until done, then remove spaghetti, keeping stock. Turn the heat up to medium and let stock cook down until there are about 2 1/2 cups left. Once chicken is slightly cooled, cut it into 1/2″ thick slices.

Meanwhile, in a large oven proof frying pan, melt butter and saute onions and bell peppers for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, whisk together half n half, flour, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Pour into the stock, stirring constantly and continue cooking 3-4 minutes, until the stock is thickened a little.  Remove from heat.  Check seasonings.

Add spaghetti, chicken and tomatoes to the sauteed veggies and gently stir to combine.  Pour the stock over and make sure the stock is coating everything.  Drop the shredded cheese on top and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

You can also serve this in a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with vegetable oil.  It makes a delicious main dish that is bursting with veggies and fresh flavors!

Scruffy Eggplant Lasagna (Thank you, Jamie Oliver!)

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Beautiful eggplant image from Amber Engle, Unsplash

Can I just say that I’ve totally fallen for Jamie Oliver, his son Buddy and their “Keep Cooking and Carry On” videos made at home?

In particular, this recipe is genius.  I love lasagna but it can feel very laborious: start with a layer of this, then a layer of that, then repeat and try to keep them neat.

His “scruffy” version is so much easier! Here is a link to the original recipe:

https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/scruffy-aubergine-lasagne/.

I  am including the link, because he has lots of great substitution ideas. (Don’t have this? Try that!)  But since many Americans aren’t used to cooking by weight, I’m also sharing the recipe as I made it, using ingredients from my pantry.  It makes quite a large batch and you may want to halve it for a smaller group. (Or make the whole batch and know that tomorrow’s lunch will be spectacular, too.)

Ingredients:

1 cup water
2 large eggplants, stem removed  and quartered, then cut into 1″ pieces
3 yellow onions, cut into quarters and then cut in half
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp rubbed dry sage
1 tsp dry red pepper flakes (use less if you’re leery of the heat)
zest of one lemon
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can water
10 lasagna strips, cooked, cooled and cut into 4-5″
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 1/2 cups grated romano or parmesan cheese
1/4 cup ground almonds (Optional – Jamie uses, but I didn’t have and didn’t miss it.)

Cook lasagna for about 8 minutes to al dente, in boiling, well-salted water. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a large, ovenproof skillet bring 1 cup water to the boil.  Add eggplants and onions, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until both are starting to soften.  Uncover and continue cooking until most of the moisture has cooked away.  (It won’t run into the middle when you try to make a well, but will still have some moisture.)

Make a hole/well in the middle of the pan, and add the olive oil.  Let it heat for a few moments, and then add the garlic powder, dry sage, and red pepper flakes.  Stir the spices in the oil and let them cook for half a minute or so, stirring constantly.  Add the lemon zest and stir for another few moments, until the lemon zest takes on a golden color.

Quickly add the two cans of tomatoes and can of water. Stir to combine and simmer on medium/low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid will reduce some, but there will still be quite a bit. That’s okay.

Remove from the heat and dd the cooked lasagna pieces, poking them under so they’re completely covered with the sauce.  Save a few for the top of the lasagna, but make sure they’re coated with sauce, too.   Top with cheeses, and sprinkle on the ground almonds if you are using.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Devour.