Soup and Chili Recipes

Lasagna Soup


I have quite the love affair with both soup and lasagna. (My husband is fully aware of these ongoing affairs and he’s cool with it.) Even though my lasagna love is strong, I don’t always have the motivation or time to make it. So I improvise. Case in point, lazy ravioli lasagna,  individual spaghetti squash lasagnas, and now this delicious lasagna soup.

One of the main pluses of this dish, other than that ricotta cheese, is that the noodles are cooked on the side. Thus, you can add as much or as little pasta to your bowl as you want. Works for the portion controllers and the carb cravers. Also, with the pasta on the side, soup leftovers are plentiful. You know those soggy noodles in left over soups? Not happening here.

Beautiful and delicious. I love it.




  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 lbs. mild Italian chicken sausage (pork sausage can also be used)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you prefer spicy)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 28oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, I used a combo of basil and parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Ricotta Cheese Mixture:

  • 8oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste


  • 1lb. fusilli pasta cooked, drained, rinsed, and tossed with 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, I used a combo of basil and parsley


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add Italian sausage, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, and brown until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add chopped onion and red bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 additional minute. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate and cook for 2 additional minutes.
  2. Add diced tomatoes, bay leaf, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the fresh herbs and season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  3. While soup is simmering, cooking the pasta according to package instructions. Drain, rinse, toss with olive oil, and reserve. Also prepare the ricotta cheese topping. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.
  4. To serve, ladle soup into a large bowl, and add 1/2 -1 cup cooked fusilli, a dollop of the fresh ricotta cheese mixture, a sprinkle of mozzarella and Parmesan, and some fresh herbs.
Breakfast Recipes

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes


Why are these the pancakes that you’ll be making the next time you make pancakes?

Because lemon and ricotta is a delicious combination. Because you know you want to make a batch of pancakes that are a little bit different than the the normal ones. Because it’s been too long since you actually made pancakes. Because milk and cereal is, and has been, quite boring. Because you KNOW they’re going to be delicious. And, most importantly … because I told you to.

Extra fluffy with a creamier center. The ricotta cheese adds depth of flavor while also keeping the cakes light and fluffy. The lemon adds a refreshing citrus component. Nothing overpowering. Just right balance of flavor.

You’ll love the next batch of pancakes you make … because you’ll be making these.



  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted


  1. Preheat a large skillet or griddle to medium-high heat.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined.
  3. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together milk, ricotta, eggs, and vanilla until well blended.  Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and melted butter. Mix until combined.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated.
  5. Coat your griddle or skillet with melted butter.
  6. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto buttered griddle or skillet and cook until bubbles begin to appear on surface and the bottom is golden brown. Then, flip and cook opposite side until golden brown. Serve warm with a drizzle of maple syrup (and bacon … duh!)

Note: If serving a crowd, you can keep pancakes warm by placing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a preheated 200 degree F oven.  Don’t stack warm pancakes or they will become limp and soggy. They’ll hold in the oven at 200 degrees F for about 10 minutes.


Soup and Chili Recipes

Italian Sausage, Kale and White Bean Soup

Italian Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup


(New Years day, 2013)  While watching his beloved Stanford Cardinal lose in the Rose Bowl, our friend declares, “this is the best soup I’ve ever had.”

(I can’t remember the specific below zero windchill day in the month of February, 2014)  My fiance came in from the cold to find this soup cooking. He consumed it. He smiled, then he DIDN’T complain about the weather.

(Two weeks ago) I was tense. I made this soup. I ate it. I relaxed.

This soup has powers. Powers that can change your state of mind. Make you forget about your team losing a big game. Make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, even on the worst of days. Make you involuntarily exhale an audible “Mmmmm” after your first spoonful. Make you relax away the days tension in your shoulders and jaw. Make you smile.

Doesn’t take long to make. Doesn’t take long for the robust aroma to permeate your kitchen. Doesn’t take long to realize … This soup is powerfully, comfortably, so very … good.

Italian Sausage, White Bean and Kale SoupItalian Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup



  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cleaned, ribs removed and diced
  • 1 28oz can chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 2 15oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 boxes fat free chicken broth (8 cups)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 sprig rosemary, left whole (I have a rosemary plant on my windowsill.  Rosemary can easily left out if you do not have it readily available)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 lb dried pasta (I used medium shells)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, plus more for garnish, chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • Additional chicken broth, if needed


Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the Italian sausage and cook for 6-8 minutes until no longer pink while breaking up the sausage into bite sized pieces with the back of a wooden spoon. Add onions, celery, carrots and red bell pepper, and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant.

Add tomatoes, beans, chicken broth, oregano, red pepper flakes, rosemary, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  (Note: Cook the soup at this stage for as long as you can. Sometimes I let the soup simmer away for several hours.)  During the last 10 minutes of cook time, add kale and cook for 10 minutes. Remove rosemary stem and adjust seasoning for salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup fresh parsley.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve.

Add the cooked pasta to the soup pot, simmer for a few minutes, and ladle into bowls. Top with Parmesan cheese, and fresh parsley.

Note: If you plan to have leftover soup to eat later in the week, do not add the noodles to the soup pot. Instead, add 1/2 cup cooked pasta to individual bowls and ladle pipping hot soup on top. (When noodles are added straight to the pot, they will adsorb the broth and leftovers wouldn’t be much of a “soup” anymore.)

Pasta Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes

Stove-top Gnocchi (not mac) and Cheese with Peas

Fun enough for the kids.  Just grown up enough for the adult palate as well.  So simple to make.  Ready for it?  Sure you are.



This is a fun twist on macaroni and cheese.  I like creating an opportunity to introduce children to new foods and expand their palates, while simultaneously eating something with a sense of familiarity.  Stove-top Gnocchi (not Mac) and Cheese with Peas … does just that.  It’s a rich, decadent cheese sauce.  Move over kiddies, I’m diving in too.

If you’ve never cooked gnocchi (small potato dumplings) before, the time is now. Your family will love these little potato pillows.  Just bring a big pot of salted water to a boil (as you would for pasta).  Then add the gnocchi, give it a stir, and wait until they rise to the surface. About 3-ish minutes.  Once they’ve floated to the top, just strain out the water and you’re ready to go!  Easy peasy!

Prepare your ingredients ahead of time.  Shred your cheeses and have your milk and seasonings out and ready.  The thing about cheese sauce is that things happen fast.  Because you’re working with milk, butter, cheese and heat – this sauce can burn easily if you’re not careful.  By getting everything prepared ahead of time, you can focus on the cooking.

This dish comes together in under 30 minutes.  Being prepared in one pot means minimal clean up.  (We love that!)  Happy family.  Easy clean up.  Delicious meal for the whole crew.




  • 2 17.5 ounce boxes potato gnocchi
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups freshly shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cups freshly shredded fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • (Optional toppings: chopped fresh basil, extra Parmesan cheese)


  1. Bring a large heavy-bottomed stock pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the gnocchi and cook according to package directions. Drain, set aside, and reserve.  Make sure to toss the cooked gnocchi frequently so they do not stick together when preparing the cheese sauce.
  2. Next, make the béchamel sauce.  In the same pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the flour and cook the mixture, stirring constantly until light brown in color with a slightly toasted aroma, about 3 minutes. Add the milk slowly into the flour and butter mixture, whisking constantly so you get all the lumps out.  Bring sauce to a low boil, whisking constantly, then simmer,  still whisking occasionally, for 3 minutes to thicken.  The sauce should thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  3. Stir in cheeses, mustard powder, salt and pepper until smooth.  Note: Do not add your cheese too fast or too soon as this could result in clumpy, greasy chaos instead of creamy, cheesy deliciousness.  Instead, wait for your béchamel to reach the right thickness.  Then, add the cheese in three batches, making sure each batch is completely melted before adding more cheese.
  4. Add the gnocchi and peas, stirring to combine, and cook over low heat just until warmed throughout. Serve immediately with fresh basil and additional parmesan cheese.

Note: It will originally seem that there is too much cheese sauce for the amount of gnocchi. Trust me – the sauce will continue to thicken and you will be happy with the extra creamy, cheesy deliciousness.

Note: Leftovers can be topped with homemade breadcrumbs (2-3 slices of day old bread pulsed in a food processor to form small crumbs then combined with 1 tbsp melted butter and 2 tsp fresh herbs) and baked in a 350 degree F oven for 40 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.

Servings: 6

Thank you Bell Family Company for featuring Stove-top Gnocchi (not Mac) and Cheese with Peas on your blog.  Anyone living in the New York or Chicago area looking for an incredible nanny service, look no further.  Need a sitter for date night? A TravelSitter for your summer vacation?  A full-time nanny for a new baby?  They have you covered.  Visit their website for details.  Let them know Emily Always Cooks sent you!

Main Course Recipes

Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms

Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms

Time to talk lamb shanks?  Why, yes. Yes it is.

From the lower section of the leg, lamb shanks are a full-flavored cut of meat.  They do, however, require a bit of love and attention to bring out their full potential.  These shanks are first browned in veg oil.  This gives them color while enhancing their rich flavor.  Then, the’re slowly braised in a flavorful and aromatic liquid.  This braising method breaks down the connective tissue and … (culinary cliche alert) …  yields fall-off-the-bone tenderness.
Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms
Now, let’s talk about the hot tub for the shanks.  Or, the “baaaa-th tub.” (I couldn’t resist).  All feeble-minded lamb jokes aside, I’m referring to the braising liquid.
Onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and tomato paste are caramelized in the drippings from the browning process.  They’re then combined with red wine, chopped tomatoes, beef stock, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves.  THEN … brought to a boil.  The shanks are returned to the pot (tub) and placed into the oven. Three hours later, it’s feast time.  I paired these lamb shanks with dreamy Parmesan polenta and mushrooms.  Glamorous!
Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms
Make plenty, as leftovers can be transformed into another meal that shines.  Shred left over lamb , combine with leftover sauce, and serve over pappradelle noodles with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.
  • 2 1.5lb lamb shanks
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 14.5oz can chopped tomatoes in juice, I prefer low sodium
  • 2 cups low sodium beef stock
  • 1 cup water (or more if needed)
  • 15-20 sprigs fresh thyme, bundled together with butchers twine
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated


  1. Allow lamb shanks to come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Trim off any excess fat, cut an inch off the end to expose the bone marrow, and season liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Heat large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil and sear lamb shanks on all sides until nicely browned.  Remove lamb shanks and set aside.
  4. Drain excess fat from the dutch oven, leaving about 1/2 tbsp.  Drop heat to medium and add carrot, celery, and onion. Cook for 15 minutes until vegetables are nicely caramelized.  Add a pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper to season.  Add garlic and cook for 2 additional minutes.
  5. Add tomato paste and stir into vegetables to coat. Cook, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes to caramelize and develop the tomato flavor.  This is an important step. Don’t skimp on caramelizing the tomato paste as it adds a lovely depth of flavor to the dish.
  6. Add red wine and scrape down any brown bits that have developed on the bottom and sides of the pot.  Add chopped tomatoes, beef stock, and water.  Stir well and increase heat to medium-high to bring to a low boil.  Add thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Stir well.  Return lamb shanks to the pot.  If the liquid level does not come to the top of the lamb shanks, add additional water.  Season with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  (Note, if you did not use low sodium stock no need to season with salt, the stock will contain enough salt to season the dish.)
  7. Place lid on dutch oven and put in the preheated oven and cook for 2 1/2 hours, basting and rotating lamb shanks 2-3 times throughout the cooking process.  Remove lid and cook an additional 30 minutes to concentrate the cooking liquid.
  8. At this point, start your parmesan polenta and mushrooms.
  9. Remove lamb shanks to a serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm.  Place the dutch oven on the stove-top over low heat. Remove thyme bundle and bay leaves, and skim off any grease that has gathered on the surface (I removed about 3 tbsp).
  10. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  Add 1/4 cup fresh parsley.
  11. Spoon about 2 cups of sauce over lamb shanks and serve with parmesan polenta and mushrooms.
  12. You can serve the lamb shanks 2 ways – remove excess fat from the shanks, discard, and serve chunks of lamb mixed with the sauce (like a ragu). OR -serve each person an entire lamb shank to pick at themselves.  Both ways are equally as good 🙂  ALWAYS serve with parmesan polenta and mushrooms.
  13. Top plated dish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

Servings: 2-4

Note: If you are serving a crowd, there will be enough sauce for 4-6 lamb shanks – no need to double the sauce if you cook additional lamb shanks.  Just make sure your dutch oven is large enough, or cook in 2 pots.

Leftovers: Shred left over lamb shanks, combine with leftover sauce, and serve over pappradelle noodles with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.



Pressed Italian Sandwich

Pressed Italian Sandwich


Food tastes better when eaten outdoors.  That’s just a universally known scientific fact.

Some of my fondest memories have involved food being enjoyed outdoors.  Whether gathered around my dad’s grill listening to the sizzle of his famous chicken or ribs, twirling spaghetti on the patio of my favorite restaurant, or the simple pleasure of a homemade sandwich and a glass of wine on a blanket in the park.

Pressed Italian Sandwich


This beautiful sandwich is absurdly easy to make.  Simple assembly of high-quality ingredients is the name of the game.  No cooking required. Start with a fresh loaf of ciabatta bread.  Ciabatta is crusty on the outside, and soft and pillowey on the inside.  A great sandwich bread.  Cut the ciabatta in half horizontally and slather both sides with homemade pesto.  Next, layer on salami, soppressata, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, mozzarella cheese, provolone cheese, asiago cheese, and fresh basil leaves.

Turning this delicious sandwich into a delicious PRESSED sandwich involves wrapping the whole loaf tightly with plastic wrap, and then weighing it down in the refrigerator overnight.  This compresses all the ingredients together and infuses the flavors.  The next day, trim the edges, wrap in parchment paper, and tie with a cute string (don’t ever skip that last step).  You now have a gorgeous, scrumptious, perfectly mess-free picnic/outdoor sandwich.  Fond food memories await.

Pressed Italian SandwichPressed Italian SandwichPressed Italian Sandwich

〈 These boys gobbled them right up! 〉


  • 1 loaf of ciabatta bread, cut in half horizontally
  • 1 cup homemade pesto, you can use store-bought if you would like
  • 8 slices of salami*
  • 8 slices of soppressata*
  • 4 slices of prosciutto
  • 12 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained, and sliced
  • 2 balls of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 8 thin slices of provolone cheese
  • 8 thin slices of asiago cheese
  • 12 basil leaves

*My slices were very large, if you are using smaller slices, double the amount.

Directions: Slather pesto on both sides of the bread.  Lightly coat the bottom half to prevent the bread from becoming soggy.  Using the bottom half as the base, build the sandwich by layering salami, soppressata, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, provolone cheese, asiago cheese, and fresh basil leaves.  Top the sandwich with the upper half of the ciabatta.  Tightly wrap the sandwich in saran wrap.  Place on a tray large enough to hold the sandwich, (I used a cookie sheet).  Place cookie sheet in the refrigerator and weigh it town with a heavy object.  I used a large cast iron grill pan topped with a dutch oven.  Allow sandwich to compress overnight.  The following day, remove sandwich from the refrigerator and cut off about 1/2 inch of sandwich from all sides.  I cut the edges while the sandwich was still wrapped in the saran wrap.  This kept the sandwich together while cutting.  Cut whole sandwich into 4 separate/evenly sized large sandwiches, or 8 small sandwiches.  Wrap in parchment paper, and tie with a cute string.  Refrigerate until you are ready to pack up your picnic or serve the sandwiches.

Main Course Recipes

Spinach and Ricotta Turkey Meatloaf with Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)

Here I go again.  Overhauling one of Grandma’s classic recipes.  I just can’t help myself.

Grandma’s consists of ground beef, a pack of onion soup mix, and a ketchup-brown sugar glaze.  I lightened it up, and increased the flavor (sign of the times).  Mine has ground turkey, spinach, ricotta, parmesan, onion, garlic, herbs and spices. (I told ya I packed it with flavor!)

Let’s get our ricotta cheese talk out of the way.  Got your pen and paper ready? (You’re all smart people.  Of course you have your note pad ready when you read my blog!)  Ricotta is my latest food obsession.  It is creamy and slightly sweet.  Wonderful on a piece of toasted baguette, spooned into your favorite pasta dishes, or layered on a pizza.  If you’ve never had freshly made/small batch ricotta … the time to remedy that fact is now.  Do it!  Go to the farmers market.  Go to Plum Market.  Go to Whole Foods … just do it.

Spinach and Ricotta Turkey Meatloaf with Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)Spinach and Ricotta Turkey Meatloaf with Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)Spinach and Ricotta Turkey Meatloaf with Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)Spinach and Ricotta Turkey Meatloaf with Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)


Zucchini noodles (Zoodles) pair perfectly with this lightened-up meatloaf.  I use a vegetable spiral slicer or a julienne peeler to make my zoodles.  I plan to post a recipe for zucchini noodles soon.  For now, this is what I did:  Per-person, you will need 1/2 tbsp olive oil, 1 spiraled zucchini, 1/2 minced garlic clove, 1 tbsp minced onion, salt and pepper.  Heat oil over medium heat and saute onion and garlic for 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add zucchini, salt and pepper, and cook for 3-5 minutes until zucchini is tender.  Toss with fresh basil and parmesan cheese.  Easily multiplied to serve a crowd.  Healthy, light, and delicious.

Spinach and Ricotta Turkey Meatloaf with Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)Spinach and Ricotta Turkey Meatloaf with Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)


The prefect on-the-fork ratio for this dish was about 75% meatloaf to 25% noodles. So good.

Comfort food on the lighter side.  Grandma would be proud.

Spinach and Ricotta Meatloaf with Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)

Spinach and Ricotta Turkey Meatloaf with Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)



  • 1 pound white meat ground turkey
  • 12 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess liquid
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (find it in the deli section of your specialty food store)
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 onion, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • pinch fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Additional parmesan cheese and fresh basil for finishing
  • A batch of Zoodles


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl combine the turkey, spinach, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, onion, garlic, parsley, basil, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Mix ingredients well.  (Note: I like to do this step with my hands.)

Line a baking dish with parchment paper.  Roughly form the turkey mixture into a 3 inch thick loaf.  Pour the marinara sauce over the loaf and top with mozzarella cheese.

Cover the pan with foil and place in the oven to bake for 50 minutes.  Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of cook-time.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with zucchini noodles, extra parmesan cheese and fresh torn basil (Duh!).

Servings: 6