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Comfort Food at its Best: 3 Hearty & Delicious Baked Dishes

An oven-baked dish is certainly the epitome of comfort food. Yet when you think of traditional baked recipes, the much-loved mac and cheese may come to mind, or perhaps, the traditional Lasagna. While I do enjoy both, I've recently started to play around with my family's favorite meals, using more fresh herbs and even heartier ingredients. Here are three of my new favorite recipes that I encourage you to try:


1. Spinach ravioli casserole
Branch out from your traditional baked recipes with this herby pesto, luscious Alfredo, gooey cheese and ravioli recipe. It's a simple weeknight dinner recipe your family will love, yet an elegant (and innovative) enough dish to serve on special occasions.



Recipe Source: 12tomatoes.com

Prep time: 45 minutes; serves 6 to 8 people


  • 25 oz. frozen ravioli (cheese or meat-stuffed)
  • 8 oz. fresh baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 (16 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and diced
  • 2 cups Alfredo cream sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian cheese blend, shredded, divided
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup pesto sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the spinach and the artichokes with the pesto sauce until they are thoroughly coated. 
2. In a separate bowl, combine the Alfredo sauce and the chicken broth.
3. Lightly butter a 9x13 inch baking dish then spread a third of the Alfredo sauce mixture along the bottom of the dish and top with 1/2 of the spinach mixture. 
4. Layer half of the ravioli evenly over the spinach and top with another layer of the Alfredo sauce and the spinach sauce. 
5. Top with what's left of the ravioli and cover with the remaining Alfredo sauce and Italian cheese. 
6. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Then uncover and bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is bubbly. 
7. Remove from the oven and serve hot. 


2. A cheesy and delicious twist on pierogi lasagna

The classic pierogi recipe is to die for. Traditionally, pierogi (an Eastern European recipe) is made from dumplings that are filled with potatoes, cheese and a variety of meats and veggies. They are incredibly delicious, but rather time consuming. This recipe, however, won't take you half as long. Using regular lasagna noodles will provide a very similar taste and texture. It is loaded with melted cheese and buttery mashed potatoes - the ultimate in comfort food. 



Recipe Source: 12tomatoes.com

Prep time: 50 minutes; serves 6-8


  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 6 cups mashed potatoes
  • 2 sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cheddar, grated
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Meanwhile grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with butter or a non-stick spray. 
2. Prepare the lasagna noodles according to package directions and set aside. Then, in a large skillet add the onion, butter, salt and pepper. Sauté the ingredients on medium heat until soft - this should take about 10 minutes.
3. In the baking dish place 4 lasagna noodles in an even layer at the bottom. Layer 1/2 of the mashed potatoes on top of the lasagna and top with 1/2 of the sautéed onions and 1/2 cup of cheese.  
4. Repeat the process with another layer of lasagna noodles, the remaining mashed potatoes and the sautéed onions. Top with another 1/2 cup of cheese. 
5. Finish the dish with the remaining 4 noodles and 1 cup of cheese. 
6. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve the lasagna hot and enjoy!

3. Slow cooker, baked ziti
This Italian-American staple is a comforting dish, yet full of fresh, herby flavors. This baked dish takes on a different cooking approach. To save you preparation time, a slow cooker is used instead of the oven.



Recipe Source: 12tomatoes.com

Prep time: 15 minutes; serves 6 to 8


  • 2 (25 oz) jars marinara sauce
  • 1 (1lb) penne pasta
  • 3 cups Italian cheese blend, grated
  • 1 (15 oz) package ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon rosemary
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine the ricotta, eggs, garlic, rosemary, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Combine well and mix in the fresh basil. 
2. Then, grease the inside of the slow cooker with a non-stick spray or some butter and add about 2 cups of the pasta sauce at the bottom. Layer 1/3 of the penne on top of the sauce (the penne will cook through with the marinara sauce). Add 1/2 of the ricotta mixture and 1/3 of the Italian cheese blend, then repeat until you have created two layers of all the ingredients.
3. Top with the remaining penne and the sauce and cook on high heat for three to four hours. The penne should be al dente
4. Once the penne has cooked through, top with the remaining cheese and cook for a further 30 minutes, or until the cheese has thoroughly melted through. Serve hot and enjoy!


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