Miso Ginger Meatballs

Miso Ginger Meatballs are little bombs of umami flavor perfect for adding protein to any meal or serving as a delicious appetizer. Made using just 8 ingredients and baked in the air-fryer or oven, these meatballs are quick to whip up and great for meal prep, if that’s your thing. You may consider doubling the recipe if you’re feeding a larger family or adding them to lunches for the week, as this recipe makes approximately 15 meatballs.

Ingredients needed to make Miso Ginger Meatballs

As mentioned, you only need 8 ingredients to make these meatballs, and many of them are pantry staples. Here’s the list:

  • 85/15 grass-fed ground beef
  • Fresh garlic
  • Fresh ginger
  • Soy sauce or tamari
  • Rice vinegar
  • White miso
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Scallions (optional, for serving)

Tools used to make Miso Ginger Meatballs

To make these meatballs, you’ll really only need a few kitchen tools. The mandatory items you’ll need are as follows: cutting board, sharp knife, measuring spoons, mixing bowl, and an air fryer OR rimmed baking sheet (if using oven method). If you’d like to make your life slightly easier, I’d also recommend a #40 cookie scoop (this fits about 1 1/2 tbsp) to make sure each meatball is the same size, as well as a microplane or citrus zester for grating the garlic and ginger. Both of those items are completely optional, however. That’s all you need to make delicious meatballs in no time!

How to make Miso Ginger Meatballs

This recipe is as simple as combining all the ingredients, shaping the meatballs, and baking. It’s really that easy. No eggs, no breadcrumbs, no fuss. There is one caveat, which is that you really should use 85/15 ground beef. The fat ratio is very important to achieving juicy meatballs without adding extra ingredients, so don’t go any leaner than that ratio. I beg!

If using an air-fryer, I like to line the basket with parchment and bake the meatballs in two batches so they get nice and crispy outside while staying juicy inside. Adding all the meatballs at once would make for a crowded air-fryer and soggy, not crispy meatballs. If using the oven method, it’s helpful to line the baking sheet with parchment to minimize sticking, but you could also just spray your pan very well to avoid this issue.

Once baked, I let them cool slightly before topping with scallions (and sometimes cilantro) and devouring. They’re so delicious!

Looking for other make-ahead recipes for meal prep and beyond?

Try these ideas from The Ardent Cook!

Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Celery Salsa

Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

Harvest Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, and Golden Raisins

Recipe Ingredients

1lb 85/15 ground beef

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

½ inch piece ginger, minced or grated

1 tbsp soy sauce 

1 tsp rice vinegar

3 tbsp white miso

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

Scallions, optional, for serving

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat the air-fryer or oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the air-fryer basket or sheet tray with parchment paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients except scallions in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Using a #40 cookie scoop, or a large spoon, scoop approximately 1 1/2 tbsp of the meat mixture into your hands and roll to form a meatball. Repeat until all the meatballs are formed.
  3. If air-frying, bake the meatballs in two batches. Lower the temperature on the air-fryer to 390 and cook for 9 minutes, then repeat with the second batch.
  4. If baking, add the meatballs to the prepared sheet tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches at least 155 degrees and the meatballs are beginning to brown on the outside.
  5. Garnish with sliced scallions, if desired, and serve hot. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Baked Feta Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon, and Minty Kale Pesto

When I saw that TikTok pasta trend with the baked feta and tomatoes, I knew I had to try it (and try to do it better). I think I succeeded with this delicious take on the viral dish, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. I swapped tomatoes for broccoli for a little green veggie overhaul (and because tomatoes aren’t in season for me right now), then added fresh lemon to brighten the dish. The pasta is finished off with a quick pesto made with fresh mint, kale, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices and it really takes this pasta over the edge in terms of fresh flavor.

Ingredients needed to make Baked Feta Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon, and Minty Kale Pesto

If you’ve seen the viral video of this pasta, you probably know the majority of the ingredients you need. This recipe will not work with store-bought crumbled feta, so be sure to get an 8oz block. Here’s the full list:

  • Pasta
  • Broccoli
  • Feta cheese block
  • Olive oil
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Lemon juice and zest
  • Fresh kale
  • Fresh mint
  • Fresh garlic
  • Honey
  • Salt

Tools used to make Baked Feta Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon, and Minty Kale Pesto

To make this recipe, you’ll need a few kitchen tools. First, a large pot to boil the pasta, as well as a 9x13in baking dish. Additionally, you’ll want to have a large cutting board, sharp knife, food processor or high speed blender, a microplane or cheese grater (for zesting), and measuring cups. That’s it!

How to make Baked Feta Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon, and Minty Kale Pesto

You’ll begin by preheating your oven and bring a pot of water to a boil. Chop the broccoli into small florets and arrange in a baking dish around a block of feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, you’ll cook the pasta according to package directions, making sure to reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water just before draining.

To make the pesto, combine all the ingredients into a food processor or high speed blender, then blitz until a pesto forms. You may need to add more olive oil to achieve desired consistency, as well as additional honey and/or salt to taste.

Once the feta and broccoli have baked, toss the feta with the broccoli and pasta water in the baking dish to create a creamy mixture. Add the pasta and a couple tablespoons of the pesto and gently toss again, coating the pasta in the sauce. Top with lemon zest, additional pesto if desired, and serve immediately!

Looking for other delicious pasta dishes?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Wild Mushroom Farro with Parmesan and Microgreens

Creamy Green Goddess Pasta

Vegetarian Bolognese

Recipe Ingredients

For the pasta

1lb pasta

1 medium head broccoli, cut into small florets

1 8oz block feta 

½ cup olive oil, divided

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Zest of 1 lemon

½ cup pasta cooking water, reserved 

For the pesto

Juice of ½ lemon

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup fresh kale, packed

⅛ cup fresh mint, packed 

1 small garlic clove

1 tsp honey

½ tsp salt

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange broccoli florets around feta block in a large glass baking dish. Drizzle all over with ½ cup olive oil, then season with crushed red pepper flakes. Bake for 25 minutes, or until broccoli is tender and beginning to crisp up. 
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions, reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid before draining. Set pasta and reserved water aside. 
  3. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, kale, mint, garlic, honey, and salt in a food processor or high speed blender. Pulse until a pesto forms. Additional olive oil may be needed to achieve desired texture. 
  4. Remove the baking dish from the oven and add pasta cooking water. Stir to combine immediately, mixing the feta with the water to create a cheesy sauce. Gently fold in the cooked pasta and approximately 2 tbsp of the minty kale pesto. Serve immediately, topped with fresh lemon zest and additional pesto, if desired. Leftover pasta can be reheated on the stovetop or in the microwave, and leftover pesto should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings is a classic comfort food recipe. I grew up eating this on school nights, coming home from winter track practice to smells of chicken soup and biscuit batter. The base of this dish is a slightly thickened-up chicken soup…. not as thick as a chicken pot pie filling, but more stick-to-your-ribs than traditional soup. Then, free-form biscuits get dropped into the bubbling soup and steamed until you have a dozen pillowy dumpling floating and waiting to be devoured. It’s so good!

Ingredients needed to make Chicken and Dumplings

This recipe requires the typical myriad of chicken soup ingredients; celery, carrots, onions, sage, thyme, etc. I love this dish because of the versatility. It’s great for a warming family dinner, to serve to guests (if we can ever have those again), or to prep for a few days of lunches. It also transitions seamlessly between all-purpose flour and a 1-1 gluten free flour blend, so there are no issues if you need to eliminate the gluten. You’ll see options to make this meal dairy-free as well in the recipe section. Here’s the full list:

  • Butter (or olive oil)
  • Shredded chicken
  • Yellow onion
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • All-purpose flour (or 1-1 GF flour blend)
  • Chicken broth
  • Heavy cream (or full-fat unsweetened coconut milk)
  • Fresh sage
  • Fresh thyme
  • Frozen peas (optional)
  • Fresh parsley
  • Eggs
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Milk (or full-fat unsweetened coconut milk)

Tools used to make Chicken and Dumplings

I can’t say it enough- I love soups. They require so few tools to pull off and they’re really hard to mess up. LOVE them. Here are all the tools you’ll need to make these Chicken and Dumplings easily:

  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Large Dutch oven with lid (or a soup pot)
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • A wooden spoon
  • A ladle, for serving
  • #40 (~1.5 tbsp) cookie scoop (optional, but very useful)

How to make Chicken and Dumplings

As mentioned above, this recipe is very akin to a traditional chicken soup crossed with a chicken pot pie filling. The process starts the same as any other soup, by chopping your onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and cooking them down in some butter. Once the veggies have started to take on a little color, you’ll sprinkle in some flour and fresh herbs to coat the veggies, then pour in the chicken broth and heavy cream. You’ll let the soup simmer over medium heat, stirring here and there, until it thickens up slightly.

While the soup thickens, you’ll prepare a basic biscuit batter of flour, an egg, butter, milk, and a few other ingredients. The batter will be a touch thicker than, say, a pancake batter, but you won’t believe how the dumplings cook up in the soup. It’s amazing!

Once the soup has thickened, add the shredded (and already cooked!) chicken and frozen peas, if using, to the pot. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly. Lower the heat so the soup is no longer boiling, then use a cookie scoop (or a small measuring cup) to drop roughly 2 tbsp worth of batter into the soup.. The batter will immediately come together to form floating dumplings once it hits the heat, then just keeping adding little scoops until all of the batter is used. Cover the pot completely and walk away for 15 minutes, then return to find the most amazing pot of chicken and dumplings! I love to serve this with fresh parsley over top and an extra crack of black pepper. That’s it!

Looking for other stick-to-your-ribs recipes?

Try these ideas from The Arden Cook!

Pork Chile Verde

Instant Pot French Onion Quinoa Beef Stew

Potato, Leek, and Corn Chowder

Recipe Ingredients

For the Soup

2 tbsp salted butter (or ghee)

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3 medium carrots, finely chopped

5 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp all-purpose flour (or 1-1 GF flour blend)

4 ½ cups chicken broth 

½ cup heavy cream (or full-fat coconut milk)

1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)

1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

1 cup frozen peas (optional)

Chopped fresh parsley, for serving (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Dumplings

1 cup plus 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour (or 1-1 GF flour blend)

1 ½ tsp baking powder

Rounded ¼ tsp baking soda

½ cup milk (or full-fat coconut milk)

5 tbsp butter, melted (or ghee)

1 large egg 

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Recipe Instructions

  1. Heat butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Once melted, add onions, carrots, celery, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Sauté 4-5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.
  2. Sprinkle in 2 Tbsp flour and the fresh herbs, then stir to coat the vegetables. Pour in the chicken broth, stirring constantly to avoid flour clumping. Then, add the heavy cream. Simmer over medium-low for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the soup has thickened slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, make the dumpling batter. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  4. Once the soup has thickened, stir in the shredded chicken and frozen peas, if using. Lower the heat and ensure the soup is not bubbling, then use the cookie scoop or a small 1/4 cup measuring cup filled halfway to drop scoops of batter into the hot soup. The dumplings will immediately start to form and rise to the top. Repeat until all the batter has been scooped into the soup, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid and garnish the soup with fresh parsley and another crack of black pepper. Ladle into bowls, ensuring every bowl gets plenty of soup and at least 1-2 dumplings each, and serve hot. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Celery Salsa

Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Celery Salsa are your new favorite way to eat buffalo chicken. Perfect for a quick dinner, party appetizer, or game-day treat, these tacos are simple to pull together and crisp up in the oven in no time. Plus, the celery salsa is unexpected in the best way. Yes, you read that right, I said celery salsa. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either until I dreamed up this recipe and honestly, I was unsure of myself when I got in the kitchen to test it out. But trust me, you do NOT want to skip out on making this delicious condiment. Let’s get to making some tacos!

Ingredients needed to make Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Celery Salsa

This recipe calls for cooked and shredded chicken, which is simple to do on the stove, in the Instant Pot, or pulled from a store-bought rotisserie chicken ahead of time. I love to make mine in the Instant Pot with a little splash of water and hot sauce then cooked on high pressure for 12 minutes. It shreds in seconds between two forks every time. Once you’ve got your cooked chicken, the recipe comes together in a snap. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Hot sauce
  • Butter
  • Coconut or brown sugar
  • Soft corn tortillas
  • Avocado oil
  • Grated/shredded cheddar cheese
  • Celery
  • Jalapeno
  • Red onion
  • Cilantro
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Avocado
  • Salt

Tools used to make Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Celery Salsa

When it comes to recipes, this one requires minimal tools to execute it. All you really need is a medium saucepan, two sheet trays, a knife, a cutting board, and a mixing bowl. That’s it!

How to make Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Celery Salsa

As mentioned above, you’ll need to cook and shred 1-1.5lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breast ahead of time. You could do this in the Instant Pot as described above, or simply grab yourself a rotisserie chicken from the store and shred it. Either way, once you have your shredded chicken, this recipe takes less than 30 minutes to pull together.

You’ll make a simple wing sauce by combining hot sauce, butter, and either coconut or brown sugar and simmering it for a few minutes on the stove until the sugar has dissolved. Add the shredded chicken and stir to thoroughly combine.

Next, you’ll microwave some corn tortillas for about 30 seconds until they’re very pliable. Lay them flat on a sheet tray and brush each side with avocado oil, then layer on some shredded cheddar on the top half of each tortilla. Add buffalo chicken on top followed by a bit more cheese, then fold the tortillas over to create a taco. It’s helpful to flip each taco over (onto the side that you first put the cheese on) to help them stay closed, and you can also place another sheet tray on top to help them stay closed for the first few minutes of cooking. Let them bake for 10-12 minutes total, removing the top sheet tray after 3 minutes or so, then flipping over halfway through to allow the other side to crisp.

While the tacos bake, make the celery salsa. Combine the celery, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, fresh lime juice, and a pinch of salt and mix. Set aside.

Finally, you’ll top the tacos with the celery salsa and some fresh avocado and enjoy!

Looking for more easy dishes like these tacos?

Try these other recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

Mom’s Checkerboard Chicken Chili

Broccoli Salad with Quick Homemade Ranch

Recipe Ingredients

1- 1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 2 breasts), cooked and shredded

⅓- ½ cup hot sauce, such as Frank’s, divided

2 tbsp butter

1 ½ tbsp coconut or brown sugar

12-15 soft corn tortillas

2 tbsp avocado oil

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

5 stalks celery, finely diced 

1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely diced

½ red onion, finely diced

¼ cup cilantro, chopped 

Juice of ½ lime

Salt

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium saucepan, combine hot sauce, butter, and coconut sugar and simmer for 3-4 minutes until sugar has dissolved. Stir in the shredded chicken and fully coat in the buffalo sauce.
  2. Microwave the corn tortillas for 20-30 seconds until very pliable. Place them on one of the sheet trays and brush both sides with avocado oil. Working only in the top semicircle of each tortilla, layer some shredded cheese, buffalo chicken, then more shredded cheese. Fold the tortilla over to form a taco, and repeat until all tacos are filled and folded.
  3. If the tacos aren’t staying closed, place the second sheet tray on top of the tortillas to help them stay shut. Bake for 2 minutes, then remove the sheet tray and continue baking for an additional 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the tacos are crispy and the cheese is melted.
  4. While the tacos bake, make the celery salsa. Combine the celery, jalapeño, red onion, cilantro, fresh lime juice, and salt to taste. Mix well and set aside.
  5. Let the tacos cool slightly, then serve topped with the celery salsa and fresh avocado. These tacos also taste wonderful with a side of ranch or bleu cheese dressing and extra hot sauce. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Pork Chile Verde

Pork Chile Verde is an easy and delicious way to infuse some flavor into your weekly meals. Made in either the Instant Pot or slow-braised in the oven or slow-cooker, this pork is delicious served in tacos, over nachos, alongside veggies or a crunchy salad, or as is. My own personal favorite way to eat this pork chile verde is to stir in some fresh or frozen corn, canned beans, diced zucchini, and some greens like spinach or kale for a flavorful pork stew topped with radishes and whatever cheese I’ve got on hand. It’s SO good and perfect for a cold winter meal. Read on for the recipe as well as three different methods to cook this chile verde (Instant Pot, slow-cooker, or oven)!

Ingredients needed to make Pork Chile Verde

To start this recipe, you can choose between making your own salsa verde or using a store-bought ones. Both options are great, but I will say that the homemade salsa verde is next-level. Using just a few fresh ingredients, your broiler, and a blender, you can have homemade salsa verde in under 15 minutes. It’s AMAZING. Here’s everything you’ll need:

For the salsa verde:

  • Fresh tomatillos
  • Poblano peppers
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Yellow or white onion
  • Garlic
  • Cilantro

For the pork:

Tools used to make Pork Chile Verde

Depending on which method you choose to make this chile verde, and whether you choose to make your own salsa, the tools required to execute this dish will vary. Luckily, there isn’t anything out of the ordinary required! I’ll list the tools needed if you make the recipe exactly as written, including the homemade salsa verde. Here’s the list:

For the salsa verde:

  • Rimmed sheet tray
  • High-speed blender

For the pork:

  • Sharp chef’s knife
  • Instant pot, slow cooker, or large Dutch oven with a lid
  • Tongs
  • Two forks, for shredding meat

How to make Pork Chile Verde

This recipe looks and sounds a bit more complicated than it looks. You’ll begin by preparing your vegetables to roast under the broiler. Remove the husks from your tomatillos, halve and seed the peppers, remove the skin and quarter the onion, and peel the garlic cloves and add to a sheet tray. Drizzle all over with avocado oil, then place on the top rack directly under the broiler. Let them roast approximately 10-12 minutes until the skins are charred and the vegetables have begun to release their juices and soften. Add everything to a high-speed blender with a pinch of salt and pureé until smooth.

Once you’ve made your salsa, you’ll want to prepare the pork for searing. Cut it into roughly 2-inch pieces and heat some avocado oil in your cooking vessel of choice. My preferred method is the Instant Pot for time’s sake, but using a slow cooker or Dutch oven works great as well. Be sure to see the full slow cooker instructions in the recipe below, as you’ll need to sear the meat in a different pot before adding to the slow cooker.

Sear the meat in the hot oil, working in batches to avoid crowding the pan. Once all the meat is seared, add it back to the pot and cover with the salsa verde and chicken broth. Stir in the cumin, oregano, and a pinch each of salt and pepper, and let it cook!

You’ll know the meat is finished when it is falling apart and easily shreds using two forks. Serve this pork inside tacos or over nachos, with added veggies for a quick stew, or scooped onto a fork and devoured as is.

Looking for other easy and flavorful protein options?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Harissa Chicken Thighs

Gorgonzola-Stuffed Chicken with Delicata Squash

Mediterranean Grilled Strip Steak

Recipe Ingredients

1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks removed, quartered

2 large poblano peppers, halved and seeded

2 jalapeño peppers, halved and seeded

1 yellow onion, skinned and cut into 6 wedges

4 cloves garlic, skinned

1 cup cilantro leaves and stems, packed

2.5-3 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 Tbsp avocado oil

2 cups chicken broth

1 tsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp dried oregano

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and pepper, to taste

Fresh radishes, thinly sliced (optional, for serving)

Additional cilantro, for serving

Recipe Instructions

For the salsa verde

  1. Prepare vegetables as directed and add to a large rimmed sheet tray. Drizzle with avocado oil and broil on high on the top rack of the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until skins are black and blistered and vegetables are beginning to soften and release their juices.
  2. Add to a high-speed blender with a pinch of salt and blend until smooth. Adjust seasonings as needed to taste. Set aside. Alternatively, one 16oz jar of store-bought salsa verde may be substituted.

Instant Pot Method (preferred)

  1. Prepare pork as directed and season all over with salt. Turn the Instant Pot to the sauté function and heat avocado oil. Working in batches, sear the pork on all sides.
  2. Add all of the seared pork back into the IP and top with the salsa verde, chicken broth, cumin, oregano, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Close the lid and place vent to “sealing” position, then cook on manual high pressure for 35 minutes. Allow for 10-15 minutes of natural pressure release, then quick release the remaining steam before opening the lid.
  3. Shred the pork using two forks. Stir in the fresh lime juice and taste the chile verde for salt and pepper, then add to taste. Top with thinly sliced radishes and cilantro, or add to tacos, nachos, a stew, or enjoy with eggs in the morning.

Slow-Cooker Method

  1. Prepare pork as directed and season all over with salt. Heat avocado oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and sear the pork on all sides, working in batches as necessary to avoid crowding the pan.
  2. Transfer the seared pork to the slow-cooker and top with the salsa verde, chicken broth, cumin, oregano, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 5-6 hours, or on high for 2.5-4 hours. The meat is finished when it is falling apart and easily shreds using two forks.
  3. Shred the meat, then stir in the fresh lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with thinly sliced radishes and cilantro, or add to tacos, nachos, a stew, or enjoy with eggs in the morning.

Oven Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare pork as directed and season all over with salt. Heat avocado oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and sear the pork on all sides, working in batches as necessary to avoid crowding the pan.
  2. Add all of the seared pork to the Dutch oven and top with the salsa verde, chicken broth, cumin, oregano, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and bake for 1.5-2.5 hours, checking periodically, until the pork is falling apart and easily shreds using two forks.
  3. Shred the meat, then stir in the fresh lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with thinly sliced radishes and cilantro, or add to tacos, nachos, a stew, or enjoy with eggs in the morning.

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad

Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad is a healthy main-course salad that still feels hearty and keeps you full. Loaded with crisp veggies, salty feta, and slightly spicy harissa chicken thighs, this salad is perfect for a weeknight or busy weekend meal. To save even more time, you can buy pre-marinated harissa chicken thighs from everyone’s favorite grocer, Trader Joe’s, or try my delicious copycat recipe, available here. I love topping this salad with a quick homemade lemony herb dressing (details included in recipe), but if you aren’t in the mood to make your own, I would highly recommend a store-bought ranch.

Ingredients needed to make Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad

My recipe for Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad includes some of my favorite veggies to add to a salad, but don’t let me stop you there. In my experience, the more a salad has in it, the better it gets. This would also be delicious with some halved cherry tomatoes, a different kind of cheese, fresh corn, roasted broccoli, etc. The options for customization are endless! Here’s the full list of ingredients for the salad:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Harissa chicken thighs (recipe here)
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Radishes (I love watermelon radishes in this salad)
  • Avocado
  • Feta cheese
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Crispy chickpeas
  • Cilantro

If you also want to make my favorite easy dressing that compliments this salad perfectly, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Tahini
  • Dijon mustard
  • Lemon juice
  • Cilantro
  • Salt and pepper

Tools used to make Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad

This salad comes together using the most minimal of kitchen tools. All you need is a few kitchen staples and you’re ready to eat! I used the following tools to make this salad happen:

  • Large cutting board
  • Chef’s knife
  • Large mixing bowl or serving plate
  • Small mixing bowl, optional if making homemade dressing
  • Measuring cups and spoons, optional if making homemade dressing
  • Whisk, optional if making homemade dressing
  • Air fryer, optional if making homemade crispy chickpeas

How to make Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad

This dish is as simple as chopping and plating. If you plan to make your own harissa chicken thighs using my recipe, you’ll want to do that as the first step. The chicken thighs don’t take very long as they’re absolutely worth the effort, trust me!

You’ll begin by chopping everything you need for the salad, including the lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, avocado, and cilantro. Add it all to a large mixing bowl or serving plate, crumble the feta and sprinkle the pomegranate arils on top, then add the crispy chickpeas. You can make these using a simple recipe for Air Fryer crispy chickpeas, available here, or just grab a bag of them already made from the store.

To make the lemony herb dressing, combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Alternatively, you could add all ingredients to a food processor or high-speed blender for an even smoother consistency, but I personally enjoy the texture of the chopped herbs in this dressing. Both methods are excellent and the flavor remains the same!

Slice the chicken and add it to the salad, then drizzle all over with the lemony herb dressing (or dressing of your choice)! It’s so good and the perfect hearty salad for any day of the week.

Looking for other simple, healthy recipes?

Try these ideas from The Ardent Cook

Honey Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

Warm Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Recipe Ingredients

2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped

Harissa Chicken Thighs, cooked and chopped (store-bought available at Trader Joe’s, or homemade)

1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped

2 medium carrots, thinly sliced or shredded

Handful of assorted radishes, thinly sliced 

1 avocado, quartered 

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled 

1/4 cup pomegranate arils

1/2 cup crispy chickpeas (store-bought, or homemade)

1/8 cup cilantro, chopped, for serving

For the Lemony Herb Dressing

⅛ cup tahini

Juice and zest of 1 whole lemon

1 TBSP dijon mustard

⅛ cup finely chopped cilantro

3 TBSP water, or more if thinner consistency is desired

Salt and pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Combine the chopped lettuce, cucumber, carrots, radishes, avocado, and cilantro in a large mixing bowl or arrange on a serving plate. Crumble the feta and scatter the pomegranate arils and crispy chickpeas on top.
  2. Make the dressing, if using. Add the tahini, lemon juice and zest, dijon mustard, cilantro, water, salt, and pepper to a small mixing bowl and whisk until combined.
  3. Slice the chicken and arrange it on top of the salad. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately. To store in the fridge, do not dress the salad. Leftovers keep very well undressed in an airtight container, with the dressing added once you are ready to eat. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Honey Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

I absolutely love all things Chinese food, but when we transitioned to a gluten-free way of eating it ruled out a lot of take-out options. Unfortunately, soy sauce and other soy products contain wheat, and they’re hidden in a lot of dishes. I’ve learned a lot about how to balance the intricate flavors of what we consider “Chinese” cooking (and I’ve still got A LOT to learn about the legit, authentic, traditional recipes), and and I’m pretty proud of how this dish turned out. The combination of the punchy garlic and ginger paired with the sweet honey and earthy toasted sesame oil is mind blowing, plus the dish is pretty healthy! Let’s make it!

Ingredients needed to make Honey Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

All the ingredients used in this dish are ones I pull out constantly when I’m making anything Asian-inspired. If you love Asian flavors and cook them at home frequently, I would highly recommend stocking up on some of these ingredients to ensure your meals are tasting as true-to-flavor and balanced as possible! Here’s everything you’ll need:

Tools used to make Honey Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

This take-out-inspired dish is wonderful because it requires very basic kitchen equipment. You’ll need the following items: a cutting board, a sharp chef’s knife, a medium pot with lid, a medium-large skillet, a pair of tongs, and a jar with lid OR a medium mixing bowl with a whisk. There are also a few optional kitchen tools that helped make this meal happen quickly, which are a microplane and a force juicer, although the dish can still be successfully made without those items.

How to make Honey Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

This dish happens rather quickly, so I find it’s helpful to have most of your ingredients measured out ahead of time. You’ll begin by cutting your chicken breast into thin 1/4-1/2 inch strips and coating them in a mixture of tapioca starch (this helps our chicken get a nice crispy sear), ground ginger, ground turmeric, and garlic powder. Once your skillet is heated, sear the chicken on both sides. You may need to work in batches to do this in order to avoid crowding the pan. While the chicken sears, steam the broccoli and make the sauce.

I love to make this sauce in a mason jar with a lid so I can just dump everything and shake to mix. However, if you don’t have a mason jar, it works perfectly well to mix everything in a bowl with a whisk. Either option is perfect!

Once all the chicken has been seared, return it all to the skillet and pour in the sauce. The honey will help create a delicious, thick sauce that coats all of the pieces of chicken. You’ll let the sauce simmer with the chicken for a few minutes, toss in the steamed broccoli, and garnish with fresh lime juice, cilantro, and more sesame seeds! Serve it over rice, rice noodles, or eat it as-is. It’s so delicious!

Looking for other Asian-inspired dishes?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook

Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

Ponzu Greens and Grains Bowl

Aromatic Chicken Meatball Curry

Recipe Ingredients

1.5lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced

2 ½ tbsp tapioca starch

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp garlic powder

2 cups fresh broccoli, cut into florets

3 tbsp avocado oil, divided (1 for searing chicken, 2 for sauce)

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

¼ cup coconut aminos or low-sodium soy sauce

3 tbsp rice vinegar

¼ cup honey

1 tbsp sriracha, more or less to taste

1 tbsp raw sesame seeds

1-inch knob fresh ginger, grated or finely minced

2 cloves fresh garlic, grated or finely minced

Juice of 1 lime

Cilantro, for serving

Sesame seeds, for serving

Recipe Instructions

  1. Cut the chicken into thin strips, each about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Combine the tapioca, ground ginger, ground turmeric, and garlic powder and coat the chicken in the mixture.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of the avocado oil in a skillet over medium heat and sear the chicken, working in batches if necessary. While the chicken sears, steam the broccoli until fork-tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. While the chicken and broccoli are cooking, make the sauce. In a mason-jar with a tight fitting lid OR a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 2 tbsp avocado oil, sesame oil, coconut aminos, rice vinegar, honey, sriracha, sesame seeds, fresh ginger, and fresh garlic. Shake or whisk to thoroughly combine.
  4. When the chicken is seared, return all of it to the skillet and pour in the sauce. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce with the chicken until the chicken is cooked-through and the sauce has thickened slightly, another 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice.
  5. Add the steamed broccoli, then stir once more to coat everything in the sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and more sesame seeds. Serve hot over rice or rice noodles! Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Instant Pot French Onion Quinoa and Beef Stew

The crossover recipe to end all crossover recipes….. this stew! Yes, I know that wasn’t a complete sentence. Two of my favorite winter meals are french onion soup and beef stew, and I never really thought of combining them until now. I’d say french onion is my top choice, but it’s frustrating that it never feels like a complete meal. It could be that it’s lacking variety in vegetables, there’s not really any protein, etc. So, I created a cross between the two comfort food recipes, added some quinoa for nuttiness and extra volume, and fully lost it when I tasted the first bite. It was that good.

This recipe is made in the Instant Pot, so it’s relatively quick and easy. The steps can be a bit confusing if you don’t read through the instructions fully, so make sure you actually pay attention before beginning the recipe. But, as long as you read everything, you’ll be left with a delicious, wholesome cold-weather dinner in under an hour. Let’s make it!

Ingredients needed to make Instant Pot French Onion Quinoa and Beef Stew

This stew has a fair amount of ingredients, which is part of the reason the flavors are so complex. I would not recommend leaving anything out. Here’s the full list:

  • Avocado oil
  • Beef stew meat
  • Yellow onions
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Red wine
  • Beef broth
  • Water
  • Tomato paste
  • Carrots
  • Quinoa
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Fresh thyme
  • Sharp cheddar or goat’s milk cheddar cheese
  • Fresh parsley
  • Toasted bread or croutons

Tools used to make Instant Pot French Onion Quinoa and Beef Stew

As mentioned above, this recipe is made almost entirely in the Instant Pot. If you don’t have an Instant Pot but feel comfortable in the kitchen, you could absolutely try making this on the stovetop or even in a slow-cooker. I did not test the recipe using those methods, so I can’t provide specific instructions. However, it will certainly work as long as you adjust the cooking time accordingly (the Instant Pot works much faster than other methods, so any other method take longer to achieve the same beef tenderness and depth of flavor).

I use the Instant Pot Duo Nova 6-qt, linked here. I absolutely love it. I was NOT a gadget-lover in the kitchen until I bought one of these on a whim, and I promise you- it’s life changing. Other than the Instant Pot itself, you’ll want to gather a few more kitchen items to make this recipe a breeze: a cutting board, a sharp knife, a pair of tongs, measuring cups and spoons, aluminum foil, a rimmed baking sheet, and a stirring utensil. I prefer to use my favorite wooden spoon for stirring, as it’s the perfect length for reaching the bottom of the Instant Pot. That’s it!

How to make Instant Pot French Onion Quinoa and Beef Stew

This stew is not difficult to make, but it does require a few extra steps to ensure everything is cooked to perfection. It drives me nuts when I make a soup and the meat turns out too tough/chewy while the vegetables are so soft they’re falling apart, so I made sure that didn’t happen with this stew. To achieve the perfect tenderness for both the beef and the vegetables, we actually pressure cook the stew twice. The first time, it’s just for the beef, while the second time is for the vegetables and quinoa. It sounds fussy, but I promise it doesn’t take any extra time than if we were to make this on the stove!

You’ll begin by trimming the beef of any fat or cartilage, then cut down any very large pieces. The stew meat should come already cubed, but sometimes there are a few wild pieces that need to be cut in half. Aim for approximately 1-inch pieces of beef.

Once the beef is trimmed, we’ll work in batches to sear it on all sides using the Sauté feature on the Instant Pot. Working in batches is key to ensure our meat gets browned and crispy. If we tried to sear all of the beef at once, the pan would be overcrowded and no browning would occur. Remember: browning= flavor.

Once we’ve seared the beef, we’ll add all of the thinly sliced onions and shallots, garlic, and a little red wine to deglaze the Pot. It’s very important to scrape up all of the caramelized bits that stuck to the Pot as we seared the beef, as those provide amazing flavor in our stew. Once the onions and garlic have absorbed much of the wine and are becoming tender, we’ll transfer them to a plate and return the beef to the Pot.

Next, add a splash of beef broth and start the first round of pressure cooking. The first round takes about 35 minutes start-to-finish, including time for the Pot to pressurize, cook, and then release the pressure. While the beef cooks for the first round, we can prepare the carrots, herbs, and quinoa.

You’ll want to cut the carrots into uniform pieces, each about 1/2 inch thick. Gather your fresh herb sprigs, rinse your quinoa, and maybe even have a glass of wine while you wait.

Once the beef is finished the first round of pressure cooking, we’ll go ahead and add the par-cooked onions and garlic, quinoa, carrots, fresh herbs, and remaining beef broth to the Pot. Close the lid again, and pressure cook the entire stew one final time. We’ll only be cooking it for 2 minutes, however this second round of cooking takes more like 15 minutes start-to-finish, including time for the Pot to pressurize again, cook, and then release the remaining pressure.

Once the stew has finished cooking, taste it for salt and pepper, then season accordingly. Turn your oven to Broil and ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls or crocks. At this point, you can top the soup however you see fit. I love to use a piece of toast and freshly shredded goat’s milk cheddar cheese, while Jeff prefers to top his with salad croutons. Alternatively, this stew is excellent served over mashed potatoes, or eaten as-is. You can absolutely customize it and have a delicious meal!

Looking for other soup recipes?

Try these from The Ardent Cook!

Herbed Chicken Tortellini Soup

Chipotle Peanut Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Pepitas

Potato, Leek, and Corn Chowder

Recipe Ingredients

1 tbsp avocado oil

1.5 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup red wine

One 32oz container beef broth, divided

1 cup water

2 tbsp Tomato paste

3 medium carrots, cut into ½ inch pieces

¾ cup quinoa, rinsed

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 sprigs fresh thyme

Toast or croutons, for serving

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese, for serving

Fresh parsley, chopped, for serving

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Trim beef of any fat or cartilage and ensure there are no excessively large pieces. Each cube should be roughly 1-inch in size. Season the beef on all sides with salt and black pepper. Turn Instant Pot to “Sauté” and sear the beef, working in batches to avoid crowding the pot. 
  2. Once all the beef has been seared on both sides, remove it from the pot and add the onions. Stir to coat in the beef drippings and cook for 3-4 minutes until the onions begin to take on some color. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  3. Stir in the red wine to deglaze the Instant Pot. The onions and garlic will soak up some of the wine and start to become tender. Cook for 2-3 minutes until most of the wine has been absorbed by the onions or evaporated, then transfer the mixture to a bowl. 
  4. Add the beef back into the Instant Pot along with ¼ cup beef broth. Close the lid and ensure the vent is in the “Sealing” position. Turn the Instant Pot to “Pressure Cook” and then “High Pressure.” Set the timer for 20 minutes and let it go. Once the time is up, let the Pot naturally release pressure for 10 minutes, then carefully quick-release the remaining steam by opening the vent. 
  5. To the Pot with the cooked beef, add the water, par-cooked onions, quinoa, carrots, herbs, tomato paste, and remaining beef broth. Return the lid to the Pot and follow the same process as above to pressurize the Pot, this time setting the timer for 2 minutes. Let the soup pressure cook once more, allowing for 5 minutes of natural release once the time is up. After 5 minutes, quick-release the steam and safely take the lid off. 
  6. Turn your oven to broil and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Ladle soup into oven-safe bowls or crocks and top with a piece of toast or handful of croutons, followed by the shredded cheddar. Place the filled crocks onto the lined baking sheet and broil for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly golden brown. Top with fresh parsley and enjoy hot!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Harissa Chicken Thighs (Trader Joe’s Copycat)

One of the best things to come out of 2020 was my discovery of Trader Joe’s Harissa Chicken Thighs. Now, hear me out. I have never been a proponent of pre-marinated meats in the grocery store. Typically, they’re loaded with extra fillers, sodium, sugar, etc. which is part of the reason they taste so good. However, Trader Joe’s seemingly does it right. There are a few strange ingredients in the marinade, but overall it’s pretty clean and the taste is absolutely ridiculously good.

You may be wondering, “Why change a good thing?” I’ll tell you why. I don’t live particularly close to Trader Joe’s. In fact, every trip is at least 30 minutes one-way, plus waiting in line for pandemic reasons (since all of their stores are the size of matchboxes), plus checking out, driving home, and unloading. It’s a TRIP.

You can probably see why I endeavored to create my own version of these delicious spicy morsels of chicken and let me tell you… I’m so glad I did.

Ingredients needed to make Harissa Chicken Thighs

If you’ve never heard of harissa, you’re not alone. Loads of people I talk to are either unsure of what it is or afraid of its spice level. Traditionally used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking, harissa is a widely used paste of roasted hot and sweet peppers, garlic, warm spices, salt, and a few other ingredients. It’s incredibly flavorful and, while it carries some heat, is not overpowering in this recipe.

Obviously, you’ll need to get your hands on a jar to make these chicken thighs. I would not recommend substituting anything else for the harissa in this dish. Trader Joe’s sells a delicious harissa, but it can also be found in most mainstream grocery stores in the specialty or international foods aisles. I’ve also linked one here which is available on Amazon.

Here’s everything you’ll need:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Orange juice
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Water
  • Harissa
  • Avocado oil
  • Honey
  • Cilantro

Tools used to make Harissa Chicken Thighs

I love cooking chicken because of how easy it is (and so few dishes!). This recipe comes together using only a few kitchen tools, which I’m certain you already have in your kitchen. You’ll need the following: a large storage container with lid (or gallon-sized plastic bag), a small saucepan, measuring cups and spoons, one mixing bowl, a pair of tongs, a baking sheet, and an instant-read meat thermometer. That’s it!

How to make Harissa Chicken Thighs

There is a little fuss when it comes to this recipe, but most of the cook time is actually spent hands-off as passive time. We’ll start by making a quick citrus brine for our thighs, which is exactly what Trader Joe’s processing plant does to make their harissa chicken thighs. To do this, simply combine water, salt, and sugar in a small saucepan and heat it until both are dissolved. Add some citrus juice (in this case orange and lime), cover the chicken, and let it sit for 30-40 minutes. When I make these chicken thighs, I typically use that brining time to make the rest of the components of whatever meal I’m making.

Chicken thighs resting in the quick citrus brine

Next, you’ll transfer the chicken thighs to a mixing bowl with the harissa, avocado oil, and honey, stirring to coat them all evenly. We add a decent amount of oil here to ensure that our thighs achieve some level of browning in the oven. The small amount of honey helps with that too.

Chicken thighs covered in harissa, avocado oil, and honey

Before preheating the oven, you’ll want to place a clean sheet tray inside of the oven. As the oven preheats, the sheet tray will heat up with it. When we add our chicken thighs to the hot sheet pan, this will start the process of browning the bottoms immediately. It’s a great trick I use anytime I want caramelization (tip: I love using this method for oven-baked fries).

The chicken will cook for anywhere from 13 to 20 minutes. Cook time depends a lot on how large your chicken thighs are. This recipe calls for 1.5 pounds of chicken thighs. If the pack comes with only 2-3 larger thighs that make up those 1.5 pounds, then your cook time will likely be closer to the 20 minute mark. 4-5 thighs per pack, and you’re going to want to air on the side of 13 minutes to avoid over-cooking. Rely on your meat thermometer and you’ll achieve perfectly cooked chicken every time!

Once the chicken is cooked through, transfer it to a serving plate and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro. I love serving this chicken over rice with lots of vegetables, or on a chopped salad with other Middle Eastern flavors. Enjoy!

Looking for other delicious chicken recipes?

Give these dishes a try from The Ardent Cook archives!

Favorite Roast Chicken

Gorgonzola-Stuffed Chicken with Delicata Squash

Roasted Apricot Chicken

Red Curry Pulled Chicken with Turmeric-Lime Rice

Harissa Chicken Thighs are a unique addition to any meal

Recipe Ingredients

1.5lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

½ cup water

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp coconut sugar 

½ cup orange juice, unsweetened

Juice of 1 lime

⅓ cup harissa paste

¼ cup avocado oil

1 tbsp honey

Cilantro, for serving

Recipe Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the water, salt, and coconut sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar and salt are just dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the orange juice and lime juice. Let cool for 5-10 minutes. 
  2. In a large storage container with a lid (or gallon-sized plastic bag), add the chicken and brine. Let sit at room temperature for 30-40 minutes. 
  3. After the time has passed, combine the harissa, avocado oil, and honey in a large mixing bowl. Remove the chicken from the brine and transfer to the mixing bowl to coat in the harissa mixture. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 and place a baking sheet in the oven while it preheats. Once the oven has reached temperature, remove the baking sheet and place the chicken directly onto the hot sheet. Return to the oven and bake for 13-20 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  5. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

The holidays always bring about strong feelings of comfort food, and this Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni fills the void so incredibly well. If gluten and dairy aren’t for you, I’ve tested this recipe using a grain-free pasta alternative as well as dairy-free milk and cheese. Luckily, there are loads of swaps you can make to create the dish that works for you based upon your dietary needs, or just use the real stuff. I love this as an easy weeknight dinner or as a solution to your Christmas Eve dinner needs for gatherings large and small. I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients needed to make Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

This dish uses all the traditional Italian pasta ingredients like rigatoni, ground sausage, herbs, and cheese. Here’s a full list of everything you’ll need, plus links to some swaps I used to make this compliant with my current gluten- and dairy-free eating habits:

  • Rigatoni or other cylindrical pasta shape (I like this brand if GF)
  • Ground Sweet Italian sausage
  • Olive oil
  • Kale
  • Fresh garlic
  • Crushed red pepper flake
  • Heavy cream (substitute non-dairy milk or cream alternative if DF)
  • Pasta cooking water
  • Mozzarella (substitute non-dairy cheese or goat cheese, if tolerated)
  • Lemon zest
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Tools used to make Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

I love pasta dishes because they take close to no equipment to pull off. This dish comes together with only a few tools, most of which you likely already have. Here’s the complete list:

How to make Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

This pasta recipe is very straightforward, making it a welcome addition to any weekly meal plan. It’s also the perfect recipe to throw together the night before a big holiday, such as, ahem, Christmas Eve… particularly if you haven’t finished wrapping gifts for the big day.

You’ll start by cooking your pasta in the pasta pot according to package directions. Be sure to reserve approximately 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid before draining, as this helps us achieve a silky creamy sauce that adheres to each noodle.

While the pasta cooks, brown your sausage in a large skillet or deep pot. I prefer to use my Dutch oven for this step. Once browned, push the sausage into a ring at the outside of the pan to make space in the middle for the garlic. Add the olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes, stirring it around until fragrant, then stir to combine with the sausage. Add the kale and stir again, allowing it to wilt slightly.

Once the pasta is drained, add it directly into the pot with the sausage and kale while still hot. Add the heavy cream, pasta cooking water, and cheese, folding everything together. If needed, you may turn the burner on low to encourage melting of the cheese and thickening of the sauce.

Once the pasta is creamy and all ingredients are incorporated, fold in the freshly grated lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately! Leftovers keep well in the fridge or freezer.

Looking for other weeknight comfort food ideas?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Favorite Roast Chicken

Curried Pumpkin Chickpeas with Cucumber Raita

Wild Mushroom Farro with Parmesan and Microgreens

Recipe Ingredients

1lb Rigatoni

1lb ground sweet Italian sausage

1tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to taste

1 head kale, stems removed and roughly chopped

3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed

1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid

1 cup mozzarella cheese

1 tbsp fresh lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and set aside.
  2. While the pasta cooks, brown sausage in a large skillet or deep pot. Once browned, push sausage to the sides of the pan and make an open area in the center.
  3. Add olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes to the center of the pan and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Mix to incorporate with the sausage. Add the kale and stir again, allowing it to wilt.
  4. Add the pasta directly to the pan with the sausage and kale, turn the pan to low heat, then stir in the heavy cream, pasta cooking liquid, and mozzarella. Fold consistently until a creamy sauce forms. You may use additional cream to achieve your desired sauce consistency, if needed.
  5. Stir in the freshly grated lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and serve hot! Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.