Jenn Segal’s blog Once Upon A Chef has been a frequently-visited site of mine for many years, so it’s no wonder I was quite giddy when I learned about her new cookbook, Once Upon A Chef Weeknight/Weekend. I may have been one of the first people to pre-order it, considering I am constantly bookmarking her recipes to rotate into my weekly meal plans.
There are so many things I love about Jenn Segal: she is a professionally trained chef and a graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine, develops most of her own recipes and tests them in her family kitchen on her own kids (which means she understands what it is to be a busy mom), and if you ask her a cooking question or comment on a blog post she actually responds.
Don’t miss an exclusive recipe from the book, below!
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Jenn Segal’s Once Upon a Chef Weeknight/Weekend Cookbook Review
Just to address the elephant in the kitchen, yes, you can just get a bunch of these recipes on the Once Upon A Chef blog. But, there are so many reasons why an actual, physical cookbook is worth every single penny.
First, not all of the recipes in this cookbook are online (like the amazing Lasagna Soup shared below), and well, having a beautifully photographed cookbook on your kitchen counter is instant and easy decorating. Plus, if your WIFI goes out, you can still find a recipe. And maybe most importantly, small business owners like Jenn work their tails off. No food blogger is getting rich creating recipes, testing and retesting them, and then sharing them for free online. It’s a labor of love. Purchasing a cookbook is a small way to say “thank you” to your favorite chefs and food bloggers.
I adore the personal introduction, in which Jenn talks about how the pandemic affected her family (which includes herself, her husband and her two teenagers) and how cooking and being in the kitchen together was a silver lining during what was a really, really tough year for all of us. I could totally relate as I personally found solace in my own kitchen and in preparing meals for my family throughout 2020.
Because Jenn is a busy mom, she understands that weeknight meals need to be easy and stress free. The Once Upon A Chef Weeknight/Weekend cookbook is divided up into exactly that: weeknight recipes that require less than 45 minutes active prep and cooking time, and weekend recipes that you can put a little more time and prep into.
I have made over a dozen of the weeknight recipes over the last few weeks and every single won has been my teen’s new favorite dinner. And as a sweet bonus, the cookbook includes some amazing desserts (which is fully appropriate considering Jenn Segal had a cake business at one point in her career) that are thoughtfully designed to be simple and use ingredients you would typically have already on your shelves.
I’m so excited to share this recipe for Lasagna Soup with Ricotta Cream from Once Upon A Chef Weeknight/Weekend with permission from the author herself. I actually made this recipe last night, and dang it was good! I love that it is a delicious, easy weeknight meal that tastes like a traditional lasagna that would have taken me much longer to prepare and never on a Monday night. My kids are already asking for me to make it again next week.
Exclusive recipe from the new Once Upon a Chef Weeknight/Weekend Cookbook: Lasagna Soup with Ricotta Cream
Lasagna Soup with Ricotta Cream from Once Upon A Chef Weeknight/Weekend
I know that the name “lasagna soup” sounds gimmicky, but this soup really does taste like lasagna. The good news is that it’s a whole lot easier to make. And it’s not a soup in the traditional “light dinner” sense — it’s almost as hearty as lasagna itself. I don’t care for ricotta cheese baked into my lasagnas, as it gets grainy and dry, but dolloping it on top of the soup works beautifully, and it really drives the lasagna flavor home. Serve the soup with a warm baguette to soak up the rich tomato broth.
Serves 4 to 6
6 ounces (170g) medium shell pasta or similar shape (about 2 heaping cups
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound (454g) hot Italian sausage, removed from casings
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 cups (960ml) chicken broth
1 28-ounce (794g) can crushed tomatoes
1¼ teaspoon sal
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay lea
¾ cup (180ml) heavy cream
½ cup (50g) finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
¼ cup (10g) fresh chopped basil, plus more for serving
1 cup (240g) whole milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up, until browned and just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a small colander set over a bowl, leaving the fat in the pan.
Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Do not brown. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, salt, sugar, oregano, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer vigorously, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the heavy cream and cook for a few minutes more. Fish out and discard the bay leaf, then use a large spoon to skim off any excess grease. Add the reserved sausage, drained pasta, ¼ cup (25g) of the Pecorino Romano, and the basil to the pot. Stir to combine, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
In a small bowl, stir the ricotta with the remaining ¼ cup (25g) Pecorino Romano and a generous pinch of salt.
Ladle the soup into serving bowls and top with a generous dollop of the ricotta mixture and more fresh basil. Pass grated Pecorino Romano at the table.
Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: Before adding the pasta, the soup can be refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for up to 3 months. If frozen, defrost the soup in the refrigerator overnight; reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until simmering, add the pasta, and cook until the pasta is tender.
Pro Tip: The pasta is cooked separately so that it doesn’t overcook or soak up all the broth. Feel free to mix any leftover bits of pasta from the pantry you need to use up. Any shape will work, but if you’re mixing different shapes, make sure they cook in about the same amount of time.
Not only will this be one of your new favorite cookbooks, it would make a fantastic gift for just about everyone: as a hostess gift for upcoming holiday parties, for your sister who texts you daily asking what you are making for dinner, and even for your best friend who you know needs a little extra help in the kitchen.
Snag your own copy of Jenn Segal’s Once Upon A Chef Weeknight/Weekend at our affiliate Amazon or your local indie bookshop. Recipe shared with permission from the author.