Someone else who likes to geek out on using food scraps and creating zero-waste meals is Potluck With Ali creator Ali Rosen. “I am very passionate about reducing food waste and composting, but most importantly I am just inherently a lazy cook,” she says. “I don’t want spend time peeling carrots or potatoes, so I am always testing the boundaries to see how much I can get away with.” To her point, cooking with scraps has many perks: It’s good for the planet, cuts down on meal-prep time, and adds more nutrients to your meal as virtually all food scraps are full of fiber.
In Rosen’s new book, Modern Freezer Meals ($18), she shares a no-scraps veggie bake recipe that uses parts of three vegetables—potatoes, carrots, and fennel—that many people tend to throw away. “I think fennel intimidates a lot of people because of its size and the fronds, but it’s so much easier than people think,” Rosen says. In this recipe, she uses the flowering plant (which is a member of the carrot family, FYI) to add a subtle sweetness that balances our the earthy carrots and potatoes. “I also wanted to use it here because the stalks and fronds of fennel are so often misunderstood and discarded,” she says. “You can really eat every part of fennel, and it is important to give cooks the confidence to do that!”
Besides the fennel fronds, Rosen also utilizes the carrot tops, which are blended with lemon juice and cheese to make a vibrant pesto, and potato skins. “I also think [carrot tops] are a great herb on top of salads or an extra green in a smoothie,” she adds. “They do great in soups and stocks as well.”
Below, Rosen shares the recipe for her no-scraps veggie bake, but before you get started, she offers up this tip: Keep your salt shaker nearby. “Remember to salt every layer,” she says. “The biggest mistake I see generally is not enough seasoning, but when you are making a dish that has subtle ingredients it can turn a star dish into a flop.” Ready to get cooking? Keep reading for the recipe.
No-scraps veggie bake
Serves 4 to 8
3 heads fennel
1 lb. carrots
2 large russet potatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil for the pan
2 tsp salt, divided
1 cup ricotta
1 (24-oz.) jar tomato sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut off the tops of the fennel, and cut the bulbs into slices. Remove the fronds (the parts that look like herbs) from the stalks and set aside. Finely chop the stalks. Remove the carrot tops from the root. Slice the carrots into long halves (or quarters if the carrots are particularly large). Finely chop the carrot tops. Slice the potatoes into ½-inch pieces, leaving the skin on.
2. In a large baking dish (it can be circular or square and almost any size—it will all cook the same), spread a layer of olive oil at the bottom. Place the potatoes in rows, overlapping them to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Add a generous dash of salt to the potatoes. Spread a thin layer of ricotta on top (it can be more like dime-sized dollops if your ricotta’s texture is thick), salt it, then spread a layer of tomato sauce. If your tomato sauce is not salted enough, make sure to add salt—this dish needs every layer salted! Sprinkle all of the carrot tops over the tomato sauce, along with another dash of salt.
3. Place a layer of the fennel slices down. Add another layer of ricotta, then tomato sauce. Add a layer of carrots, remembering to salt each layer as you go.
4. Top with another ricotta and tomato layer, then add the chopped fennel stalks on top. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 60 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the fennel fronds and Parmesan on top.
If you are eating now: Cook uncovered for another 30 minutes. Serve hot.
If you are freezing for later: Allow the veggie bake to cool down completely. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap, then cover with an additional layer of aluminum foil. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the plastic wrap and aluminum foil and cook uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes until the veggie bake is completely hot all the way through.
Watch the video below to see how to make zero-waste ice-pops:
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