Our Ingredient Obsession: Labneh


What is labneh? This thick, creamy dish is made from strained yogurt. Depending on how long the yogurt has been strained, labneh can range from just barely thicker than yogurt to an almost cream cheese-like texture. Good labneh starts with full-fat yogurt. After it’s strained, the flavor is a perfect balance of tanginess and creaminess. This combination of rich and bright flavor makes labneh a wonderful topping for stews, salads, or sandwiches with a Middle Eastern flair.

How to make labneh

It’s easy to make a version of this strained yogurt at home. Start with plain, full-fat Greek yogurt. Place a mesh strainer over a bowl or jar and line the strainer with cheesecloth. Spoon in as much yogurt as you like, and fold the edges of the cheesecloth over the yogurt to cover. Let it strain in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. At the end of this time, the bowl will be full of excess whey, and the strainer will hold the thick and creamy curds. You can flavor this newly strained yogurt with herbs and spices, or serve it plain.

How to use labneh

A spoonful of this bright ingredient will add a little kick to grain bowls, roasted proteins, or vegetable dishes. We love pairing it with dishes inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine, but you can use plain it in place of sour cream.

Try some of our favorite recipes using labneh

Za’atar-Spiced Chicken & Farro Salad with Lemon-Garlic Labneh

chicken topped with labneh

In this dish, herby za’atar-coated chicken is accompanied by a bed of hearty farro (studded with marinated vegetables) and a drizzle of bright, creamy sauce.

Roasted Chickpea & Freekeh Salad with Lemon Labneh & Harissa-Glazed Carrots

chickpea grain bowl

This Middle Eastern-inspired grain bowl uses vibrant harissa paste to glaze carrots for a smoky kick. These are tossed together with roasted chickpeas, warm grains of freekeh, and a bright shallot dressing.

Spiced Beef Pitas & Garlic Labneh with Arugula & Date Salad

garlic labneh on beef pitas

This recipe is inspired by the flavors of a Greek gyro—a hearty sandwich of rotisserie-cooked meat served in a flatbread. Our take showcases quick-cooking, thin-sliced beef sautéed with a blend of za’atar and Aleppo pepper, then layered onto soft pitas and served with a tangy sauce

Beef over Za’atar-Spiced Rice with Lemon Labneh

beef bowl topped with labneh

In this Lebanese-inspired dish, vibrant spices in our za’atar like sumac and Aleppo pepper bring bright flavor and gentle heat to a bed of rice. It’s all topped with tender beef and a dollop of bright of thick, creamy yogurt for a cooling contrast.

Penne alla Vodka Recipe

What happens when chef Lili Dagan combines her lifelong passion for cooking with her new found love of the Sopranos? A baked pasta dish for the ages.

baked pasta alla vodka

Every winter, I say I’m going to watch The Sopranos. Somehow, I never get around to it. Whenever my fellow test kitchen Chef Lauren asks me how it’s going, I have the same answer: “I’m waiting for a blizzard, so that I have time to really get into it.”  Well, here I am, the cherry blossoms in peak bloom outside my window, 40-odd hours into a blizzard with Tony, Paulie, Furio, and most importantly, my girl Carmela, who makes a mean ziti.

The eating doesn’t stop there, the entire show is full of culinary wisdom: “Well, when you’re married, you’ll understand the importance of fresh produce!” Tony exclaims to Meadow. Clairvoyant. Everywhere these guys eat, whether it’s at Vesuvio’s, or Sunday dinner with Father Intintola, Vodka sauce flows freely. Someone is in crisis? Baked Ziti makes an appearance. 

baked pasta alla vodka

What does it all mean? I am sure there is a small library somewhere filled with graduate theses about the food on The Sopranos underscoring themes of identity, masculinity, family, and culture. For me, it means I need to make a baked pasta right now.  

There are a few parts to this dish but when they come together, it’s worth it. Buon Appetito. 

Watch chef Lili in action below

Recipe: Baked Pasta Alla Vodka

For the vodka sauce and pasta:

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 28 oz whole peeled tomatoes
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb pasta (penne, rigatoni, or shells would all be good choices here)
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into rounds

For the herbed ricotta:

  • 8 oz fresh ricotta
  • ½ cups chopped parsley and basil (if you have chives, tarragon or other tender herbs, use those too)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
  • Zest of one lemon 
  • Salt and pepper

For the garlic breadcrumbs:

  • 1 tbsp butter 
  • ½ cup panko
  • 1 garlic clove, grated

Make the vodka sauce:

1. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5-7 minutes until translucent. 

2. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano and cook for 1-2 minutes, until softened and fragrant. 

3. Add the vodka and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, crushing the whole tomatoes with your hands as you add. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

4. Add the heavy cream, and blend the sauce with an immersion blender. Simmer for ten minutes more. If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer the puree to a blender or food processor and blend, then return to the pot to simmer. If you don’t have any of those things, the sauce will have more texture but will still be perfectly delicious. 

Make the herbed ricotta:

1. Using a rubber spatula, fold together all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Season to taste.

Make your garlic breadcrumbs:

1. Heat butter over medium heat in a 6” skillet until melted.  

2. Add the panko and grated garlic. Stir to combine, and toss frequently until panko is golden brown. 

3. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. 

Cook the pasta and assemble your bake:

1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. 

2. Cook the pasta according to al dente package directions, then drain and add to the vodka sauce. Stir thoroughly to coat. 

3. Transfer pasta and sauce to a 11X7 baking dish, and top with the sliced mozzarella. 

Note: When Janice tries to pass a ziti off as her own, she’s outed because the dish carries Carmela’s signature—basil leaves under the mozzarella. Don’t forget to place a basil leaf under each mozzarella round.  

4. Dollop the herbed ricotta between the mozzarella rounds. 

5. Bake for ten minutes, or until mozzarella is golden brown. Top with breadcrumbs and broil for 1-2 minutes. 

6. Allow the baked pasta to cool for about 5 minutes. Top with fresh basil.  BUON APPETITO.

How to Cook with Cream

how to cook with cream

Fat is a great way to add heft, flavor, and satisfaction to our food. Yes, fat! Don’t run away. For years, fat has been a threatening ingredient, one that people avoid. But, as any chef knows, meals get a lot of their flavor from fat. Imagine quesadillas without cheese or pad Thai without peanuts; these are not pretty thoughts. We’re on a mission to show you how to fearlessly use fat in your cooking. Today’s focus us how to cook with cream.

Cream can be a luxurious addition to dinner. If you pour your cream judiciously, you’ll wind up with a rich and flavorful dish that’s still fresh and bright. Though there are a few types of cream to use, today we’re focusing on heavy cream, with a spoonful of sour cream on top.

A Guide to Cooking with Cream

Creamy Salad Dressing

For most vinaigrettes, we drizzle olive oil into vinegar, or a mix of vinegar, mustard, and garlic. But oil doesn’t have to be the only fat used here. You can substitute cream for some of the oil in a vinaigrette to wind up with a more decadent drizzle for your greens. The dressing on our Crispy Chicken Chopped Salad uses buttermilk, but you could substitute cream to an even more delicious effect.

Creamy Sauces

Creamy pasta sauces are some of the best sauces out there. (No offense to tomato sauces.) One of our all-time favorites is pasta primavera. After sautéing some vegetables, we simply pour in heavy cream. On the heat, the cream reduces into a sauce in just a few minutes. Once you add fresh pasta to the skillet, you’ll find that the sauce coats each strand of spaghetti beautifully. But you don’t need the pasta. Cream also turns chicken, fennel, and tomatoes into a lusciously creamy dish of Chicken with Tomato, Fennel & Creamy Tarragon Sauce.

Creamy Soups

Much as in creamy pasta sauces, creamy soups need just a dash or two of cream to both thicken and enrich the broth. In our Corn & Vegetable Chowder, cream turns a sauté of corn and radishes into a bonafide, and yummy, soup. This is a place where you can add as little or as much cream as you’d like–it’s up to you how rich you’d like your soup to be.

Creamy Garnish

how to garnish with sour cream
Don’t skimp on the sour cream

When using cream for garnish, the best–and most obvious option–is sour cream. That’s what we turn to for our fajitas, as well as for dishes like Mushroom Stroganoff that can use a bright and creamy topping. And hey–for dessert, there’s always whipped cream, too.

Now that you know how to cook with cream, try our guides for cooking with nuts, butter, cheese, and oils.

What is Demi-Glace & How Is It Made?

Demi-glace is all about the bones. In Green Bay Wisconsin there’s a small team of sauciers doing it right: meet Bonewerks Culinarte.

Demi-glace is a classic element of French cuisine. This dark brown sauce is made by reducing broth until it’s thick and packed with flavor. It can be made from beef stock, chicken stock, or even vegetable stock. The traditional French version is made with veal. In the meat-based versions, the collagen from the bones provides a natural thickening agent and a rich, complex flavor.

At Bonewerks, they take a least 14 hours to produce their sauce. At every hour of the day, their kitchen is full of roasting bones and simmering vats of stock. After cooking for a few hours, the roasted bones turn into the most flavorful broth you can imagine. After a few more house, that stock has been reduced into thickened spoonfuls known as demi-glace.

After it’s done their sauce heads to stores, restaurants, and to Blue Apron. In Blue Apron recipes, Bonewerks demi-glace is a way to add flavor that makes quick soups, stews, and sauces taste like they simmered on the stove all afternoon (which, in a sense, they did. In Green Bay). Watch the video above to learn more about Bonewerks, and check out a few of our favorite recipes that get their flavor from demi-glace.

Homestyle Beef Medallions & Maple Pan Sauce with Mashed Potatoes & Garlic-Sautéed Kale

beef with demi-glace sauce
The sauce takes these beef medallions to the next level

Za’atar Beef & Carrots with Zucchini Rice & Lemon Labneh

beef flavored with demi-glace
This stir fry is spiced with Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend

Five Classic Italian Tomato Sauces to Add to Your Repertoire

Fresh Heirloom Italian Tomato Sauces
An Italian tomato sauce with fresh heirloom tomatoes

There’s more to tomato sauce than marinara. Wether you’re cooking up spaghetti or a bowl of rigatoni, these classic Italian tomato sauces will make a satisfying dinner.

Types & Names of Italian Sauces

First, there’s Puttanesca

Puttanesca Pasta Sauce

This classic Italian pasta dish has a racy name—puttanesca means whore—though records are a little murky as to how that name came to be. The flavor profile is tangy, salty and spicy. These note come from adding capers, olives, and sometimes anchovies to the tomato sauce. Our recipe gets its brininess from cod instead of anchovies.

Next up? Bolognese

Bolognese Pasta Sauce

This comforting sauce starts with browned meat, onion, and garlic. Simmered with tomatoes, the Bolognese meat sauce slowly begins to develop deep notes of flavor, from richness to sweetness. Aromatic basil, the quintessential finishing touch for any Italian masterpiece, adds a bright touch.

When you branch out to Alla Norma, you’re in eggplant territory.

Pasta Alla Norma Eggplant and Tomato Sauce

Norma is the name of a famous opera written in the early 19th century by composer Vincenzo Bellini. Because Bellini was native to Cantania, Sicily, it’s believed that a chef in Cantania named his eggplant and pasta dish after the opera to honor the work of art and its grandeur. Pasta alla Norma always features eggplant, a vegetable found in many popular Sicilian dishes, and some form of ricotta cheese.

Adding Meatballs makes sauce meaty, spicy, and hearty.

Italian Marinara Sauce with Meatballs

Make marinara way more interesting by topping your spaghetti and sauce with meatballs. The garlic, oregano, and celery flavors burst out of the savory meatballs and flavor your sauce as the two simmer together for ten minutes before serving. Then, in every bite, you get an umami-rich assortment of spaghetti, meat, tomato, and Parmesan cheese.

You know life is good when there’s Fresh Heirloom Tomato Sauce.

We adore summer’s gorgeous tomatoes, so we created a simple sauce with lots of garlic and a little basil. When you can really taste the tomatoes, there’s nothing in the world that’s better to put on your pasta than this easy sauté, where the heirlooms burst to create a sauce that’s so far from marinara despite having the same ingredients!

The best news is that you don’t have to choose just one. All of these Italian Tomato sauces are easy to make at home for a Mediterranean feast.

Brooklyn Delhi Locks the Flavors of Home into a Jar

Chitra Agrawal’s love for achaar stretches back years. Before she became the co-owner and culinary brain behind Brooklyn Delhi, she used to return from trips to India with a suitcase full of the tangy, briny, complex condiment. 

jarred tomato chutney

The term achaar comes from the Hindi word for ‘pickle,’ and in India dozens of varieties are available. The team at Brooklyn Delhi describes achaar as “India’s equivalent to Sriracha, but without all the sugar.” Much like Sriracha, achaar is best eaten on… everything! Traditionally it’s served with rice, dal, curries, or yogurt, but Agrawal loves her savory tomato achaar recipe on everything from burgers to eggs. 

The Brooklyn Delhi recipes were finely tuned to please a variety of palates. As a chef and cookbook author, Chitra Agrawal has high standards. The recipes she developed and markets along with her husband Ben Garthus are designed to be eaten by the spoonful; the spice level is slightly toned down when compared the classical Indian sauce that serves as an inspiration. The savory tomato achaar is complex and tangy, made with local tomatoes, tamarind, and a blend of spices for that perfect balance between acidic, sweet, and hot. The Brooklyn Delhi line now includes 10 sauces, including two achaars, jarred curries, a hot sauce, and more. 

Since their official launch in 2014, all of Agrawal and Garthus’s hard work has paid off. Their products have been recognized locally and nationally, as winners of the 2019 Sofi Award, the 2016 Good Food Award, the 2018 Frontburner Competition, and more. Their condiments are available to order online, and the tomato achaar is proudly featured in nationally shipped Blue Apron boxes, labeled as savory tomato chutney. 

On Brooklyn Delhi’s website, super fans of the super savory condiments share tips for how to use it, ranging from dipping dumplings into it to plopping it onto nachos. The Blue Apron test kitchen sends the savory tomato Achaar. These are some of our favorite ways to use it: 

Savory Tomato Chutney in Blue Apron Recipes 

Beef Burgers & Tomato Chutney Mayo

Beef Burgers with Tomato Chutney Mayo

Naan Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Naan Grilled Cheese with Tomato Chutney

Indian-Style Paneer & Creamy Tomato Curry

Paneer in Creamy Tomato Curry

Rethinking Ketchup with True Made Foods

It’s no secret that the modern diet is full of way too much sugar. Take a peek at a few ingredient lists and you’ll find sugar lurking in the most unexpected places: it’s in your broth, it’s in your beans, it’s in your spaghetti sauce. This was partially what drove Abe Kamarck to create True Made Foods. 

Abe Kamarck of True Made Foods
Abe Kamarck at work

As a parent, Abe Kamarck felt he was losing the battle against ketchup. As much as he insisted “it’s like putting candy on a burger,” his kids were clear about what they wanted. Kamarck knew that squash and other vegetables could lend naturally occurring sweetness to dinner, so why couldn’t they work for condiments? 

To answer that question, he first needed to find the perfect culinary mind to team up with. He found that partner in Ed Mitchell. Mitchell is a tried and true Southern barbecue pitmaster, you might have seen him in the Netflix documentary Cooked, or read about his work in Michael Pollan’s Cooked: A Story of Transformation. At first, this partnership could sound like an odd pairing. Mitchell has dedicated his professional life not only to barbecue, but also to keeping Southern traditions alive. Kamarck was hoping to shake things up, question traditions, and turn the condiment industry on its head. 

pitmaster Ed Mitchell
Ed Mitchell and his son Ryan Mitchell

Luckily, the things that had in common were far greater than their differences. Both men are veterans, and both are fathers. They have a shared strong sense of loyalty, and are dedicated to serving their communities and families. By working together, Mitchell and Kamarck were able to create a product that would meet Kamarck’s high-standards for health and family, all while honoring Mitchell’s commitment to barbecue and quality flavors. 

True Made Foods BBQ sauce
Pitmaster-approved barbecue sauce

Today, True Made Foods makes nine different condiments. Reading the ingredient list on the back of a bottle of a True Made Foods product is like taking a breath of fresh air. The bottle lists tomato paste, butternut squash, and carrots; there isn’t a single item you couldn’t find at the grocery store. Conventional ketchup has 6.4 grams of sugar per ounce, while True Made Foods’s low-sugar ketchup has just 1.6 grams per ounce. Most importantly, Abe Kamarck’s kids love it.

Never Waste a Scallion: Make Scallion Jam

Oh, the possibilites

Spring has sprung, and so have the alliums. Whether you’re supporting your local CSA, or you’ve been picking up that new hobby of re-growing scallions on your windowsill, there’s a good chance you’re about to have a LOT of green onions on your hands.

Scallions are the perfect garnish— they’re crisp and verdant, with a slight garlicky tang. Unfortunately, they don’t last very long on their own. By cooking them and packing them with oil, you can extend their shelf life by a few weeks. 

This recipe is a riff on ginger-scallion sauce, a favorite condiment of Cantonese cuisine. By cooking down the scallions, the sharp hallmark tang of allium decreases and is replaced by a mellow caramelized flavor profile. Its aromatic, barely sweet garlicky flavor is the perfect topping for noodles, roasted poultry, or maybe just eating straight out of the jar.

scallion jam on noodles
Perfect for a bowl of noodles

Recipe: Scallion Jam

  • 2-3 bunches scallions, green onions, or leeks
  • 1-2 cups oil with a high smoke point (see note)

1. Thinly slice or quickly food process your greens until everything is either finely chopped or in less than 1/4 inch pieces. 

2. Add half the chopped greens and half of the oil to a medium pan. Choose a neutral oil like canola, sunflower, or peanut oil. Olive oil isn’t good for this recipe, unless you dilute it to a 50/50 ratio to mellow out the flavor and increase the heat tolerance.

3. Heat on medium until the oil starts to bubble. Carefully stir, making sure no greens are sticking to the bottom, then add the remaining greens. Reduce the heat to low (so they’re just barely sizzling), and cook about 10 minutes.

4. Stir to combine, then gradually add the remaining oil to coat and cover the greens. Reheat on high until bubbling and cook for 15 minutes, or until the greens have broken down and are an “army green” color. 

5. Let the mixture cool, then transfer to heat-safe jars.

The Secret of Sauce: Pairing Pasta and Wine

Pairing wine with pasta dishes is as easy as it is delicious. The first rule to remember about pairing wine with pasta: Forget about the pasta— it’s the sauce that drives your pairing decision. The second rule? Red with red, white with white. Here’s why:

feb 18 blog photo


Red wine with red sauce That same tanginess you taste in tomato sauce, natural acidity, is also present in grapes and the red wines made from them. When you pair a red sauce with a red wine, you’re also matching body, or weight—how the wine and sauce both feel in your mouth. Since tomato sauce is thick and dense, it matches more closely with the richness of many red wines.

Classic pairing: Pasta & Pork Bolognese with Sangiovese, Nebbiolo or Aglianico White wine with white sauce Whether a pasta dish is swimming in cream (Alfredo) or is topped with veggies (primavera) and dressed lightly with olive oil or butter, it’s best to uncork a bright, fresh white wine. The creamier the dish, the more a white wine’s acidity helps cut that richness and refresh your palate. With a lighter dish, the wine’s acidity helps the flavor of the veggies stand out—and since the wine has a lighter body, it won’t overpower or mask the food. Classic pairing: Shrimp & Pesto Fettuccine with Pinot Grigio, Fiano or Vermentino Sign up for Blue Apron Wine and save $25 on your first order! Click here.

How to Make a Pan Sauce for Your Steak

The main factors for making a perfect steak happen long before you think about sauce. You want a flavorful cut of meat, a hot pan, and a good pinch of salt. Often, a squeeze of lemon is all the sauce a steak needs. But other times, a simple pan sauce can take your steak up a notch, to the gourmet regions of restaurant-style cooking.Hanger Steak with Pan Sauce

A pan sauce consists of a handful of ingredients, simmered down, then poured atop your (rested) meat. More important than any one particular ingredient in your pan sauce is the pan in which you make that sauce, also known as the same pan in which you seared the steak. By reusing the pan, you not only save on dishes, but you also allow your sauce to pick up the tasty browned bits left in the pan after cooking meat. They’re known as sucs, and they add previously unknown levels of flavor to your sauce.

Hanger Steak with Pan Sauce3Hanger Steak with Pan Sauce2

In many of our recipes, we’ll actually finish the side dish we’re making–like the purple potatoes above–as we throw together the sauce. Here’s how we make the simplest, most delicious pan sauces around:

  1. After you’ve finished cooking your steak (or chicken), remove the meat to a plate, and set aside. You can tent the meat with a small piece of foil, or just leave it uncovered. The meat will get juicier as it rests.
  2. If there’s plenty of fat leftover from cooking the meat, you’re good. If there’s not much, add a drizzle of olive oil. If there’s a ton, drain some off so you’ve got just enough left to film the surface.
  3. Add aromatics. Typically, we use shallots, but other good options are: minced red or yellow onion, garlic, leeks, scallions, or spring specialties like green garlic or ramps. Sauté, then pour in a bit of vinegar or citrus juice.
  4. Let the liquid bubble down, stirring to deglaze the pan (picking up all the sucs). 
  5. Season with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs or chives.
  6. Pour over your meat or chicken, and enjoy your meal!


Mole: A Labor of Love…

…or not.

Traditionally, mole takes all day to make. More than all day, even. Recipes for mole reveal steps upon steps upon steps, toast this and grind that and put it all together in a haunting sauce with infinite variations. In other words, making mole is usually a labor of love.

Mole, translated from the Aztec word molli, meaning mixture or concoction, is a traditional Mexican sauce made from a wide variety of ingredients. For our most recent version, you combine garlic, powdered chilies, cinnamon, smoked paprika, tomato and a hint of dark chocolate to make a deep, decadent sauce with a light heat, smokiness and velvety finish. Our quick method lets the sauce go from a flavor seen mainly at celebrations to one that you could eat any day.

We’ve also served mole with enchiladas and quinoa-stuffed peppers. 

Have you ever made mole?

Dinner Conversation: Socarrat, Sriracha and DIY Hot Sauce

Each week, we’ll round up posts, videos, and even playlists to entertain you while you cook and provide conversation fodder for tonight’s Blue Apron dinner. Here’s what we’re reading and watching today:

socarrat and beyond – bon appetit

stump the cook – NPR

  • The weirdest combinations of ingredients are on display on this tumblr. NPR listeners uploaded imagines from their pantries and on-air chefs are going to try to create edible dishes from the arrays.  Are their collections stranger than the contents of your cabinets?

a short history of sriracha – L.A. Times

diy hot sauce – medium

grub and graffitti- first we feast

  • These food-inspired murals have a street-art take on food and drink from barbecue to ginger ale. Our neighborhood in Brooklyn boasts some pretty spectacular graffiti, so we were pleased to see our favorite pastime–eating–rendered in graffiti style.