BIG NEWS: announcing my NEW COOKBOOK!

plus, the exclusive recipe of the week: cheesy shells alla sausage vodka

let’s cut right to the chase: my email header was misleading.

about 16 months ago, following the success of my first cookbook, and following the birth of my first child, i decided to write a second cookbook that reflected the kind of cooking that i was now doing as a busy, working mom. i worked my ass off for two months on a proposal for a cookbook called what to cook when you don’t feel like cooking - a cookbook in which every single recipe was a complete meal that came together in under an hour, dirtied minimal dishes, required few ingredients, but absolutely ruled.

no flipping around from the “chicken” chapter to the “veggie” chapter and wondering if everything would taste good together. no wasting time planning every single meal. it was a book that planned your entire meal for you, in just one recipe.

the recipes were gold. see for yourself. if you make my recipes regularly, you’ll recognize several of these:

several publishers immediately expressed interest. but then, one by one, they each backed out for the same reason - i didn’t have a strong enough “social reach”. wtf does that mean? basically, i didn’t have enough instagram followers (I never spent any time on IG back then and only had about 4k followers). yup. gotta be an *influencer* to get a book deal these days.

it’s now been almost one year since i officially threw in the towel on what to cook, but about a month ago, while donating a box full of cookbooks that i hadn’t looked at in 5 years to goodwill, i had a lightbulb moment:

what if i turned what to cook into a “non-cookbook” weekly email blast instead? one recipe per week, delivered when you most desperately need inspiration to cook (monday morning), with encouragement from a ton of people who are all also cooking the same recipe THAT week?!

when i get a new cookbook, i flip through it, bookmarking the pages i want to try, and then inevitably, the cookbook ends up on the shelf, collecting dust. you might even have a copy of my first book, just married, collecting dust on your shelf right now, despite the fact that you were so excited to make my harissa short ribs and sesame-soy poke bowls when you first flipped through it! we are busy people. we don’t have time to keep track of all the recipes we want to cook.

so let me pop into your inbox bright and early every single monday morning, and tell you exactly what to cook.

what to cook when you don’t feel like cooking is a living, breathing, weekly non-cookbook email blast. i encourage you to make each recipe that week, don’t put it off. cook it even when you don’t feel like cooking. i promise it’ll be quick and painless. it might even be fun.

btw - you don’t have to worry about searching through your inbox to find previous recipes, it all lives on the website.

so listen, i’m sorry i duped you with my email header, but i promise, this is way, way, way better than scoring a book deal.

what to cook can change with the seasons, with my subscribers’ feedback, and with our collective mood. sometimes we’ll be in the mood for super healthy food (i c u january), sometimes we’ll want to eat our weight in giant pasta shells (i c u tomorrow night). you can leave comments to warn other parents not to add extra red pepper flakes to the pasta, because your toddler refused to eat it. you can share how you swapped in shrimp for scallops, or how you amended a recipe to accommodate uncle tony’s gout. a cookbook collecting dust on a shelf doesn’t allow for any of that.

it’s going to be awesome, and i hope you’ll support my independent publishing and give it a shot for $5/month ($1/recipe) or $35 annually (the price of a cookbook). if you love my meatballs with orzotto, or the one-pan cheesy cajun chicken and rice from last week’s blast, or my one-pot southern squash casserole pasta, you’re going to be very happy here.

ps: my kitchen table crew is being subscribed for free. you guys can support me by spreading the word:

Share What To Cook When You Don't Feel Like Cooking

or by giving what to cook as a gift this holiday season. it’s truly a gift for everyone - because it’s a solution for people who hate to cook, and it’s a treat for people who love to cook.

it’s a great teacher gift, gift for your mom, gift for your co-worker who loves my recipes but thinks mattis needs a haircut, gift for your second cousin who loves to cook but is a busy working mama… you get it. it’s a great gift for everyone on your list.

Give a gift subscription

see you next week for one-skillet spinach and artichoke chicken pot pie. yep. i’m doing that. just in time for christmas. click here to download a cute printable gift card that you can put under the tree / beside the menorah.

lots of love, caroline

and now, the first official recipe of what to cook when you don’t feel like cooking.

cheesy shells alla sausage vodka

Serves 4 to 6 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large onion, finely diced

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced

  • Zest of 1 lemon

  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)

  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage

  • 1/2 cup vodka

  • 1 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes

  • 1 (14 ounce) can tomato sauce

  • ½ cup heavy cream

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • Kosher salt

  • Red pepper flakes

  • 12 ounces jumbo shells

  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced 

Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large ovenproof heavy bottomed pan or pot (such as a Dutch oven, braiser, or any stainless steel pot) over medium-high heat. Sauté 1 large, finely diced onion until translucent, then add in 6 minced garlic cloves, the zest of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon minced rosemary, and 2 teaspoons dried oregano and cook for 1 more minute.

Add 1 pound of Italian sausage meat and cook until no longer pink, breaking it up with a spoon into tiny crumbles - we don’t want any big chunks!

Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup vodka (yes - vodka! don’t worry, your pasta isn’t going to taste like vodka!) for about 1 minute. What the hell does deglaze mean? Basically, just pour in the vodka and use that liquid to scrape the bottom of the pot and get any bits that are stuck to the pan unstuck - aka, “deglazed”. It’ll sizzle and a lot of the vodka will “burn off” aka evaporate. The booziness evaporates quickly (alcohol evaporates faster than water!), so yes, you can serve this to your kids.

Stir in one 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes and one 14-ounce can tomato sauce, crushing each tomato with your hands before you add it to the pot. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon sugar and simmer the sauce over medium heat until thickened and no longer watery, about 30 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and red pepper flakes (if desired). I can’t tell ya exactly how much salt to use because that’ll depend on what sausage and tomatoes you use! But I bet it’ll be about 1 teaspoon. Keep tasting and seasoning until it’s perfect.

Remove sauce from heat.

Meanwhile, cook 12 ounces of jumbo shells until al dente. Quickly drain in a colander, but throw it into the pasta sauce before all of the pasta water drains off of it. Never, ever, ever rinse this (or any!) pasta. The starch on the noodles helps thicken the sauce and make it silky, and helps the sauce stick to the noodles!

Stir the shells and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan into the sauce, taking care to peel apart any shells that have gotten stuck together, and to fill each shell with sauce. Smooth the pasta into an even layer, then sprinkle 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese over top.

Now we need to melt that cheese, so cover the pot with a lid, and place the pot over medium-low heat. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Serve with more parm and fresh basil.


  • Need some greens? Kale is the answer. Strip the ribs out of two bunches of kale, chop it up finely, and wash it. Add it to the pot two minutes after you add the sausage.

  • Dairy-free? Use (canned) coconut milk instead. Use VioLife or another Parmesan alternative, and your favorite melty dairy-free cheese on top in place of the mozzarella.

  • Gluten-free? I developed a zoodles alla vodka recipe for Mealthy when I worked there, and it was DELISH.

  • Booze a problem? Skip the vodka. Totally fine to just omit it.

  • Don’t want to make a massive pasta dish? Just toss as much pasta as you want with as much sausage ragu as you want. Dig in.

  • Freeze leftover ragu by allowing it to cool completely, then freezing in quart ziplocs.

  • You can assemble this dish entirely ahead of time, then bake it up to three days later. After you sprinkle the mozzarella on top, let the dish cool completely, then refrigerate. When you’re ready to eat, bake at 350°F for 30 minutes covered, then 5 minutes uncovered.

  • Vegetarian? Omit the sausage! Will be totally fine without it.

  • Chicken sausage (the raw kind in a tube, not the pre-cooked links) is a great sub for the pork sausage.