The Food Issue 2021: Taking and Baking

Otaku ramen kit

Otaku Ramen Kits

$28-$40

otakuramen.com

Ramen is best slurped when piping hot, so ordering it as takeout doesn’t always hit the spot. Otaku Ramen’s kits (which feed two people apiece) are the answer. We tried two dishes — the tantanmen and the shiitake maz and cheese. The ingredients were super fresh, and we liked being able to control how much spice we added. Each kit comes with a QR code you can use to pull up instructions on your phone, including a how-to video. Just boil the noodles, sauté your toppings, heat up your broth and slice an egg, and you’ll be in slurpy heaven. I may have yelled “Otaku to the rescue!” at my husband on a particularly dreary day. ERICA CICCARONE

The Food Issue 2021: Taking and Baking

Alfresco Pasta’s chicken-and-spinach cannelloni

Alfresco Pasta’s Chicken-and-Spinach Cannelloni

$10

alfrescopasta.com

Founded in Nashville 21 years ago this spring, Alfresco Pasta can be found in locations all around the city and beyond — including at various farmers markets, Tower Market and both Turnip Truck locations. Made with fresh ingredients (many of them sourced from local farms), Alfresco’s lasagna Bolognese, butternut squash ravioli and adorable heart-shaped Italian cheese ravioli are all primo. But my personal favorite is the take-and-bake chicken-and-spinach cannelloni, a divine concoction of meat, cheese, veggies and big cylindrical pasta tubes that, along with a homemade salad, makes a great dinner for two (or, perhaps, dinner for one extraordinarily hungry alt-weekly editor-in-chief). The instructions call for 20 to 40 minutes in a 350-degree oven, but in order to get the cheese on top nice and melty, you’ll probably want to bump the temp up a smidge or leave it in for closer to 45. D. PATRICK RODGERS

Edley’s Bar-B-Que Shepherd’s Pie

$25

edleysbbq.com

Dishes were scattered across every surface in the kitchen of the house my girlfriend and I just moved into, and sustenance that we could get by just throwing a pre-filled catering pan in the oven was a godsend. Our salvation this rainy night: Edley’s twist on the classic shepherd’s pie, which substitutes succulent, smoked-to-perfection pulled pork in place of the traditional ground meat cooked in gravy. Since ovens vary, it took bumping ours up from the recommended 350 degrees to 400 for the final few minutes to get the shredded cheese and mashed potatoes over the meat and vegetables to turn a perfect golden-brown. Each pie is good for about six portions. The only thing that might make it better is adding one more flavor via a side of baked beans, since there’s no herbaceous gravy inside. Aw shucks, guess we’ll have to try it again! STEPHEN TRAGESER

Copper Kettle’s Pot Roast, Green Beans and Sweet Potato Casserole

$40

copperkettlenashville.com

Copper Kettle is a tried-and-true comfort-food staple for Nashvillians. Still, I rarely find myself thinking about ordering it in advance. But it turns out a random Tuesday night in pandemic times is actually a perfect time for an all-out pot roast dinner with all the fixins — I was immediately transported to simpler times with family gatherings and home-cooked casseroles. The option to order a main dish and sides (enough for four to six people) is like having an in-home meat-and-three, and I loved being able to utilize my favorite ’70s-era casserole dishes. When I pulled the pot roast and veggies, sweet potato casserole and fresh rolls out of the oven, I felt a little like Mary Tyler Moore. My takeaway: Ordering take-and-bake dinners is less of a substitute for a night out and more of an inspiration to keep preparing meals this way, even after lockdown ends. Here’s hoping the take-and-bake phenomenon replaces food-truck overkill post-pandemia. LAURA HUTSON HUNTER

The Food Issue 2021: Taking and Baking

Mangia’s lemon rosemary chicken with caesar salad and focaccia Bread

Mangia’s Lemon Rosemary Chicken With Caesar Salad and Focaccia Bread

$24-$49

mangianashville.com

Mangia’s lemon rosemary chicken is tasty, its skin crisping up nicely after a little stretch in your home kitchen’s oven (20 minutes at 425 degrees). Don’t forget to pour the juices from the pan over the chicken — and then dip your bread in them. The flavors are subtle, the lemon not overwhelmingly citrusy, and permeate every bite of the chicken. This, paired with the focaccia of my dreams, filled my house with the sweet aroma of rosemary. If you ever need to fool guests into thinking you’ve done the work yourself, this one definitely carries that from-scratch smell. Monster croutons are piled high on Mangia’s Caesar salad, which is topped with a tangy Caesar dressing.  The portion we bought was for two ($24), but it could easily serve three or four adults. A thick, creamy, pistachio-dipped cannoli, which is rich but not too sweet, finished off our feast. ELIZABETH JONES

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