Lisa Erickson mug

The Refrigerator—the final frontier


To boldly go where no one has gone before. I loved watching Star Trek in my late teens and early twenties. It was a nightly routine for a few years. Lately, I feel like Jean Luc Picard.  I preferred the newer crew of The Next Generation on Star Trek to Captain Kirk and Spock version. It was modern and sort of realistic. Plus, Picard was a confident French guy—what’s there not to like?

Captain Picard wanted his crew to follow his orders and fearlessly go to new places. I have been asking my family to do the same. With COVID, I am shopping much less and trying to use what I have on hand. In the process I have been creating some fantastic new meals I will be making long after the lockdown ends.

My family was a little worried when I told them I was making Italian Rice Bowls. They were like, what? Rice? What about pasta?  Italians eat rice, I said, and so can you. Now they are asking me to make it again. 

I really like meatballs, rice, broccoli, basil, and Parmesan cheese. I never thought I could come up with a way for them to all work in the same bowl. Feel free to change the veggies or cheese. Use what you have on hand. Make it work—conquer the final frontier—your refrigerator. Be bold. 

Italian Rice Bowls

Serves 4

4 cups hot white rice (Italians are known for their black rice; use it if you can find it)

1-pound ground turkey or chicken

2 slices day-old or stale bread, torn into pieces

½ cup granulated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup whole milk

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp onion powder

Black pepper to taste

5 Tbsp. butter, divided

1 onion, sliced thin

2 cups broccoli florets

1  6 oz. jar pesto

½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup fresh chopped basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the meat, bread, granulated Parmesan, milk, garlic, onion powder, and pepper. Mix until bread and cheese are incorporated. Form meat into 12  1-2” balls and place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through and golden brown on top. Meatballs will be soft but set. 

While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the veggies. In a large fry pan, melt 1 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until slightly tender. Add broccoli and cook until broccoli is tender; about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and keep warm. Melt remaining butter in the empty pan, then add the pesto over low heat. Swirl together. Remove from heat.

Divide rice among bowls. Place 3 meatballs on the side of each bowl. Add the warm veggies and drizzle with the butter/pesto mixture. Sprinkle each bowl with the grated Parmesan cheese and chopped basil. Serve immediately. 

Lisa Erickson is a food columnist who loves adventure and food. You can find more recipes at or email her at


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