Cooking w/Cooks Illus: #2 of a series

(Yeah, #2. I’m going to need to write up the French toast experiments.)

My sister (the one living in Oly, for those keeping track) bought me a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated magazine for Christmas. I now have two copies on hand, and I’ve tried two recipes. In the interest of my own record-keeping, and in case anyone’s curious, I’m going to keep track here of my experiments with their recipes.

Yesterday I made Baked Ziti. (Yes, I know: you have to be a member. They’re fussy that way. Email me if you want more details, or hit your local library.) It called for including a cream sauce, using cottage cheese in place of ricotta, cutting the mozzerella into chunks, and undercooking the pasta. Set up was reasonably simple: notably, it helps to cut up the cheese before doing any other step. I didn’t have any fresh basil, so I used up some old dried stuff. Probably not the best call, but you use what you’ve got.

Also, I need a 12-inch skillet; I had to use the cast-iron pan for the tomato sauce, and IIRC you’re really not supposed to cook tomatoes in cast iron.

The initial cooking stage took about a half hour. I was able to do a bit of in-progress cleanup while things simmered, which was nice. I had a hard time eyeballing which pan to use, and ended up having to clean up two pans — the roasting pan was too big, but I didn’t figure that out until I’d already poured in the pasta+cheese. I had to add 5 minutes to the cooking time, but that’s pretty standard for our oven.

How’d it turn out? Pretty decent, but not spectacular. Bright tomato flavor with nibs of cheese, and a hefty feel. I think the pasta was too mushy, and if I do this one again, I’ll undercook the pasta even more (?!). (The general idea is to have it mostly cook in the oven with the sauce.) It could use a little more spice, too: fresh basil if I can, more salt/pepper, and maybe even one more clove of garlic. (Shockingly, 5 cloves’ worth just disappears into the flavor of the dish.) I might add more of the tomato sauce to the cheese/pasta mixture, to get more of that flavor farther down into the dish.

It calls for 20 minutes of cooling before serving, but I think that was about 5 minutes too long, because it was starting to get cold when we ate it.

The pan I did use would’ve been easier to clean if I’d greased it; cleanup was a bit of a bear, with two rounds of soaking, although the plates cleaned up easily enough.

It made enough for us to have dinner (with salad!), plus 5 servings of leftovers. I had some for lunch today: it’s even a bit more bland on the reheat, and needs some stirring to get hot all the way through. But still: very savory, and I’ll eat anything that features globs of cheese. 🙂