I’ve bought a lot of cookbooks where the majority of recipes go untouched, and I know I’m not alone. I’ve never met a cookbook that I was 100% sold on.
Shocked that it’s some 30-Minute thing? How about if I tell you it’s from America’s Test Kitchen?
Oh yeah, baby.
I scouted around for a group who was cooking this book, and I haven’t found one. If there was one, I would join it in a heartbeat. Heck, I’d even start one. (Anyone want to join?)
30-Minute Recipes have a bad track record. Most dishes just aren’t that good or require too many “storebought” components that make you feel as if you should have just ordered take out. I confess, this book does have a little bit of that, but not a ton. It’s minimal effort with delicious results and still retains ATK’s feel, including recipe explanations, descriptions and taste tests. And, even if I feel a little stuck up about adding a jarred sauce or pre-roasted chicken, I remember this is America’s Test Kitchen and they know what they’re doing. Taste tests have been done on a lot of their “shortcut ingredients” like supermarket tomato sauces. Their highest scored was “Patsy’s Marinara” but our money-conscious web admin was at the grocery store with me and said, “$7.50? For a jar of sauce? What about that one? (points) It’s $2.00! They’re all the same thing!” According to ATK they aren’t all the same, but we went with the number two taste test selection, Bertolli Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce for $2.50 out of principle.
Here’s their Skillet Lasagna. A mixture of beef and pork go into a pan with garlic and broken lasagna noodles and is topped with marinara and water. The mixture cooks for 20 minutes to allow the noodle pieces to absorb water and soften, then is topped with dolloped ricotta, Parmesan and fresh basil.
Yeah, it really is that easy.
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, The Best 30-Minute Recipe
1 pound meatloaf mix
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and ground black pepper
6 ounces curly-edged lasagna noodles (8 noodles), broken into 2-inch pieces
1 (26 ounce) jar tomato sauce, such as marinara (about 3 cups)
2 cups water
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
Cook meat in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat, breaking it into pieces with a wooden spoon, until fat renders, 3 – 5 minutes. Drain meat and return it to skillet.
Stir in garlic, pepper flakes and 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Sprinkle broken noodles into skillet, then pour in tomato sauce and water over top. Cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until noodles are tender, about 20 minutes.
Off heat, stir in half of mozzarella and half of Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Dot heaping tablespoons of ricotta over noodles, then sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover and let stand off heat until cheeses melt, 3 – 5 minutes. Sprinkle with basil before serving.
I give this dish a strong A grade for flavor and ease. And, if you want to mix it up a bit a week or two later, the book provides a variation with sausage and red bell pepper. That’s something else I really like about the book, is that they do provide a lot of options for switching things up.