MoM Feb. ‘09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: The Spaghetti Sauces

As with all magazines and cookbooks, no matter how great they usually tend to be, there’s always a bomb. I’m not going to lie — I had a couple of those in our latest Magazine of the Month, Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2008.

So today we’re going to take a look at both of the spaghetti sauces provided in the mag — one was fantastic while the other, as noble as it attempted to be, pretty much bombed in my house.

Let’s start with the bad news.

Simple Italian Style Meat Sauce (aka Bolognese)

I was pretty excited about this one because a few months ago I was actually having a craving for bolognese. The American and Italian versions differ greatly, and the one I liked definitely smacked of the American version – bulky, blunt vegetables and chunks of meat. Since I’m American, I quite liked it.

ATK came up with their shortcut Italian version, where the meat, vegetables and tomatoes were all blended together smoothly. Everything happened in the food processor then was cooked up in a pan.

Instead of taking you through step by step, I put together a little photo montage of the process.


So you can probably get a good idea of what this is going to be like, texturally. The only vegetables inserted were mushrooms, the sauce was slick rather than chunky, which was nice, but I really didn’t care for the flavor. Overall, it just lacked punch. It was a nice simple sauce.

Simple Italian-Style Meat Sauce

Granted, most Italian food is very simple like what this sauce turned out to be, but this just wasn’t my favorite. When I order pizza, I love ordering a ton of stuff. I like cheese, all kinds of meat, tons of crunchy vegetables – the works. That may be why I didn’t go for this sauce all that well, because it was very smooth, and there wasn’t a lot happening. It said “simple” in the title, and that’s what it was. So, for what it meant to deliver, it definitely did that, but I’m going to stick with Wolfgang Puck’s Chicken Bolognese.

Weeknight Cooking Dish: B
Overall Dinner Dish: D

Now, as Padma says, for the good news.

Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce

I made this last night, and holy s**t, was this good.

ATK - Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce
Photo courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

In all fairness, I expected this to be horrible. Like the test cook who worked up this recipe, my experiences with creamy tomato sauces were always a huge disappointment. In fact, the only reason I even cooked this was so I could review it. I expected it to tank. I was wrong.

Onion, Prosciutto, Bay Leaf

Prosciutto, onion and a bay leaf are sauteed together in a pan with red pepper flakes.

That’s right. I said prosciutto.

AwK Boxer Shorts Advisory!

Oh yeah.

Tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes are added, cooking for a couple of minutes until the mixture darkens.

Sun Dried Tomatoes & Tomato Paste

Garlic is added and allowed to cook for 30 seconds, then the rest goes in to simmer: white wine, crushed tomatoes, and other delicious things.

In the end, a little more white wine and crushed tomatoes are added, along with the pasta, a bit of the salted pasta water, cream and fresh basil.

Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce

This pasta was amazing. Packed with flavor and easy to make, I am a fan of this dish. I would give it high marks, except the cream isn’t the healthiest. That’s the only thing I can think of that really brings the rating down. Everything else knocked my socks off.

Weeknight Cooking Dish: A-
Overall Dinner Dish: A-

Best of America's Test Kitchen

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