February 24, 2011
One of the cookbooks I got for Christmas was The Best 30-Minute Recipe. I haven't paid it as much attention yet as I have some of the other ones, but recently I found myself in need of something that could be tossed together quickly. I'm always wary about recipes or cookbooks advertising "30 minutes or less," because often that time doesn't count necessary prep or is based on someone being an expert chef, but the ATK ones I'd made in the past have generally been pretty fast, even when not quite "on the table in 30."
The recipe that most caught my eye right off the bat was for Skillet Lasagna. I read over that recipe, and it looked pretty good, but there were a couple points I didn't like about it. The version published in The Best 30-Minute Recipe looked to be under-seasoned, in my opinion. I suppose this was to accommodate for one of the other ingredient choices, namely the recommendation of using a jar of pasta sauce in place of making a sauce. Commercial pasta sauces generally have some seasoning, after all. Still, I'd rather risk over-seasoning than under-seasoning, and as far as I'm concerned, it's difficult for a dish to have too much garlic. So, I bumped up the amount of garlic and red pepper flakes from the amounts suggested in the recipe and added some oregano to the mix.
I also went with a type of pasta other than that suggested in the recipe. The published recipe suggested just breaking up some lasagna noodles, but I decided to just go with mafalda pasta. Mafalda looks like miniature lasagna noodles anyhow, plus it's thinner than lasagna noodles, so it would cook quicker. I also ended up bumping up the amount of pasta a bit, and rather than go with a "meatloaf mix" of ground beef, pork and veal (the local stores never have ground veal), I just went with the ground beef this time around.
My take on the recipe cooked up great. It was richly-flavored and completely satisfying. And best of all, from start to finish, it took slightly under 30 minutes to make. The changes I made wouldn't have had any impact on time - if anything, adding a couple ingredients would probably have added a tiny bit of time - so the original recipe can also clearly be made in 30 minutes or less.
Though inspired by the recipe from the book, the amount of changes I made makes the version detailed below very much mine. I think the recipe as-written would also be quite good, mind you; this one just better reflects my and Juli's tastes. Still, credit where due.
yield = 4 servings
1 pound 85% lean ground beef
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
10 ounces mafalda noodles
1 jar (26 ounce) pasta sauce with mushrooms
2 cups water
1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Cook the beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat until thoroughly browned. Drain off most of the grease, then add the garlic, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook until the garlic is fragrant (30-45 seconds).
Add the pasta to the skillet, then pour in the marinara and water. Stir to mix all the ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a strong simmer and cook until the noodles are tender (about 15 minutes), stirring often.
Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in 1/2 cup of the Italian cheese blend. Dot heaping tablespoons of the ricotta over the skillet mixture and sprinkle with the remaining shredded cheese and the basil. Cover and let stand until the cheeses melt (about 3 minutes), then serve.
We went with a sauce with mushrooms (Barilla Mushroom and Garlic Sauce), but the dish would be fine with a plain marinara sauce. If you'd like things a bit spicier, you could up the amount of crushed red pepper to a full teaspoon. This recipe would also be good using half ground beef and half sweet Italian sausage.