Sunday, July 31, 2011

Skillet Ziti - From America's Test Kitchen to Mine

A few weeks ago, I caught this current episode on America's Test Kitchen, and so I bookmarked the recipe.  Fast forward to last week, when I had come home from work and my sister-in-law was cooling off from the Missouri heat visiting us in California.  My husband wasn't going to be home for dinner, and the two of us preferred to stay home.  Bingo!  I have lots of fresh basil and zucchini in our backyard.  I had just purchased a refrigerator staple of fresh mozzarella.  I tend to hoard pasta, and while I didn't have ziti pasta, I had a bag of rigatoni. Close enough!


I try to keep at least one can, each, of tomato products in my pantry.  Fortunately, I had crushed tomato. The rest of the ingredients are six cloves of garlic, red pepper flakes, water, heavy cream, Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. 

I decided to add one zucchini (from our garden) to this recipe, for a little extra crunch and to "healthify" it a little more. 

America's Test Kitchen used the kind of grated mozzarella that comes wrapped in plastic.  I rarely buy that, preferring fresh mozzarella.  Either way works fine, I am sure.

I simply sliced the mozzarella thin (like 1/2")

The sauce is very easy to make, by sauteing the garlic and red pepper flakes in some olive oil.  Then you add a can of crushed tomatoes.

Next, you add water, salt and the pasta and cover it.  The pasta is cooked until it's tender-- about 15 to 18 minutes. Preheat the oven to 475F.

While the pasta was cooking, I quickly sauteed the zucchini in a little olive oil and lightly seasoned them with salt & pepper. Then, when the pasta was tender, I added the zucchini. One pan cooking-- how easy is that?!

Last, stir in the heavy cream, Parmesan and fresh basil...

Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes. NOTE: Because I used fresh mozzarella, the cheese melted but it didn't brown. 
Total prep and cooking time took about 30 minutes. While the pasta cooked, I had time to clean my mess, and that is such a help on a work night.

VERDICT:  The sauce was delicious.  I liked the garlic flavor, which was definitely present but not overpowering.  The red pepper flakes were very subtle, and it added a little bit of heat.  The heavy cream turned the sauce a light pink color, and toned down the tomato flavor. I liked it.  Of course, I had to add more fresh basil.   My only criticism, is that I thought the sauce was a little runny for my liking. I'm not sure what the fix would be.  I'd be hesitant to reduce the water, as the pasta has to cook in the sauce and it does absorb a lot of the liquid.  I'm glad I added the zucchini, as it added some texture.  The next time I make this, I might consider adding cooked Italian sausage (maybe even turkey sausage) and/or mushrooms. 
Overall, it's a simple pasta dish that rates "very easy".  

A printable recipe card can be found at the end of this post.

Cheers!




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16 comments:

High Heels & Good Meals! said...

Oh this Ziti looks devine! Wish I had me a bowl right now!

Joanne said...

I'm so glad the problem was fixed!

I can definitely see why you guys went with this ziti...seems like comfort heaven to me!

Allie said...

I love how beautiful and tasty this dish looks. You can tell what it tastes like by just looking at it! And I love that you said it was easy :) I definitely agree with using fresh mozz! And of course I like the healthified zucchini.

bellini said...

Americas Test Kitchen rests and retests all of their recipes so you can't go wrong!

Cheryl said...

That looks simply delicious, I have everything I need to make it on hand!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Hi Debbie, I have been having problems on my computer also. Actually, I don't know if it is my computer or wordpress so I can sympathize. Your pasta dish is both beautiful and delicious sounding. Do you suppose that if you didn't add the water to the sauce, cooked the pasta separately, then added it to the sauce that it might give you the consistency you wanted.

Mimi G said...

So good to see you back!!! Glad everything is working. This pasta dish looks fantastic, plus easy to fix. What a great hot weather dish. Thanks for a great recipe!!!

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Karen,
The idea behind ATK's recipe is to only need one pan. So cooking the noodles separately would defeat that purpose. I'm thinking less water, but not eliminating it at all. It's worth a try!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Runny or not, it looks darn delicious. The zucchini probably added some of the water no doubt. Have you received any pasta in the mail lately?

Roz from 'la bella vita' said...

What an interesting way to prepare ziti . . . any recipe from America's test kitchen is a consistent winner in my kitchen. Bookmarking this Deb! Glad to see you're back! Thanks for stopping by with your nice comment too!

Becki's Whole Life said...

This looks delicious. I definitely like the fresh mozarella in this - it looks like it melted beautifully.

Chris and Amy said...

Sounds like the perfect comfort food. The fresh mozzarella is a must in our book.

Toyin O. said...

That looks really good, thanks for sharing.

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

Hi Debby - I hope your feedburner issues are resolved for the time being. It's so darn stressful when any part of our blogs malfunction. Love this dish and the fact that it can be prepared in a single skillet. Perfect for a busy night.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Looks delicious. I'm not sure how to fix the runny sauce either.

So glad your Feedburner problem is solved. I know it must have been very frustrating.
Sam

Monica H said...

This looks delicious! And I have everything on hand minus the ziti, but I do have other fun shaped pastas on hand. I'm gonna give this one a try! Thanks, Deb!