Food Friday: Lotsa Baked Pasta


Last weekend, as we were relaxing after an accumulation of hurricane stress (little realizing we were about to gird our loins for Hurricane Michael), Mr. Friday decided that he wanted to do some cooking. In his charmed life, Mr. Friday likes to cook to relax, and he produces some marvelous meals. I, on the other hand, like to think I should bake to feel creative and release my inner Thomas Keller. My baked goods are consistently disappointing. The last time I tried baking bread the dough never rose, and we sadly viewed the final results as I tipped them, thuddingly, into the trash.

I try to follow the rules. Maybe it’s because I once heard Martha proclaim that baking isn’t an art, but a science. I have scales. I have fantastic measuring cups. I measure precisely. I try to avoid humid days for rolling out fragile doughs — never mind that it is almost always pouring down rain outside the baking tent on The Great British Bakeoff, and they can still bake the most diaphanous sponge cakes and towering tiers of meringues. I find a warm corner of the kitchen and cover the bowl of dough with a crisp, fresh linen tea towel, and yet the dough refuses to rise. My cakes tilt. My cookies spread. Brownies always work out, but they are rather forgiving and basic. Not soul-satisfying to create. There is no magical thinking required when you bake a warm pan of brownies.

Mr. Friday, however, reads an oft-tested and trusted recipe, and decides that he can make it better. And on Sunday he took on Food52. Damn him. He made their very attractive and tasty Baked Pasta with Sausage Ragù for Sunday night dinner. Mr. Friday also made enough ziti that he has bundled two neatly labeled Tupperware containers into the freezer for future dinners. For a night when I have been overcome by existential ennui about the state of the world. He had fun in the kitchen and relaxed and effortlessly prepared a few great meals. He is kind and thoughtful. The next time I bake I will drop the resulting leaden loaf of bread on his foot as a signal of my impotent rage.

Baked Pasta wit Sausage Ragù

The substitutions Mr. Friday made:
• He halved the recipe — there are just the two of us, although Luke the wonder dog would be oh, so grateful if we pulled up a chair for him, too.
• Instead of using 8 cups of chopped tomatoes, he used about 4 cups of leftover, homemade spaghetti sauce.
• Instead of 2 pounds of sausage, removed from its casings, he broke up about 6 meatballs and 6 sausage links from the leftover spaghetti sauce
• Instead of 1 cup of heavy cream, he used about 3/4 cup of half and half, because, you know, every calorie counts.

And there you go. I made some aromatic garlic bread — because you can’t possibly have any other kind — and ripped open a bag o’salad. We splurged on a nice bottle of Hess Cabernet Sauvignon, and nursed headaches on Monday morning.

But, feeling like we have money in the bank, we now have two more delicious batches of Food52-ish baked ziti in the freezer, so we can confidently sally forth and be fueled while picking up the branches that fell when Hurricane Michael zipped through our back yard. Listen to your inner cook, and bend some rules to your own devices.

Have a great weekend!

“When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s ‘The Thieving Magpie,’ which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.”
― Haruki Murakami

About Jean Sanders

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