Skillet baked penne.

Do you ever have it happen where you get obsessed with using ONE particular ingredient in your kitchen? I had this happen recently with a filone di mozzarella, something I wouldn’t normally buy unless I was planning on making lasagna or something else that specifically called for it. It wasn’t even on sale when I got it so I can’t explain what made me do it. Nevertheless I felt an increasing urgency about using it because a) cheese is delicious and b) I am not trying to waste six dollars.

This was all made much more complicated (in #firstworldproblem terms, anyway) by the fact that my fiance is leaving town for four days, so there was really no point in making something huge like a lasagna, half of which I would end up freezing even if both of us were eating it. I could have made two small ones and put both in the freezer, but it seemed silly to go out and buy two pounds of meat, a large container of ricotta and a bunch of fresh herbs just to use a single log of mozzarella.

I found the answer in one of my cookbooks, The Best 30 Minute Recipe: 300 Fast and Flavorful Recipes from America’s Most Trusted Test Kitchen. I’ve had this book for years and sadly have only used it sporadically until recently. Last week I made curried chicken and rice (America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated requires a login for some recipes, so I won’t bother linking) and I picked it up again to look for a solution to my mozzarella problem.

The answer turned out to be skillet baked ziti, which, luckily for us, actually turned up on for some reason. HAPPY DAY.

This isn’t a fancy  or exotic recipe but it is the kind of thing that is handy to be able to make at the drop of a hat. If you have pasta, canned tomatoes, garlic and some cheese, you’re pretty much set. But the best things about this recipe are that you only have one dirty dish to clean up and it takes just 30 minutes to make.

I halved this recipe very easily because I didn’t want a ton of leftovers. I also left out the heavy cream, and I really don’t see a need to add it at all unless you’re feeling a particular lack of fats in your life. I would say this recipe is also highly customizable…add zucchini, red peppers, onion, browned italian sausage, sliced grilled chicken, whatever you want. However, it is very good exactly as written.


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