When Mick and Keith wrote, “You can’t always get what you want,” our thoughts wandered to the corner brownie, the center of the skillet cookie, and the perfectly golden, but too-quickly-devoured, top of the macaroni and cheese.
But as Amanda Hesser shows us in her Baking Sheet Macaroni and Cheese, the crispy, cheesy top of the pasta doesn’t have to be as fleeting as you once thought.
The next time you find yourself with a neglected cup of macaroni or that last serving of spaghetti that no one seems to want, promise me you’ll try this. I’ve been making pasta frittatas ever since another Kitchn writer mentioned it years ago, and it is hands down my favorite way to use up leftover pasta—along with whatever else is hanging around in the fridge.
If you’re a baking enthusiast, you’ve probably cracked a can or two of sweetened condensed milk in your time—it’s a key player in some of our favorite pies, cakes, and sticky-sweet sauces. But few people are as accustomed to cooking with its milder, milkier, unsweetened cousin: Evaporated milk—canned, shelf-stabilized, low-moisture cow’s milk—offers the same thick, rich texture of condensed milk without the added sugars, making it ideal for more savory preparations (and a handful of sweet ones to boot). Here’s a look at just how handy it can be.
Here’s something I’ve always wondered: when baking pasta, as in, say, lasagna or baked ziti, why do you always cook the pasta first? Aren’t you inviting trouble by cooking it once, then proceeding to put it in a casserole and cooking it again? Well, there’s the obvious first part of the answer to this question: pasta needs to absorb water as it cooks—a lot of water, around 80 percent of its own weight when perfectly al dente. So, add raw pasta directly to a baked pasta dish, and it will soften all right—it’ll also suck up all of the moisture from the sauce, leaving it dry or broken.
I thought the pasta drew moisture from the sauce. It does… resulting in dry sauce. I’ve always wondered about those pastas marketed as not needing to be boiled first—how are they different from regular pasta or is this just some marketing ploy? Anyway, traditionally recipes recommend boiling the pasta first.