For Easy Cooking, Melissa Clark Has “Dinner in One” Meal Ideas : NPR


NPR’s Melissa Clark and Ayesha Rascoe pose with the Cheesy Baked Pasta.

Shannon Rhoades/NPR

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Shannon Rhoades/NPR

NPR’s Melissa Clark and Ayesha Rascoe pose with the Cheesy Baked Pasta.

Shannon Rhoades/NPR

In Melissa Clark’s kitchen – which she calls “messy”, but is actually beautiful – cooking dinner is fun, not difficult, ideally done while listening to the B-52s, and best when it takes the least amount of effort. possible dishes.

Clark, whose New York Times the column is called “A good appetite” has written dozens of cookbooks. In his last — dinner in one — Clark offers 100 recipes that can be made in a single container, whether it’s a stock pot, bowl, skillet or slow cooker.

“Imagine like writing a haiku,” Clark says. “You want to express the biggest thought with the fewest words. … The end goal was when I’m done cooking, there’s like three things in the sink.”

There are recipes in this cookbook for miso-glazed salmon with roasted snow peas, cheater chicken and dumplings, even one-bowl cakes.

NPR wanted to put dinner in one to the test, so Clark picked a recipe to try: baked pasta with cheese.

dinner in one

Linda Xiao/Clarkson Potter

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Linda Xiao/Clarkson Potter

“Normally, when you make baked pasta, you boil it in a pot, drain it in a colander, which already ruins two things,” she explains. “But what I’m doing here is I’m going to cook the pasta…straight into the sauce.”

Prepare all the ingredients

First, Clark lines up all the ingredients on the counter, including pasta, tomatoes, three kinds of cheese, sausages, spices and herbs from not one but three jam-packed spice drawers. .

“Here’s something else,” she said, pulling out some oregano, red pepper flakes, fennel, garlic, and bay leaves. “You can leave half of these herbs outside. It will taste the same.”

That’s the thing about this cookbook – it’s not a bit difficult, and all the recipes are flexible. If you want to add vegetables to this dish, Clark suggests adding spinach. If you’re lactose intolerant, Clark says to add more sausage and cut out the cheese. Hate slicing garlic? Use a jar!

“If it tastes good, it’s not bad,” she says.

How she started

Prior to being a multiple James Beard award winner, Clark was a cloakroom and hostess at a restaurant called American Place. This job was his first look behind the scenes of a professional kitchen.

“I knew I wanted to be a food writer then,” she says. “It was just at the beginning of food blogs coming out on the internet. …And I thought, along with a lot of other people, hey, you know, I want food to be my focus for looking at the world. let food be the way I tell my story and the way I tell the stories of others…. To really understand someone, to understand their soul and their spirit, I really feel like you have to see what he eats.

So what does his soul say?

“It definitely says I grew up in Brooklyn,” Clark says. “Especially if you surprise me on a bagels and smoked salmon Sunday.”

A look at the final product from the NPR Test of Baked Cheese Pasta.

Shannon Rhoades/NPR

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For the acceptance test, Clark removes a 12-inch skillet from the wall, adds the olive oil and sausage, which she squeezes out of its case like toothpaste. It falls, sizzling, into the pan. She cooks the sausage until it has a nice golden crust.

“That brown crust on a sausage is what’s going to give you more flavor,” she explains.

Meanwhile, she crushes the fennel with a mortar and pestle and adds that, plus the garlic – thinly sliced, not from a jar – and the other spices and herbs.

“I’m also going to add salt now,” Clark says. “Because I want the garlic to absorb it. If you add salt as you go, it seasons it better rather than adding it all at once.”

It is full of these kinds of culinary gems.

Another example: “If something smells good to you, you’ll probably like the taste.”

And: “What grows together, goes together.”

Explaining things — like how thinly slicing the garlic will make it sweeter in the dish — is one of Clark’s favorite parts of what she does.

“I love talking to people about food, answering questions and finding out how comfortable they are with cooking and how I can make it easier for them,” she says. “I really like cooking. I mean, really. And I really want everyone to like it too.”

And it’s OK not to cook too

But don’t get me wrong – sometimes she prefers takeout like everyone else.

“I like to do takeout on things that takeout does better than me,” she says. “Like sushi. Takeout makes sushi better than me. I’m not afraid to tell you that.”

Clark pours the tomatoes into the pan, and once the sauce has thickened, she adds the pasta. Then she folds in about a third of the mozzarella, lays the rest on top, adds dollops of ricotta, then a little more ricotta, and sprinkles with parmesan cheese.

Finally, she sticks the pan in the oven to bake.

Clark counts how many utensils she used for this dish. Total?

  1. A garlic cutter
  2. knife
  3. wooden spoon
  4. measuring spoon
  5. mortar and
  6. pestle
  7. cutting board
  8. and the saucepan.

The real test, however, is its taste.

When the cheese is golden and bubbling, Clark takes the skillet out of the oven, picks some fresh basil and serves the pasta on his back patio, overlooking the garden.

“Two thumbs up?”

Two thumbs up.

Cheese baked pasta with tomatoes, sausages and ricotta

Like a cross between baked ziti and a meat lasagna, this golden pasta is rich in beefy sausage chunks, creamy ricotta and crushed tomatoes, all seasoned with lots of garlic, oregano and seeds. of fennel. It’s a certified crowd pleaser that’s easy to adapt.


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

12 ounces hot or mild Italian sausage (pork, chicken, or turkey)

½ teaspoon of fennel seeds

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional), plus more for serving

1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes

1 can (14 ounces) crushed or drained tomatoes

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

12 ounces of pasta (small shells, farfalle or other small shape)

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-sized pieces

6 ounces (about ¾ cup) whole milk ricotta

⅓ cup grated parmesan

Freshly ground black pepper, to serve

¼ cup minced fresh basil


1. Heat the oven to 425ºF.

2. In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Remove the casings from the sausage and crumble the meat into the pan, using a spoon to break it up. Cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Using a mortar and pestle or the flat side of a chef’s knife and cutting board, lightly crush the fennel seeds. Toss them in the pan with the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

4. Stir in whole tomatoes, using a spoon to break them up. Add the crushed tomatoes, bay leaves and salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes to thicken slightly.

5. Stir in the pasta and 1 cup of water and return the sauce to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring to make sure the pasta doesn’t stick to the pan. Remove from the heat, remove the bay leaves and stir in a third of the mozzarella.

6. Top the pasta with the remaining mozzarella and dollops of ricotta. Sprinkle with parmesan. Bake until pasta is tender when pierced with a fork and cheese is bubbly and golden, 18 to 22 minutes. (If you would like a browner topping, place the pan under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.) Let cool slightly before serving with black pepper and basil on top, and more red pepper flakes on the side.


You can omit the sausage altogether or substitute it with a plant-based sausage.


You can add 8 ounces of sliced ​​mushrooms with the sausage in step 2. Increase the cooking time until the moisture evaporates from the pan and everything is nicely browned.


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