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Green Bean Casserole

from Cook’s Illustrated Nov/Dec 2006, #83, pg. 9

Again… much too busy eating to take pictures. I’m sure you understand. :) I hope to update this post with pictures after Thanksgiving this year.

Make ahead tips included. Look for instructions in {brackets}.


4 slices white sandwich bread (torn into quarters)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups canned French fried onions

Table salt
2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed and halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound white button mushrooms, stems trimmed, wiped clean and broken into ½ inch pieces
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 can sliced water chestnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

You will also need:

Food processor
Large bowl filled with ice water
Dutch oven
Paper towel lined baking sheet
3 quart / 13x9 inch baking dish


For the topping: In food processor, pulse bread, butter, salt and pepper until it resembles coarse crumbs (ten 1-second pulses). Toss with French fried onions and set aside. {Store bread-crumb mixture in an air-tight container in the fridge and mix with onions just before cooking.}

For the beans/sauce: Preheat oven to 425° F. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. (While it is coming to a boil, you can be prepping your green beans, mushrooms and other ingredients.) Prepare your large bowl of ice water. Add 2 tablespoons salt and beans. Cook beans until bright green and crisp-tender (about 6 minutes). Drain beans in colander and plunge immediately into ice water (to stop cooking). Spread beans on the paper towel lined baking sheet to drain.

Add butter to now empty Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add mushrooms, garlic, ¾ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook until mushrooms release moisture and liquid evaporates (about 6 minutes). Add flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and bring to simmer, stirring constantly. Add cream, reduce heat to medium and simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced to 3 ½ cups, about 12 minutes. Off heat, season with salt and pepper to taste and add chopped water chestnuts if desired (they lend a nice extra crunch that my husband's family likes).

{Allow sauce to cool. Mix the beans and cooled sauce in a covered baking dish and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking.)

Add green beans to sauce and stir until evenly coated. Arrange in even layer in baking dish. Sprinkle with topping and bake until top is golden brown and sauce is bubbling around edges, about 15 minutes. {Heat in 425° F oven for 10 minutes, then add topping and bake as directed for about 15 minutes.} Serve immediately.

Baked Ziti

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated (March/April 2009, pg. 15)

This, my friends, is pretty much Italian comfort food at its best.  Baked Ziti can be vegetarian/meatless or you can add some Italian sausage for a different twist.  Half of this recipe feeds my family of 4 (2 adults and 2 grade school children) for two meals.  It is easy to make even a single recipe and freeze in smaller containers for later or to take a meal to a friend. 



1 pound whole milk cottage cheese
2 large eggs
3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 pound ziti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 – 1 pound Italian sausage (optional)
5 medium garlic cloves (minced or pressed)
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt/Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon corn starch (2 teaspoons if using whole milk instead of cream)
1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)
8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese (cut into 1/4 inch pieces)


You will also need:

Medium bowl
Large stock pot / dutch oven
12 inch skillet or another stock pot / dutch oven
13x9 inch baking dish



Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place 4 quarts of water in the large stock pot and bring to a boil.  While the water is heating, move on and do other things to get the sauces ready.  Once the water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water then the pound of ziti.  Cook the ziti for 5 minutes.  Drain pasta and leave in colander.  Do not wash the stock pot.  Take it immediately back over to the stove.  You’re about to use it again.

Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl then whisk in cottage cheese and 1 cup of grated Parmesan.  Set aside.

If using sausage, remove from casings.  Put olive oil in the skillet and bring up to medium heat and add in sausage while breaking up into small pieces.  Cook until no longer pink.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant but not brown.  Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, oregano and basil (if using dried).  Simmer until thickened (about 10 minutes).  Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup of basil (if using fresh), sugar, and salt/pepper to taste.

Stir cornstarch into heavy cream (while it’s in the measuring cup) and pour into the (now empty) stock pot and put over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened (3-4 minutes).  Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture and 1 cup of tomato sauce.  Allow to cool just slightly then stir in 3/4 cup of the diced mozzarella.  Stir well to combine.  Add cooked pasta and stir to thoroughly coat with sauce.  (Pasta will likely be all stuck together, but will gently come apart as it gets coated with the sauce.)

Transfer pasta mixture to 1 13x9 pan or two smaller pans and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly on top being sure to cover as much of the exposed pasta as possible.  Sprinkle the remaining diced mozzarella and grated Parmesan on top.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until  bubbly and cheese on top begins to brown.  Remove from oven and allow to rest/cool for 10-20 minutes.  Garnish with fresh basil on top if available.


(My apologies for the complete lack of pictures.  I have no explanation other than I just have been too into eating this dish to take any.)