Now that I’m feeding a toddler again, I’ve added a few new family-focused cookbooks to my collection. While I’m a fan of many of them, there’s one in particular that I’ve turned to over and over again, thanks to the clever and inspired recipes I’ve found within.
Tyler Florence’s Start Fresh draws on the expertise he gained when developing a line of organic baby food, only now he’s imparting his wisdom in a series of simple, reliable recipes for infants, toddlers, self-feeders and whole families. As mentioned, I’m a big believer in feeding a baby what the rest of the family is munching on (as much as possible, anyway) and this book has been a wonderful guide to building textures and flavours in dishes that will please the grown-up eaters around the table while simultaneously enticing my baby to dig in as well.
When I stumbled upon his recipe for a one-pan lasagna tucked into the pages at the back of the book, the headnote alone made me want to try it. It claims the recipe is worth the price of the book—it’s that good and that easy. Naturally, I was intrigued, especially since I’m so fond of other one-pot pasta recipes, and guess what? I wasn’t at all disappointed, and when I think about the level of effort required to produce lasagna for my family, you can be sure this layered single-pan supper will be on the table frequently now that I know how simple it is to make.
I’ve tweaked the method a touch, because, to be honest, I didn’t find the noodles cooked properly when I followed his cooking instructions. Instead of bringing the dish out to sit on the counter for ten minutes after it’s done baking, I’ve learned to leave mine in the over for an additional fifteen with the temperature turned off. It’s a small change, but one that made a big difference in the overall result of the dish.
Also, I’ve learned that if you happen to keep a batch of bolognese in your freezer like I do, you can start with that instead of making his sauce as instructed. To do so, warm three to four cups (the recipe is very forgiving of the quantity you start with) of bolognese, then follow the remainder of the recipe starting at step five. You can replace all of the ingredient items from olive oil to garlic clove with your pre-made sauce.
Are you a fan of the one-pot pasta? What’s your favourite variation these days?
Adapted from Tyler Florence’s Start Fresh
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes
- 4 baby carrots, scrubbed and trimmed
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and cut into wedges
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
- 4 lasagna noodles, broken into 1-inch pieces
- ½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
- Optional: fresh basil or pesto, for garnish
Prep and Cook:
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with wooden spatula, until the meat is browned, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, carrots, onion and garlic in a food processor and chop until coarsely ground but not completely smooth.
- When the meat is cooked, drain any excess fat from the pan. Add the tomato mixture and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until thickened slightly.
- Stir in the stock and ricotta and combine thoroughly.
- Bury the lasagna noodles in the sauce mixture and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Turn off the oven, but leave the lasagna inside with the door closed for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and garnish with fresh basil or a drizzle of pesto, and serve warm.