Quick and easy Lasagna Roll-Ups from Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime, our January Top Pick in cookbooks, are perfect for those nights when you want a hearty meal that doesn't require much prep or hassle.
MAKES 20 ROLL-UPS, OR 5 LOAF PANS
Lasagna roll-ups are so perfectly convenient and handy, particularly for smaller households, because they can be easily assembled in small loaf pans and you can just grab the amount you need rather than bake off a huge pan at once. I can never have enough of these in the freezer!
1. Boil the lasagna noodles in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water to cool and lay flat on a sheet of foil. Set aside.
2. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, bell pepper and garlic and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables are starting to soften.
3. Remove the veggie mixture from the pan. Add the ground beef to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s totally browned. Drain the excess fat and add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, ½ teaspoon of the salt, ½ teaspoon of the pepper and the veggie mixture. Stir to combine. Let the mixture simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
4. To make the filling, combine the ricotta, ½ cup of the mozzarella, ¾ cup of the Parmesan, the eggs, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, 3 tablespoons of the parsley and 3 tablespoons of the basil. Stir to combine.
5. To assemble, spoon a thin layer of sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan OR five 6-inch disposable foil loaf pans. Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the ricotta filling on each noodle and roll them up so that the cheese is on the inside of the roll. Lay them sideways in the pans (four will fit in each loaf pan, or you can fill a 9 x 13-inch pan with the roll-ups). Top evenly with the remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan.
6. Follow the instructions to freeze below. If you’re making the roll-ups right away, preheat the oven to 375°F, place the pan(s) on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
7. Serve with salad and a hunk of bread. Convenient and wonderfully good!
Cover the unbaked pans tightly with heavy foil and freeze for up to 4 months.
To bake the roll-ups, preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the pans on a baking sheet and bake the foil-covered pans for 1 hour 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes more, until hot and bubbly.
Thaw the pans in the refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours, until completely thawed.
Bake according to the recipe instructions.
Emma Straub is quickly making a name for herself as an author who can deftly toe the line between literary and popular writing—her books are easy to breeze through, but there's also food for thought for the discerning reader. Her 2014 novel, The Vacationers, was one of the biggest beach reads of the year, and we think the same might be said a few months from now about novel #3, Modern Lovers, which will be published on May 31 by Riverhead Books.
Elizabeth, Andrew and Zoe have been friends ever since college, when they were 3/4 of a moderately successful rock band. Now in their 50s, they've settled in Brooklyn with families and real jobs, but it's not until their own children leave for school (and start sleeping together) that the trio is forced to confront the "shock of middle age"—and the truth about what happened to the fourth member of their group.
Readers looking for a new noir mystery series should definitely pick up a copy of Reed Farrel Coleman's gritty Where It Hurts. They'll meet retired cop Gus Murphy, who has been a barely functioning shell of a man since his son's death two years prior. He's retired and working as a courtesy van driver when ex-con Tonny Delcamino comes to him, pleading for help in his own son's murder case. This new series simply bleeds that noirish atmosphere, from the dusty, grief- striken hero to the no-nonsense dialogue between lowlifes of all types, from cops to gang members.
"Look, Tommy, there's channels for this kind of thing, a chain of command, people to talk to."
"I done that. I talked to them till I'm blue in the face," he said. "I been up one side of that ladder and down the other. Either they don't listen or they don't give a fuck. Who am I, right? I'm a skel, a mutt, a piece of shit. And my kid wasn't no better. None of 'em said it, but they didn't have to. I may be stupid, but I ain't blind neither. Half of 'em thought, with TJ dead that was one less headache for them to deal with down the line."
I wanted to tell him he was wrong, but I didn't because he wasn't. Maybe he was a little harsh about it. Harsh was what he understood. I'd been on the other side of it. Any cop who tells you he doesn't judge some people as better than other is a liar. I did it. We all did. Like the badge and gun, judgments come with the territory. The trick was not treating people differently. The church teaches you that you're judged for your thoughts and deeds, but in the cathedral of the street, thoughts count for little. Deeds talk loudest.
What are you reading today?
Our editors' choice for the top book of 2015 leads the list of new paperbacks on sale today:
A Little Life
By Hanya Yanagihara
Anchor • $17 • ISBN 9780804172707
Ranked #1 on the BookPage list of Best Books of 2015 and a finalist for the National Book Award, this harrowing and unforgettable portrait of childhood trauma and lasting friendship vaulted Yanigihara into the ranks of America’s top novelists.
A Reunion of Ghosts
By Judith Claire Mitchell
Harper Perennial • $15.99 • ISBN 9780062355898
Mitchell’s second novel is the darkly humorous story of three New York City sisters determined to follow their forebears down the path of suicide. Loosely inspired by the real-life experiences of a German chemist and his family, this is a crisply told, compelling tale.
The Brain's Way of Healing
By Norman Doidge, M.D.
Penguin • $18 • ISBN 9780143128373
The doctor who captured the emerging science of neuroplasticity in the 2007 bestseller The Brain That Changes Itself returns to demonstrate the healing power of our adaptable brains. These case studies—of neurological conditions ranging from Parkinson's disease to blindness—offer "tangible treatment ideas for patients who may have thought they were out of options," according to reviewer Sheila Trask.
The Hogarth Shakespeare series continues on June 21, as Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler tackles The Taming of the Shrew. In Vinegar Girl, she brings Kate, Bianca (here called Bunny) and their father into the modern era by casting Kate Battista as a preschool teacher who is popular with her students but occasionally a bit too abrasive when it comes to managing their parents. At home, she's running things for her father, a scientist, and the rather flighty Bunny.
So far, so good, but a forced marriage plot is hard to swing for an adult woman in 2016. Enter the complexities of the U.S. immigration system, which is attempting to deport Dr. Battista's invaluable lab assistant, Pyotr. Can Battista convince Kate to make the ultimate sacrifice?
With more than 20 novels under her belt, Tyler is an accomplished chronicler of family dynamics. It will be interesting to see if she can also capture the comic spirit of her source material. Will you read it?
In Carrie Brown's novel The Stargazer's Sister, Caroline, the brilliant sister of 19th-century astronomer William Herschel, struggles to find her place in the world. Our reviewer writes, "Brown brings the true story of the Herschel siblings to life in exquisite detail and deftly explores what it meant for Caroline to be an intelligent woman far ahead of her time. " (Read the review.)
We asked Brown to tell us about three books she's been reading lately.
Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon
I read Paul Yoon’s exquisite short novel, Snow Hunters, over the course of a few days— mostly between the dark hours of 2 and 4 a.m.—during a week when I was sleeping poorly. One is rarely happy to be awake at that hour, but after that first night, when the story’s magic worked so thoroughly on me—making those loathsome hours disappear—I turned to it with gratitude and relief on every subsequent night until I finished it. My experience of the novel surely was colored by the silent, stop-all-the-clocks quality of the hours in which I read it, when the novel’s beauty seemed to shine forth from the page, bright in the circle of light from my bedside lamp, but I believe it would be equally magical at any hour. Snow Hunters tells the story of a young Korean War POW refugee, Yohan, who defects from his country at the war’s end and washes up in a small port-town in Brazil. Here he begins to reconstruct a life for himself as an apprentice to the local tailor and to reckon with the trauma of his past, the immediacy of his present and the possibility of his future. The novel is visual to a painterly degree; events move carefully and slowly and simply, the sentences precise and deft as brushstrokes: “The beam of the lighthouse swept across the harbor. In the sea were stars, millions of them, reflected in the water. The rain had stopped.” Like many performances delivered quietly, the inverse scale of its effect is enormous—think: snow falling. The novel’s beauty, as redemptive as it is tragic, is of the marvelous sort: timeless and unforgettable, as if it had always existed.
The Theater of War by Brian Doerries
It’s difficult to imagine an enterprise more humane, more generous than the one behind this book. For the past decade, Brian Doerries, a classical scholar, translator, writer and director, has been bringing performances of the ancient Greek tragedies to communities devastated by loss and grief, and with them a surprising and cathartic healing. It turns out that the ancient Greeks have plenty to say to audiences of today. “The tragic poets,” as Doerries writes, are the “de facto healers of the polis.” Driven by his love for the ancient texts and by his own need to find healing following the cruel and protracted deaths of his girlfriend and his father, Doerries began reaching out through his theater company to people whose lives had been devastated by forces beyond their control—members of the military and their families, health professionals, guards and prisoners inside the giant American incarceration system, individuals and towns and cities reeling in the wake of natural disaster. His account of the palliative—sometimes transformative—effect of the performances on these people is deeply moving. Doerries knows suffering is lonely business. To find one’s own suffering mirrored in the experience of others, especially those who lived 2,500 years ago, is to allow sufferers to share their stories, and by sharing them they discover that they are not, in fact, alone. Doerries chooses particular plays to speak to particular audiences, and the performances are followed by opportunities for audience members to talk—to testify—about their own lives. Doerries has given people in their darkest days a way to be heard and seen, to know and be known. Tragedy has a dark face, and we are inclined, perhaps, to turn away from it; with Theater of War, Doerries has given us a way to encounter tragedy so that it might heal, and a story of moral and spiritual redemption: his own, and ours along with him.
The Door by Magda Szabó
In her introduction to the Hungarian writer Magda Szabó’s The Door, first translated into English in 2005, 30 years after its original publication, Ali Smith describes the novel as “full-blooded and stately,” the events and characters achieving “mythological status.” Szabó, who died in 2007, was one of Hungary’s greatest writers; her lifetime coincided with decades of Soviet occupation of Hungary, the brutal eclipse of the revolutionary government in 1956 and the dark years of Stalinist rule that ensued, when the suppression of the revolution threatened to silence writers and their work entirely. The Door, set in modern postwar Hungary, is the story of the relationship between a writer, Magda, and the woman, Emerence, whom she hires as her servant to cook and clean and care for her and her husband. Though the balance of power in the relationship would seem to belong to Magda, whose writing at last begins to achieve significant public notice and acclaim, it is the extraordinary Emerence and her apparently inscrutable code of moral conduct—she is independent, secretive, primitive, ruthless and gentle at once, tempestuous at one moment and stiffly formal at another, recklessly demanding, contemptuous of religion and yet steely in her own notion of what constitutes true charity—who towers above the relationship with her employer. Emerence takes care of everyone in the neighborhood, sees through every deception and cruelty and weakness. She appears clad either in enormous snow boots and wielding a birch broom with which to sweep snow or filth from doorsteps and pavements, or meticulously dressed in polished shoes and with an ironed and scented handkerchief at the ready. She seems invulnerable, working with the strength and endurance of a Valkyrie. Yet the revelation of her private, heroic suffering throws Magda into a powerful reexamination of herself and the world around her. The Door is a novel of great dramatic tension, a formidable and deeply involving work of art, and brilliant evidence that the world’s greatest moral and psychological crucibles are enacted as often on the domestic stage as on the battlefields of war.
Thank you, Carrie!
(Author photo by Aaron Mahler)
Home-cooked meals shouldn't be a hassle according to Alana Chernila (The Homemade Pantry), and she's happy to share more of her everyday kitchen tips in her newest cookbook, The Homemade Kitchen. In just a few minutes with a little multi-tasking, you can whip up this enticing Asparagus Carbonara.
Making carbonara is a little bit like conducting an orchestra. One pot cooks, another fries the bacon, veggies here, herbs there, egg poached—then BAM! Dinner is ready.
1. Set a large pot of salted water over high heat. Simultaneously heat your largest skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon to the skillet and fry, stirring often, until it’s crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a small bowl. Leave the bacon fat in the pan and set aside.
2. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until tender, 7 to 10 minutes for dried or 2 minutes for fresh. If using dried pasta, add the asparagus when the pasta is about halfway done. If using fresh pasta, you can start the pasta and asparagus together. Pour a few cups of the pasta water into a smaller pot set over medium-low heat (you’ll use this to poach the eggs), then drain the pasta and asparagus in a colander and rinse in cold water.
3. Return the reserved skillet to medium-high heat. Whisk the butter into the bacon fat, then whisk in about ½ cup of the reserved pasta cooking water.
4. Add the pasta, asparagus, Parmesan and reserved bacon to the skillet, gently tossing until the pasta and asparagus are fully coated in the sauce. Divide the pasta evenly among four plates.
5. Crack an egg into a ramekin or teacup. Pour off the most watery part of the white, and give the small pot a little swirl to get the water moving. Gently slide the egg into the water and cook until the white is firm, for 2½ minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lay the egg over one of the bowls of pasta, then repeat with the other 3 eggs. Top with the herbs, lots of pepper and a bit of extra Parmesan.
Recipes reprinted from The Homemade Kitchen. Copyright © 2015 by Alana Chernila. Photographs by Jennifer May. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Read our review of this book.
Most men in 1920s Alabama would be delighted to receive land as an inheritance, but for Roscoe T. Martin, taking over his father-in-law's farm was nothing but a burden—mostly because it meant leaving his burgeoning career at Alabama Power. Electricity has fascinated Roscoe since he first saw the lamplit streets of Birmingham as a child, and he has a talent for understanding it. The failing farm holds little interest for Roscoe, and his disappointment has turned him angry and bitter, damaging his relationships with his wife and young son. Then one day Roscoe sees an opportunity: He'll siphon off the grid and electrify the farm, allowing him to harvest more efficiently and save the farm. But this decision has deadly consequences, sparking a chain of events that will affect the family for decades to come.
Reeves conjures 1920s Alabama with an astounding level of detail, managing to convey the spirit of the time and place in a way that feels effortless. The sense of newness and excitement surrounding electricity, as well as Roscoe's passion for it, also come through loud and clear.
Back on their land, they tethered the horses to the fence and positioned the ladder against the pole that belonged to Alabama Power. Roscoe grabbed a wooden stick and climbed to line height. "If we failed, there will be sparks," he shouted to Wilson. "Best stand clear." A binder was on the line, coupling wires together. He needed to make the lines touch—different currents on different wires. If they touched quietly, the lines were cold. If not, Roscoe could be thrown from the ladder by the shock. He hesitated, knowing the power he might touch.
"Ross," Wilson called from below. "This is what you do."
Roscoe nodded. Camaraderie, companionship, a joint destination. This was what he did. These were his elements, his knowledge, his home.
He felt everything pause—the breeze, the birds, the trains on their tracks and the fish in their ponds. Even the great turbines at Lock 12 stopped spinning, the water holding back its movement, the powerhouse winding down. The lines had gone cold.
"Clear?" Wilson said.
Now, Roscoe would work.
What are you reading this week?