You've written to her with questions about what you'd like to learn in the kitchen, and she has responded.
Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions
Beth Nelson: My pasta is always sticky and clumpy. I've tried using more water, more salt, oil, and other things I thought would keep my past smooth and edible. Suggestions would be welcome as my family loves pasta. Thanks!!
Here are some tips. Make sure you have a huge pot of boiling well-salted water. Add the pasta to it and stir right away and again a few minutes later to make sure the pasta does not stick together. Then, let the pasta cook at a low boil until it reaches the desired degree of doneness. Drain it and use it right away - toss it with the sauce. If you drain it and let it sit it will stick together. If you drain it and rinse it, the sauce will slither off. If you add oil to the boiling liquid, that will also prevent the sauce from sticking. Probably the two things that are causing your problem are: 1. you aren't stirring it when you put it in the pot and 2. you are not tossing it with the sauce right away and it is sitting and sticking together in the colander. The pasta should never wait for the sauce. Make the sauce first and let it wait for the pasta.
Mary Ann Bauman: Hi Sara, I watched an episode of your show where you cooked a simple and easy lasagna. I believe the pasta was really some sort of pre-made dough. And the filling was only ricotta cheese and maybe parsley. Can you please tell me a fast and good recipe for lasagna.
Mary Ann, The dough was nothing more than wonton wrappers which are fresh pasta squares. You can find them in the frozen food section of many supermarkets or in Asian markets.
Here is the recipe I made on my show:
Quick Asparagus Lasagna
Makes 4 to 6 servings Hands-on-time: 20 minutes Total preparation time: 65 minutes
This is a recipe for spring, even though you can buy asparagus from South America out of season. Asparagus is tastier if you buy it locally and in season. All the thicknesses are fine with me; from pencil-thin spears to thick stalks. However, I recommend that if the asparagus is thicker than, say, one-third of an inch, you should peel it from right below the tip to the end of the stalk. Break off the woody section of the stems first, which usually means the bottom inch or so. By the way, there is no reason to put this recipe on the shelf when asparagus is out of season. It's just as delicious with broccoli florets or sauteed spinach.
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 medium onion, halved and sliced (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, sliced (about 2 teaspoons)
One 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
18 refrigerated wonton skins
8 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
Preheat the broiler to high. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and a lasagna pan (9-by 13-inches roughly). Combine the oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a shallow bowl. Peel the lower stalks of the asparagus if they are thicker than 1/3 inch. Toss the asparagus in the oil mixture and arrange at one end of the oiled baking sheet. Toss the onion and garlic in any remaining oil in the same bowl and arrange them on the other end of the baking sheet. Broil until the edges just begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the onion and garlic with the ricotta, flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a blender; puree until smooth. Cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Arrange 6 wonton skins in the bottom of the pan. Top with half the asparagus, one-third of the ricotta mixture, and one-third of the Fontina. Add another 6 wonton skins, the remaining asparagus, and another third of the ricotta mixture and Fontina. Top with the remaining wonton skins, ricotta mixture, and Fontina.
Bake the lasagna in the top third of the oven, 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned.
Beaggetta Livingston: What's the secret to a juicy tender T-Bone or Porterhouse steak...which I love well done.
This may not be possible - well-done steaks lose all the juice. But how about you try this? About an hour before you are going to cook the steak sprinkle it lightly on both sides with a little salt and let it sit on a plate covered with plastic wrap at room temperature. Then heat your pan, pat your steak very dry and cook it over medium high heat to get a nice crust on both sides, turn the heat down and cook the steak until it is done to your likeness. Then, let it rest, covered loosely with foil, for 10 minutes. Instead of eating it whole, as a steak, slice it 1/4-inch thick, fan it on the plate and drizzle the meat juices, that hopefully have accumulated on the plate it was resting on, over it. The pre-salting is like dry brining, which will make the meat retain more juice. The resting allows whatever juices are still left in the steak to redistribute. By pouring the juices over the steak, it will appear more juicy. I hope this works!
Judi Bengtson: How do you freeze stuffed peppers and beef stew so that, when thawed, don't get all watery, and end up throwing them out? Thanks. Judi. Also, how hot should the cast iron skillet be before cooking a steak in it? Should it be smoking a lot, or just til water sizzles? Thanks again. Judi.