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Season 17, Episode 5 Recap: How to Make the Best Cheese and Tomato Lasagna

It flies against everything we hold sacred, but ditching ricotta for cottage cheese made for a better lasagna.
By Published Feb. 6, 2017

Not everyone loves eating anchovies directly from the tin—but Julia Collin Davison is not everyone. In the latest episode of America’s Test Kitchen TV, Julia and Jack Bishop discuss the nuances between anchovies that have been cured for different lengths of time, Bridget Lancaster makes the best Cheese and Tomato Lasagna, and Keith Dresser makes his television debut and makes some Really Good Garlic Bread.

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America's Test Kitchen TV

"Flavorful Italian Favorites"

Host Bridget Lancaster shows host Julia Collin Davison how to make perfect Cheese and Tomato Lasagna. Next, tasting expert Jack Bishop challenges Julia to a tasting of jarred anchovies. Finally, test cook Keith Dresser uncovers the secrets to Really Good Garlic Bread.  
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Five Takeaways from the Episode

1. Add Sugar to Your Tomato Sauce: Some people are against this full stop, but adding sugar to your tomato sauce will help temper the acidity.

2. For a Meaty Tomato Sauce without Adding Meat, Turn to Anchovies and Pecorino Romano: Anchovies are umami boosters—they’re full of glutamates—and pecorino adds an extra savory kick. “Nobody’s gonna go, ‘Wow, that is a fishy, cheesy sauce’,” says Bridget. “They’re gonna go, ‘Hmm, that’s meaty. Where’s the meat?’”

3. The Longer Anchovies are Cured, the More Likely it is You’ll Taste the Bones: Anchovies are typically cured for between three and 12 months—the longer they cure, the more the meaty section contracts, exposing the fish’s tiny bones. That’s why some anchovies may appear spindly, or “hairy.” This isn’t a big deal, but if you want your anchovy pizza to be as pretty as it can be, use anchovies that have been cured for less time. Anchovies that are cured for longer periods also tend to be fishier, or, funkier. If you’re not into the funk, choose an anchovy that’s been cured for three to six months instead of one that’s been cured for nine to 12 months.

4. When Making Lasagna, Lose the Ricotta and Use Cottage Cheese Instead: Store-bought ricotta is bland and chalky (our Homemade Ricotta, on the other hand…). Its lack of flavor and unpleasant texture made us search for a better cheese for our Cheese and Tomato Lasagna recipe. We find that the brighter, more tangy (and richer and creamier) flavor of cottage cheese makes for a tastier lasagna.

5. Garlic Gets Its Flavor from a Compound Called Allicin: To get great garlic flavor, you have to build allicin up—but you can’t let it run amok, otherwise the flavor can become too aggressive. Allicin begins to build when garlic’s cell walls are ruptured—we stop the development of allicin by cooking garlic in the microwave for just one minute in a bath of melted butter. Cooking garlic to 150 degrees or above stops the production of allicin. 

Quote of the Week: “And now, you want to make sure you buy Italian Fontina and not Danish Fontina, because they’re totally different animals. Italian Fontina has a milder flavor, and it’s very smooth, whereas Danish Fontina—well, it’ll knock you in the head.” —Julia Collin Davison

Can't wait for next week's episode? Get your fill with our past episode recaps: 

What was your favorite part of this episode of America’s Test Kitchen? Let us know in the comments!