Doctored Pasta, Garlicky Broccoli and Mary’s Apple Pie

PASTANDBROCKIn previous classes we’ve baked apples, made applesauce parfaits, and pressed cider, but when our own Mary Chapman (who comes straight from her job in finance each week to volunteer in the class), offered to bake apple pie with the class, I jumped at the chance. Mary has lived in France and Italy, knows her way around a kitchen, and loves good food. She suggested a quick pasta with sauce for starters. We’d have time to teach the kids a lesson in al dente and how to jazz up a jar of commercial sauce.


It was great to see the kids again after the holiday. I missed them! We got to work reviewing terms and methods, then pondered the difference between cooking with water and without. It’s a subject rich in opinions. Is a braise best covered or uncovered? To baste or not to baste? With many veggie preparations, water is the enemy: soggy lettuce repels dressing, damp kale refuses to get crisp, dewy cauliflower takes forever to caramelize.


I asked the kids how many ways we could cook broccoli. They were familiar with stir frying and boiling, but not with roasting, steaming, and microwaving. The last one is the fastest, taking just three minutes with a spoonful of water in a plate-covered glass or ceramic bowl (don’t use plastic or cling wrap). Almost as fast, and tastier, is steaming for four minutes on the stovetop over a few smashed garlic cloves, some chile flakes, and olive oil.


Next we discussed ways to improve commercial marinara sauce with shredded veggies (we swapped parsnips for carrots), herbs, chile flakes, and a cloud of fresh parm. (For the life of me, I can’t understand why pre-grated parmesan is popular! It is less vibrant, gets moldy faster, costs more, and leaves no rind for flavoring soups.) As for pasta, there are many myths, and three good habits: salt the water, stir, and taste for doneness (although throwing spaghetti at the wall is fun!).


The kids jumped right up to prep; their confidence and eagerness is gratifying to watch. They grated, sliced, minced, salted, stirred, and tasted, adjusting the marinara (more chile pepper!), pronouncing the pasta perfect, and soon after, judging the broccoli done. With a little scurrying (where’s a ladle? where are the forks?), a meal was ready in less than 25 minutes. After a pause for gratitude, they sampled and evaluated their work: high praise for the pasta, and enthusiasm, not universal, but notable, for the broccoli.


The kids asked for seconds, but it was getting late (I spent too long on the lesson) to assemble and bake a pie. We hadn’t made the crust yet! I confess that I was skeptical of Mary’s recipe, as she uses oil and I have only used butter (or half butter and half leaf lard, as taught by my friend the fabulous Pie Lady, Kate McDermott). Solid fats when cut into flour create tiny little steam bombs that make a crust flaky. Wouldn’t an oil crust be tough?


It was certainly easier to mix and held together better than a butter crust. Mary showed the kids how to roll it out between layers of wax paper, ease the crust into the pan, pour in the apples, dot them with butter, and crimp the edges. Pie by committee may not make the most elegant crust, but it was well-loved and handled, and a little shagginess part of the charm.

Unfortunately, it was not fully baked by the time the kids had to run catch their buses and rides home. I promised to save it for them; they could eat it at lunch the next day.


Of course, Mary and I, like poison tasters for royalty, had to sample it first. It smelled divine. The crust shattered under my fork. The filling was hot, buttery, tart and sweet and cinnamony with a perfect zing of salt. Mary, I said gravely, this may be the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted.


Was it the oil? The milk? The loving hands? Who knows. Mary laughed. It’s her family recipe, and it works because it works.


The next day, I ran into Matthew, one of our students.

“Did you get your pie?” I asked. We had labeled each cling-wrapped slice in the fridge.


“Yes!” he said. “And I want MORE.” He growled happily.

I know just how he feels. Lucky us, we know how to make it.


Printer-friendly version.

Doctored Pasta

Scratch meals may be best, but a quick, delicious dinner can be made from the freezer and pantry. Bump up the flavor with fresh carrots, herbs, and cheese. Serves 4.


  • 1 pound prepared ravioli (dry, fresh, or frozen)
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 1 quart prepared marinara
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup parmesan, grated
  • ¼ cup Italian parsley, minced


  1. Fill large kettle with water, add salt, and cook ravioli per package instructions. When tender, remove from heat and strain in colander.Add carrots and red pepper flakes to marinara sauce in medium size pot and simmer for 10 minutes or longer. Adjust seasoning as needed.
  2. To serve, pour marinara over plated ravioli and sprinkle with parmesan and parsley.


Garlicky Broccoli

Broccoli is a terrific vegetable but too easily made sulfurous and inedible by overcooking. Pop some aromatics in the steaming liquid and watch the pot like a hawk. Serves 4-6.


  • 1 head fresh broccoli, florets and trimmed stem pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed
  • salt


  1. Pour a few inches of water in a pot, and add olive oil, pepper, and garlic. Insert steamer basket.
  2. Bring the water to a simmer, add broccoli to basket, and cover. Steam for 4 minutes and check for tenderness. Continue steaming until tender, checking frequently. Toss with salt and serve warm.


Mary’s Apple Pie

Use firm, tart apples for the filling, such as Granny Smith and Braeburn (Red and Golden Delicious tend to become too soft).


  • 2 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cooking oil
  • ¼ cup milk, cold
  • 6-7 cups apples
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In bowl, mix flour with salt. In measuring cup, mix oil and milk, then pour into the flour and salt mixture. Stir with a fork until the mixed dough looks moist, but isn’t sticky. Press into a smooth ball. Cut into two parts; flatten halves slightly.
  3. Prepare two sheets of waxed paper. Put one half of the dough in between the waxed paper. Roll out one half of the dough into a circle that is 1 inch wider than the pie plate. This is the bottom crust. Transfer it to a 8″ (small) pie plate.
  4. Roll out the other half of dough. Set it aside and prepare the apple filling.
  5. In a large bowl, mix the apple slices with sugar and spices until well-coated.
  6. Poke the bottom of the pie crust with a fork to help it to not be mushy.
  7. Add the apple slices neatly in layers in the pie crust.
  8. Dot the apples with small pieces of butter before putting on top crust.
  9. After the top crust is laid in place, pinch the edges of the top and bottom crust together with fingers to create side edge of pie crust.
  10. Cut a few small lines into top crust to let out steam while the pie bakes.
  11. Bake pie on cookie sheet for 50 or 60 minutes.


Tags: , , ,

Categories: Dessert, Kid Favorite, Vegetarian


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2 Comments on “Doctored Pasta, Garlicky Broccoli and Mary’s Apple Pie”

  1. Christina
    January 16, 2014 at 2:34 am #

    This is an amazing cooking class! The recipes are fantastic and my son has learned so much and cooked a few of the recipes on his own at home for us. Thank you!

    • Julie Whitehorn
      January 16, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

      Thank you, Christina. I’m so pleased to hear that!

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