Article featured image
Photo: John Kernick

Dana Cowin is the longtime editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine, so you might think her kitchen skills are as strong as her editorial prowess. Take it from a self-professed dish-ruining home cook: sometimes you need a real chef to step in and show you the ropes. Cowin’s new book, Mastering My Mistakes In The Kitchen, was inspired by (and with help from) some of the country’s most beloved chefs, to bring your confidence up to your taste buds’ level.

The last time I made baked ziti arrabbiata, based on one from the maestro of Italian cooking, Mario Batali, I started cooking early in the afternoon, giving myself ample time to “fail and fix” the dish if necessary. When I made the béchamel, I thought it was too thin, so I decided to reduce it — but it wouldn’t reduce. I assumed my problem was using skim milk (the only milk I had in the house), but my diagnosis was incorrect, as I found out when I told the story to the Food & Wine test kitchen crew. They explained that béchamel never, ever gets reduced. If you want a thicker béchamel, you add more flour at the start. I realized I had to stop using my ill-informed instincts to solve a problem. Mistakes aside, this is my absolute favorite baked pasta, particularly when I’m cooking for a crowd. Mario told me it was one of his favorites, too, so I got a little more advice from him on perfecting it.

Reprinted with permission from Mastering My Mistakes In The Kitchen