Editors’ Note: Knitters, we bring help. In the quest to increase time for knitting, we proudly present a new series devoted to cooking. Simple cooking. Beautiful cooking. Cooking that you can pull together faster than you can drive through the Burger Weenie. Cooking that cleverly requires a one-hour oven time so that you have a built-in hour to knit while your delicious dinner is roasting away.
Who is our guide to this life-altering way to cook? Our adored gardener, food blogger, and maker: Judy Wright.
—Kay and Ann
I am new to the idea of sheet pan cooking, but after a few weeks of playing around with the concept, I am ALL IN.
I love the ease of chopping vegetables and adding them directly to a roasting pan along with the seasonings and olive oil. I love mixing the ingredients together inside the pan with my hands, I love the way the flavors meld together as they cook, and I love the easy cleanup, made easier when you line the pan with parchment paper.
The biggest challenge to this cooking method is figuring out the timing so all the ingredients finish at the same time. Fortunately, I am a vegetable roaster at heart; I learned at my mother’s side to roast almost every vegetable I encountered. If you are a follower of my blog, Judy’s Chickens, you may have already learned to oven cook eggplant, cauliflower, be
Tools of the Trade
There are a few basic supplies to have on hand to make sheet pan cooking easy: rimmed baking sheets, parchment paper, olive oil, salt, and pepper. These will be the basics for every sheet pan recipe I write. I personally do not use butter for roasting foods, and I use very little salt. Feel free to add these to suit your personal tastes. The rest of the groceries we’ll pick up as we go.
Rimmed Sheet Pans
I use Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Baker’s Half Sheets. These rimmed sheet pans come in many sizes, but the most common are: full sheets: 18″ x 26″, half sheets: 18″ x 13″, and quarter sheets: 13″ x 9″. All my recipes will be written to serve four people and will fit in a half sheet. The good news is the recipe will be easily doubled or halved to fit into the larger or smaller pans. I would caution about buying full sheet pans because many ovens will not accommodate their size. Better to use two half sheets for a doubled recipe. I own four half sheets and two quarter sheets, and they are the workhorses of my kitchen. I’ve used them to bake in and to sort vegetables harvested from my garden.
I use parchment paper to aid in cleanup. I keep a box of 200 pre-cut 16 3/8″ x 12 3/16″ parchment paper in my pantry. They are not a necessity, but sheet pan meals are all about ease, and nothing says easy clean up like parchment paper.
I use extra-virgin olive oil for roasting vegetables, and for making salad dressings and marinades.
Salt and Pepper
Many chefs like to use kosher salt for cooking, but I prefer sea salt. Know that they are not equal in terms of volume. Kosher salt has larger crystals than regular salt, so a teaspoon of kosher salt will provide fewer salt grains than regular salt. I’ve noticed many recipes have switched to writing “fine salt” in place of just “salt.” Also, I am not a heavy salter. Please adjust the salt and pepper to suit your taste.
And Off We Go
The first recipe we’re going to try is an earthy medley of Italian sausages, potatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic. I chose these ingredients because they all take about the same amount of time to cook.
Italian Sausage with Vegetables
Yield: Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes Roasting time: 1 hour
3-4 sweet bell peppers (1 pound)
4-6 potatoes, a combination of sweet and white (2 pounds)
1 sweet onion (½ pound)
1 medium head of garlic (1-1½ ounces)
4 or 5 whole fresh Italian sweet sausages (a 1¼ pound package). Do not pierce sausages. (Precooked sausages are likely to become too dry during the cook time.)
1 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prep peppers: Remove pepper cores and seeds. Cut into 1-2″ chunks. Add to sheet pan.
Prep onions: Remove the outer layers of skin. Trim off root. Slice thickly. Add to sheet pan.
Prep potatoes: Scrub potatoes. Do not peel. Cut into bite-sized chunks. Add to sheet pan.
Prep garlic. Smash the whole head with a meat mallet, hammer, brick, anvil, or whatever weapon you have handy. Remove the outer layers of skin. Then smush each clove with the flat edge of a knife and peel off the loosened skin. Add to pan.
Sprinkle mixed vegetables with salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss together in the lined sheet pan. Add sausages and toss again. Spread ingredients uniformly in the pan. Place roasting pan in oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove pan and turn ingredients, including the sausages, for even browning. Roast for 30 minutes more.
Since there are only two of us in the house, I sometimes scramble the leftovers with eggs and have them for breakfast. Yum!
It’s nice living next to my number one taste-tester!