Lily loves pasta bake: pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese baked until the cheese at the top is a bit crispy. Unfortunately, this needs about 45min in the oven. But, just like with quesadillas, you can make it much faster by doing most of the heating in the microwave:

  1. Combine leftover pasta, jarred tomato sauce, and grated cheese in a dish and that is safe for both the microwave and the oven. Put additional grated cheese on top.

  2. Microwave until piping hot.

  3. Broil for about two minutes, or until the cheese is browned and crispy. This goes very fast, and the window between "just right" and "burnt" is small.

It ends up almost identical to the oven-only version, with slightly more active time and far less wall time.

I wonder why I don't see more recipes like this, which use the microwave for the "get things hot" phase before switching to a pan or oven for browning?

I forgot to take a picture before serving, but here's what it looks like after Lily had two helpings:

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7 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:47 AM

I don't know exactly why we don't see more tricks like this, but I can make a couple of suggestions:
1) For most people, active cooking time is a bigger cost than wall time. 
2) Using a microwave for cooking is low-status.
3) Many people don't own a microwave. Alternatively, microwave are generally smaller than ovens and don't contain dishes for big families.
3)bis : many recipes were written, or are derivative of recipes written at a time where microwave did not exists and have not been updated.

In most of the places I've lived since going to uni, I've had a microwave but no oven. Some were both microwave and oven. One was no microwave and no oven. There was not a single one with an oven but no microwave.

Microwave but no oven was standard when I lived in Uni/students housing. Oven but no microwave seems quite frequent in France though - I'm French as you can guess.

For most people, active cooking time is a bigger cost than wall time.

Probably also depends on whether you cook for yourself, or for kids. For myself, whatever, if it takes 1 hour to cook, I will just read some internet in the meanwhile. For kids, needs to be done quickly.

I think I remember hearing that microwaves break down / degrade proteins, which there are plenty of in cheese. This shouldn't change the nutritional value of the dish, but may change the eating experience. Microwaving only the pasta and tomatoes, then adding the cheese before baking, may alleviate any problems this causes.

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Source? I looked quickly, and all I found was people saying that heating in general has an effect on protein (but we're going to be heating this cheese a lot whether in the microwave or the conventional oven)

As far as source, I was going off my memory from what an instructor had said when I was taking a culinary arts class several years ago, so nothing I could easily point you to. The original statement as I recall it was that microwaving meat can break down the proteins, and therefore it should be cooked instead of microwaved... but, a quick google doesn't find anything along these lines, and instead shows many people saying microwaving meat is perfectly fine... so consider that a strong update against my original statement.

It's possible my memory completely made that statement up, or that the teacher was saying something not widely held to be the case, among other possibilities.