Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Skillet Lasagna with Homemade Marinara and Italian Sausage

You know what I love? Teaching. As of last month, I've been doing it for four years and right when I think I couldn't love it any more, I make a new batch of eager, engaging friends and am overwhelmed by my good fortune. I mean seriously. Look at these cuties! I get PAID to hang out with them!

Mambo Italiano

Last week, I promised these all-star chefs a recipe for skillet lasagna. Skillet lasagna is basically a combination of all the components of the best-ever lasagna we've historically made in my Mambo Italiano class, only faster, thanks to America's Test Kitchen and their clever ways. (Also we skip the mozzarella, but you won't miss it.) This could be a weeknight meal (a) if you have an hour to make dinner, or (b) if you (i) make the sauce beforehand or (ii) use a prepared pasta sauce you like instead of making your own, and have 40 minutes to make dinner. It's definitely good enough for company and is best enjoyed alongside a simple mixed greens or Caesar salad. It's perfect this time of year, when it's brisk and gusty out but not yet so cold that we'd rather have a lasagna baking in the oven for an hour, warming up our freezing house.

Mambo Italiano

Pretty, eh? Almost as pretty as my Mambo Italiano students last week! Enjoy! xxoxoxoxoxo

Skillet Lasagna
Yields 6-8 servings

1 onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried basil or Golden Fig Dynamite Herbs
½ teaspoon each: dried marjoram, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes (could also use 1 teaspoon Italian blend)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 lb Italian sausage (optional - see note)
2 large (26.5-28 oz) cans tomatoes (diced, crushed, whole)
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
10-12 lasagna noodles, broken into 1 to 2” chunks
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces good quality ricotta cheese (or 4 more ounces cream cheese or mascarpone)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil

Equipment: One large (at least 12”) skillet with lid
Tip: Salt as you go!

Measure out 1 teaspoon of salt and have it ready next to your stove. In 12” or larger skillet over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion and a pinch of the salt and sauté for 4-5 minutes, until slightly soft. Add garlic and a pinch of salt, then a minute later add dried herbs, red pepper flakes, and about half the remaining salt and sauté for one more minute. Add sausage and cook, stirring and breaking it apart, until no longer pink, about 4-5 minutes. Add one jar of tomatoes, lemon zest, the rest of the salt, and honey. Bring to boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Stir in butter (better) or olive oil. Scatter broken lasagna noodles on top of sausage and sauce and pour remaining jar of tomatoes on top. Cover and bring to simmer; reduce heat and keep simmering, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente (about 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine three cheeses and a few big grinds of pepper. Once pasta is al dente, dot lasagna with cheese mixture. Cover, turn off heat, and allow to steam for about 5-10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Top with fresh basil.

Notes: If you want this to be vegetarian, you can simply omit the sausage. If you want to throw in more veggies, do so before adding the lasagna noodles and can of tomatoes. If your sauce is still too thin but your noodles are cooked, continue cooking with the lid off until the liquid has reduced, stirring constantly.

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