We’re doing Italian tonight — probably my favorite style of cuisine, in case you were wondering — and playing with a concept that I recently saw in a book titled One-Pan Wonders (see the link below). That cookbook is from the good folks at America’s Test Kitchen and is full of recipes designed to use only a single cooking vessel, whether a Dutch oven, a baking sheet, a casserole, or in this case, a skillet. Among its offerings is their recipe for a sausage lasagna in a skillet. I was intrigued by their method, so I decided to try it using my own sauce and cheese recipe. With the Italian cooking music playing on Pandora and a glass of fine Bordeaux to cheer me on, I set about the task at hand.
The method in the book involves making the sauce in the skillet, then removing it to allow you to build the lasagna before baking it in the same skillet. For the sake of saving time on a weeknight I deviated from that just a bit by making my own sauce on the weekend so I could let it simmer longer, and then stored it in the refrigerator. If you choose to do that, just warm the sauce up before moving on to the main recipe. This is yet another variation of my red sauce — sometimes I think I never make it quite the same way twice:
- 1 lb mild Italian sausage, casings removed and cut into chunks
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (28 oz) whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
- 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
We’re using a 12″ straight-sided skillet for this dish. Brown the sausage over medium-high heat, drain the grease and set aside. In the same skillet, heat the olive oil and sweat the onions until tender. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, then add the San Marzano tomatoes. Break them up with the back of a fork or wooden spoon. Add all of the remaining ingredients, blend thoroughly, and simmer at least 30 minutes — longer if you have the time. Add the sausage to the sauce and allow it to simmer a while longer to blend the flavors.
When your sauce is ready, it’s time to move on to the rest of our lasagna-building. Preheat the oven to 375. If you plan to use the same skillet to bake the lasagna, transfer your sauce to a bowl for the moment. Here is what you will need:
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- 1 tsp dried basil leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 12 no-boil lasagna sheets, broken in half
- 3 cups shredded mozzarrella
- Fresh basil for garnish
In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan and dried seasonings until well blended. Spoon about one-fourth of your chunky, delicious red sauce into the skillet and spread it around. Shingle 8 of the half-piece lasagna sheets in a rough circle, then top with a third of the ricotta mixture, followed by a cup of mozzarella, and one-third of the remaining sauce. Repeat this layering of lasagna-ricotta-mozzarella-sauce two more times, which should use up the balance of your ingredients. Toss the skillet into the oven and bake for 45 minutes. This is what comes out.
The pasta was perfectly cooked and, because it absorbed excess moisture from the sauce, the structure of the finished product was excellent. Serve it up with a chiffonade of fresh basil and a green salad on the side. The overall result was absolutely delicious, and we predictably munched it right down with a big happy grin on our faces. Give this a try and I’m sure you’ll be pleased. Until next time: Eat well, my friends!