Thursday, May 31, 2012

Easy Skillet Lasagna (or, as we like to call it, "Faux-sagna")

I think my absolute favorite thing to make is Lasagna al Forno from my awesome Italian cookbook.  It takes hours to cook and is one of the best things I've ever tasted.  It's fairly different from a more "traditional" American lasagna: no tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, or mozzarella (although I have been known to add tomato sauce and mozzarella on occasion).  Instead, the lasagna noodles are layered with Bolognese meat sauce seasoned with cinnamon, creamy Bechamel sauce, and parmesan.  It's a very involved and time-consuming recipe, which is one reason it's so much fun to make - the other reason is that the end result is fantastic.  This is what I think of when I think of lasagna...

The following recipe is nothing like that... but it is very good, and super easy, and fairly quick.  I don't know when I will next have the time to make "real" lasagna, so until then, this is a darn good substitute.  Matt and I have taken to calling it "Faux-sagna."  Don't let the name fool you though - this tastes as good as any "real" layered American lasagna, and is far less time consuming.

Easy Skillet Lasagna, or "Faux-sagna"
(modified from this recipe)

  • about 6 oz lasagna noodles, broken into thirds
  • 1/2 lb. ground turkey or beef (optional)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans Italian diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 small (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1-1 1/2 Tbsp fresh parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese mashed with a fork until creamy)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 5-6 basil leaves, chopped

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions.  When they are finished, drain, leave in the strainer, and set aside for later.

While the pasta is cooking, brown ground meat (if using) in a large skillet.  Drain fat from cooked meat and set aside.  I wipe down the skillet with a paper towel before continuing, but probably if you didn't it would be fine and might add a little richer flavor from the meat.

Heat the olive oil in the skillet, then cook onions over medium-high heat until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add garlic and mushrooms and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, parsley, and salt & pepper to taste.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, then stir in ground meat.

While the mixture is simmering, rinse the lasagna noodles in the strainer in hot water and separate any that have stuck together.  Add the noodles to the skillet and stir into the mixture well.  Drop small scoops of the ricotta or cottage cheese around the skillet on top of the mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella, parmesan, and basil.  *Do not stir after this point!*  Simmer on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.  The tomato sauce will bubble to the top in places while it simmers; when it does, poke around the lasagna with a wooden spoon to get the cheese mixed a little further down so it will melt better, but *Do Not Stir!*  You want the cheese layer on top, not mixed in.  I didn't try this, but you could also let it simmer for about 5 minutes, then put the skillet under the broiler until the cheese is melted.

When the mixture is thick and all of the cheese is warmed through and melted, you're done!  Serve with a spatula or a large spoon and enjoy the easy, cheesy goodness!

I love this recipe! :) It satisfies my craving for lasagna without requiring me to spend all afternoon in the kitchen.  Although, after writing above about how incredible Lasagna al Forno is, I find myself drooling over it now... I just might have to make Matt watch Elliot for the afternoon one of these weekends and make some "real" lasagna again!  If I do, I'll be sure to post about it and share the recipe here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Carrot Raisin Drops

I was looking for a cookie recipe to make yesterday when I stumbled upon this one that I had bookmarked long ago in my cookie cookbook (terrific little book - detailed instructions, and everything I've made from it is delicious).  It sounded good and different so I decided to give it a try.  I am so happy I did because these cookies are wonderful!  Matt was skeptical; when I told him I was making carrot cookies he dejectedly said "oh, I thought you were making cookies."  When they were done and he tried them though, he agreed they are far better than they sound, though he recommends chocolate chips instead of raisins next time.  If you like carrot cake or banana/zucchini-type breads you'll love these.  They're easy and fun!

This isn't the best picture, but trust me, these are delicious!
Carrot Raisin Drops
(makes about 72 cookies)
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange peel
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
In a mixing bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add the brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, orange peel, ginger, and nutmeg; beat until combined.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer; stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon.  Stir in the carrots, oats, raisins, and nuts.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.  (I kept a small bowl of water nearby to dip the teaspoon in after every few scoops of cookie dough - it helped keep it from becoming a sticky mess.)  Bake in a preheated 375ยบ oven for 6-8 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove cookies and cool on wire racks.

*Optional changes:
  • I keep thinking these would be great with pistachios subbed for the walnuts/pecans. 
  • Matt thought they would be better with chocolate chips instead of raisins.  I usually am not a fan of raisins in cookies, but I really like them in these.  Even so, I'm sure chocolate would be a great addition to these cookies. :)