Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Skillet Lasagna

It's hot. Whether you are in Austin or other warm climates, the summertime often means using the oven much less than at other times of the year. But what is a pasta-loving foodie like me supposed to do if I can't make mac and cheese or lasagna? Fortunately, I've come up with a good stove top skillet lasagna that minimizes some of the heat in the kitchen, and it's not real heavy so you won't feel weighed down in the hot weather. I use a premade tomato sauce, but if you are feeling industrious, make your own sauce with some fabulous summer tomatoes.
I started with fresh Italian chicken sausage, removed the casing, and crumbled it in the skillet, cooking all the way through. I am fortunate to have Central Market nearby, there's a ton of fresh-made sausages in the meat case, and again, I like a chicken sausage for this recipe, but pork or beef is fine too. And if you can't find a fresh chicken sausage, use a pre-cooked one that's been diced; saute it for a few minutes so the pieces crisp up a bit. Alternatively, if you are cooking vegetarian, get a couple portobello mushrooms, remove the stem and gills, cut into 1/2 inch strips, and then a 1/2 inch dice; saute in a little olive oil until lightly browned. Remove sausage/mushrooms from skillet. 
As the sausage cooks, I used a handy "y-peeler" to make zucchini ribbons. I find this works better than a conventional peeler, or you could use a mandoline slicer.
In the skillet, begin assembling your lasagna. First some sauce, then noodles, then zucchini, sausage, ricotta, and repeat the layers, topping it off with fresh mozzarella. 
I take an off-set spatula and spread the ricotta out into an even layer before adding the next layer.
Cover the skillet, and cook 20 - 25 minutes over medium-low heat (you want the sauce to be gently bubbling as it cooks); the cheese on top will be melty, the sauce will have filled the skillet, and the noodles should be tender. Remove the lid and turn off the heat.
Let it sit for a few minutes before cutting into it; serve with a generous sprinkling of fresh basil leaves. Once cooled completely, I cut the lasagna into single portions and freeze them for an easy meal later on. Enjoy and stay cool!

Summer Skillet Lasagna
 © South Austin Foodie 2013

approximately 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
8 ounces fresh chicken sausage, casings removed (or portobello mushrooms, diced)
24 ounces tomato/pasta sauce
6 full length (about 10 inches) no boil lasagna noodles, cut in half, making twelve 5" lengths
1 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise into ribbons
15 ounces low fat ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
3 - 4 leaves fresh basil, sliced thinly 
Parmesan cheese, optional

-- In a 12" covered skillet, heat 1 - 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium-low heat; add crumbled sausage (or mushrooms), and saute until lightly browned and sausage is cooked all the way through. Remove from skillet.
-- In the same skillet (with heat on lowest setting), add about 1 cup of tomato sauce to the bottom of the pan. Place 4 noodle strips down, followed by zucchini ribbons, about half the sausage, and about half the ricotta. Take a knife or offset spatula and smooth the ricotta into an even layer. 
-- Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil, a smidge of salt, and a grind or two of fresh black pepper; top with about a cup of sauce.
-- Now repeat: noodle, zucchini, remaining sausage and ricotta, olive oil, salt and pepper.
-- Add the final layer of noodles, the remaining sauce (make sure to cover all edges of the noodle with the sauce), and top with the mozzarella and a bit of Parmesan if desired. 
-- Put the lid on, and over medium heat, let it get all bubbly. Once it really starts simmering, turn down to medium-low, and give it 20-25 minutes, until the noodles are cooked through. Remove lid, turn off the heat, and give it at least 5 minutes before cutting. 
-- When serving, top with basil and Parmesan cheese.