It’s hard to imagine a meal more satisfying than lasagna. The classic Italian American casserole boasts layers of tender noodles, robust sauce, savory meat and soft, stretchy cheese. And since the variations are endless — from a fiery noodle casserole with spicy sausage, to lasagna made with heaps of vegetables — this iconic dish appeals to meat and veggie lovers alike.
The only downside to lasagna is the lengthy preparation involved. Even if you're using no-boil (oven-ready) pasta, constructing lasagna from scratch requires multiple steps, from fashioning a sauce to combining cheeses and layering all the components in a baking dish.
Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could enjoy the comforting flavors without all the fuss or long bake time?
This is the question that lead me to create a skillet lasagna, which is ready in about 30 minutes with only one pan to clean.
All the elements of the traditional dish are there, just a tad deconstructed. Once you try it, you might never go back to the oven baked version again.
What type of pasta works best in a skillet lasagna?
I prefer to use regular lasagna noodles in this recipe because they soften over time while absorbing all the flavors of the meaty sauce. And I like ruffled edge lasagna noodles for a decorative presentation.
That said, you can swap in no-boil (oven-ready) lasagna noodles if desired. No-boil noodles are smaller and thinner, so you’ll need to add more. Plan on about 10 ounces. When using no-boil lasagna noodles, reduce the cooking time to 10 minutes and stir often because they tend to clump together.
For a gluten-free meal, choose gluten-free lasagna noodles.
No lasagna noodles in the pantry? No problem, any pasta shape works. Including egg noodles. Just check the cooking time on the package and adjust accordingly. Just note that cooking pasta in sauce will likely add a few minutes to the cooking time.
One last tip: Wrap your dry lasagna noodles in a clean kitchen towel before breaking them into smaller pieces. This prevents the noodles from flying all over the place.
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What is the best cheese for lasagna?
When it comes to cheese, use fresh whole milk ricotta cheese. Fresh ricotta is ideal because it’s firm, moist, mildly sweet and a bit more granular than processed ricotta.
The characteristics of fresh ricotta partner perfectly with the tangy sauce and creamy mozzarella. Fresh ricotta cheese is typically sold near the other fresh and specialty cheeses in the grocery store. When using fresh ricotta, drain off any liquid before using.
Meat and vegetarian lasagna variations
If desired, you can replace the ground beef with your favorite mild or spicy sausage. Ground chicken and ground turkey also work for a lighter variation.
For a vegetarian version, replace the ground beef with 10 ounces of steamed or sautéed baby spinach. Add the spinach to the pan when you add the noodles. You can also add other vegetables, such as steamed carrots and zucchini.
How to add more flavor to lasagna
Use beef broth instead of water when making lasagna. The noodles absorb the flavor of the sauce as they cook, so the more flavor in the sauce, the more flavor in the noodles.
If you’re using ground chicken or ground turkey, use chicken broth. If you’re making a vegetarian lasagna, use vegetable broth.
Fresh basil adds a burst of fresh color and texture. Add it just before serving.
For a fiery kick, serve your skillet lasagna with crushed red pepper flakes.
Easy skillet lasagna recipe
When making a skillet lasagna, use a large skillet (preferably one that’s 10 to 12 inches in diameter) with a tight-fitting lid so you have plenty of room to work with. To round out the meal, serve with a tossed salad or steamed vegetables and warm, crusty Italian bread or breadsticks. Store any leftover lasagna in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat the lasagna in a skillet over medium-low heat, adding more sauce or broth if necessary.
Makes: 4 servings
1 pound lean ground beef
1 bell pepper, any color, seeded and diced
½ cup chopped white onion
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 jar marinara sauce of choice, 24-27 ounces
1 cup beef broth or water, plus more if needed
8 ounces uncooked lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch pieces
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 ounces), divided
½ cup ricotta cheese, preferably fresh whole milk ricotta cheese
Fresh basil leaves, for serving
Grated parmesan cheese, for serving
Crushed red pepper flakes for serving, optional
Brown the beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables soften. If necessary, drain any fat from the pan. Add the Italian seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and stir to coat. Cook for 1 minute, until the herbs are fragrant.
Add the marinara sauce and broth and bring to a low boil. Add the broken lasagna noodles and stir to completely coat the noodles with the sauce.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the noodles are tender, stirring every few minutes. The sauce should be simmering, not rapidly boiling. If necessary, add a little more broth to keep the sauce thick and simmering.
Stir in half (½ cup) of the mozzarella cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. Sprinkle the top with the remaining ½ cup of mozzarella cheese. Spoon dollops of the ricotta cheese over top. Cover the pan and remove it from the heat.
Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mozzarella cheese melts. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve with grated parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes on the side.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Lasagna recipe: This skillet pasta is fast and easy to make