Skillet Lasagna

The alternative title for this post was “How Not to Dirty Every Dish I Own”, as that seems to be the general plan whenever I make lasagna.  Get out the sauce pan, the cutting board, the tomato smashing tools, the garlic press, the big pot for the noodles, the strainer to dump the noodles in, the bowl to mix the cheeses, the various spoons and such for dealing with all the things that are going in the pots and bowls…the pan for the lasagna.  Then quick, while it is bubbling away in the oven, wash everything.  Then get out more dishes for the salad, the garlic bread and the dinner plates.  That would be why I have not made lasagna in, ummmm, well I can’t remember how long.  It an exhausting dish to clean up around.

But much like Garfield, I love lasagna.  I kept thinking that there had to be a better way around this until I can afford a lackey whose sole job was to do dishes behind me, the poor unlucky future bastard.  I have been tinkering around with some versions of this skillet lasagna.  This is my favorite, and last night was the final tinkering: fresh mozzarella or shredded.  I made the dish and melted half and half.  The fresh mozzarella not only looked better but it won on taste hands down.  My family has had a long-standing argument about the ricotta vs cottage cheese in lasagna.  Over the years we have come to a compromise in mixing half and half.  If you prefer one or the other, go nuts, my recipe is what I make to keep the odd cottage cheese folks happy.  I won’t say I eliminated all of the dishes, but less than a sink full when all was said and done is a victory to me.

Skillet Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 12 ounces of mafalda noodles (think miniature lasagna noodles, go ahead and substitute-I don’t judge)
  • 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 8 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/4 ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella sliced thin
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese for topping
  • Fresh basil leaves for topping
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a 12 inch skillet, cook onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent.  Add pepper flakes and heat for another minute.
  2. Add ground beef to skillet and brown, breaking beef into crumbles.  Once fully cooked, spoon off most, but not all, of the fat.
  3. While beef is cooking, stir together crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, brown sugar and Italian season in a large bowl.
  4. In an even layer, add noodles on top of the beef and pour tomato mixture over the top of the noodles.  Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to low-medium.  I occasionally need to add a bit more water from time to time, but usually there is enough moisture in the tomato sauce to cook the noodles to al dente.  Add salt/pepper to taste to the sauce.
  5. Mix the cottage cheese with the ricotta in a small bowl.  Once the noodles are al dente, drop spoonfuls of the ricotta cheese mix onto the lasagna.  I like to drag the spoon through like you do when creating a swirl in a cake.  It spreads it around a bit but not too much where you lose the taste by spreading too thin.
  6. Scatter the pieces of fresh mozzarella over the top of the lasagna and cover with a lid for about 5 minutes.
  7. Chiffonade the basil and add it with the shredded Parmesan to the top and enjoy.
  8. Find someone to do the dishes:)
Left side fresh, right side bagged.  Fresh is the best.

Left side fresh, right side bagged. Fresh is the best.

Blueberry Tart

The Queen of Hearts,

She made some tarts,

All on a summer’s day;

The Knave of Hearts,

He stole those tarts,

And took them clean away;

The King of Hearts,

Called for the tarts,

And beat the knave full sore;

The Knave of Hearts,

Brought back the tarts,

And swore he’d steal no more.

Author Unknown

Did you ever read Alice in Wonderland and wonder what a tart was?  I mean it would have to be pretty damned amazing if the King of Hearts was willing to beat the Knave for them right?  I can finally see what the fuss is about.  I found blueberries on sale and decided to have some fun with them (don’t worry, that does not mean anything icky).  Some of my work guinea pigs had asked for a fruit pie..but I needed to put my own twist on it.  I decided on a free form blueberry tart.

Due to the fact that Wisconsin lost the bid for summer weather, it was cool enough for me to make the crust from scratch.  If you have never done so, or are one of those smug bastards who just whips it up in their food processor, let me tell you, cool weather is important.  The key to the flaky yumminess is the cold butter.  I tend to wax eloquent (in my own head at least) about how important the butter being in the right state is.  If a recipe calls for cold butter, it means business.  Likewise if a cookie recipe wants softened butter, melted will not do.  Trust me, it’s important.  Anyways, this was the first time I did not cheat with a Pillsbury Pie Crust, and I am so happy with the results.

The guinea pigs were also happy….to the point of being a little scary.  One of them offered (?) to stalk me so they could find out where I lived and force me to do nothing but make them more.  Who knew I could bake something so delicious it would require a restraining order? I made the recipe again, not a gun point I swear, but cut the dough into quarters prior to rolling out and made four smaller tarts and they turned out just as well.

IMG_2141

Free Form Blueberry Tarts:

Ingredients:

Pastry:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the pastry
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup, plus a tablespoon of ice cold water

Filling

  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon for sprinkling
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 cups blueberries
  • 1 egg white, beaten

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the 1 1/2 cups flour with the ginger and salt.  Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter, cut it into the flour until it is the size of small peas.  Sprinkle on the ice water slowly while mixing with a spatula just until the pastry starts to come together.  Turn the pastry out onto a piece of waxed paper and pat into a disk.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for two hours or until firm.
  2. 20 minutes before bake time, microwave the lemon on high for 10 seconds.  Combine in a large bowl 1/4 cup sugar, the zest from the lemon and the flour.  Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a small bowl.  Fold the blueberries and 2 tablespoons of the fresh lemon juice into the flour/sugar/zest mixture.  Once completely coated, let stand for 15 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375º F.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  There is a good chance that the juice will leak out and you will thank me for this step later.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry into a rough 14 inch circle.  It should be about a 1/8 inch thick.  The beauty of the rustic free form style is that this does not have to be perfect.  All my fellow OCD’ers out there need to read and repeat a couple of times.
  4. Transfer the dough to the parchment and spoon the blueberry mixture into the center.  Allow at least 1 1/2 inch border around the blueberries.  Fold the pastry dough over the blueberries, pleat as necessary.  Brush the beaten egg yolk on the pastry and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
  5. Bake for 55 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the blueberries are bubbling.  Remove from oven, guard from the Knave of Hearts.  Allow the tart to cool to warm and serve cut into wedges.  Make sure the King of Hearts gets his to avoid a beat down.