Last time I was at the Green City Market I couldn’t resist picking up a half-pound bag of mixed mushrooms. I’ve loved mushrooms ever since I was a child, eating them sautéed in omelets or cooked with wine and herbs, but I rarely go beyond basic button or cremini mushrooms. When I noticed the Green City vendor selling a decently priced mix of cremini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms, I just had to get them.
Skillet Lasagna is something I’ve seen floating around lately. I suppose the idea is that it’s easier than traditional lasagna because you use the one pan for everything and don’t have to worry about layering it quite as nicely as you would in a casserole dish. The Skillet Lasagna also tends to employ the use of no-boil noodles, which means that you just break them up and place them in the skillet as well as you can and just get on with it. It is a sort of a cheater’s lasagna, offering all the wonderful cheesy, tomato-y goodness of the original without any of fussiness of assembly.
I love a good lasagna and try to make it at least once during the cold weather, to be portioned up and frozen for lunches or days when there’s nothing to eat in my refrigerator and the idea of going back out in the single-digit cold makes me want to cry. I’d marked a recipe for a Three-Cheese Skillet Lasagna in a 2009 issue of Everyday Food, so I decided to finally give it a try with a little twist – I’d sauté the cremini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms and add them to the sauce. Because I like a little meat in my lasagna, I also crumbled and browned some Italian sausage I had sitting the freezer, just waiting for an opportunity like this to come around.
Was the lasagna any easier to make than the normal lasagna? Only marginally. If I weren’t already going to use my skillet for part of the process, I wouldn’t break it out specifically for this. But, it was nice not having to get my casserole dish down form the top shelf. How was the taste? Really, really, quite good. For the first time ever, I made my own sauce for this lasagna and it was amazing both how easy it was and how much of a difference it made. I even forewent the step requiring you to puree the tomatoes in the food processor and instead just chopped them inside their cans with my kitchen shears. The flavor was sharp and lively, so much brighter than you can ever get from bottled sauce and I loved the chunky consistency.
As far as the mushrooms and sausage, while I loved them independently, I didn’t necessarily love them together. The shiitake and oyster mushrooms were so much more flavorful than the cremini and button mushrooms that I’ve previously used that they competed with the flavor of the sausage. Don’t get me wrong, I will eat every bit of this lasagna, with its browned cheesy crust and fluffy layers of ricotta, but if I were to make it again I would either use just the mushrooms or just the sausage.
And, yes, I will be making it again. It may only be a small cheat, but anything that makes lasagna a little bit easier is worth repeating in my book.
Skillet Lasagna with Mixed Mushrooms & Sausage
1 28-ounce and 1 15-ounce cans of whole peeled plum tomatoes, chopped for a chunky sauce or pureed for a smooth sauce
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
½ pound mushrooms, sliced
2 Italian sausages, casings removed
1 large egg yolk
1 ½ cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1 12-ounce box of no-boil lasagna noodles
½ pound mozzarella, shredded
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400º.
First, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet. Sauté the sliced mushrooms, working in batches if needed so the mushrooms brown and don’t steam. Remove the mushrooms. Add the sausage to the pan and break up with a wooden spoon into small crumbles. Cook until browned. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and remaining oil to the skillet and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper and lower the heat. Cook on medium until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly, 12-15 minutes. Add the mushrooms back in.
While the tomatoes are going, mix together the egg yolk, ricotta, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper in a small bowl.
When the sauce has reached a consistency you like, pour it into a heatproof vessel and return ¾ cup to the skillet, spreading it evenly along the bottom. Add a single layer of the noodles, breaking them up so they cover the surface of the skillet. Top with half the ricotta mixture, spreading it evenly as best you can. Follow with a second layer of noodles, then 1 ½ cups sauce. Add a third layer of noodles, then the remaining ricotta mixture. Follow with a final layer of noodles and the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan over the top.
Bake lasagna until golden and bubbling, 30-35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings.