We’ve heard that old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But what do you do when it is broken?
I’ve had half a box of broken lasagna noodles in my pantry for a while. They’re too mangled to use in a proper lasagna, but too tasty to throw away, so I’ve been keeping a low-key lookout for a yummy way to use them.
Also, in case you’ve forgotten, it’s been h-o-t here, and on Thursday, I found myself in a quandary over something appetizing to fix for supper, as my appetite was totally and completely off.
After some suggestions from some commiserating friends, I started Googling in a rather idle manner, and a recipe from Kraft Foods for Weeknight Lasagna Toss piqued my interest.
I made over the recipe to better suit our tastes and nutrition concerns by
- Using extra lean ground beef (93/7, sometimes referred to as ground sirloin) instead of “lean ground beef,” which often refers to ground chuck (80/20) ground beef;
- Reducing the number of noodles — rather than the 12 called for in the recipe, I only used 8 or 9 (8 ounces of noodles, half of a one-pound box);
- Boosting the nutrition and fiber by including finely chopped celery, onion, and carrot into the sauce (I whizzed them up in my wee little food processor);
- Boosting the flavor by adding in some additional herbs, including some snippets of fresh basil and sprigs of rosemary from our herb garden, along with a shot of Worcestershire; and
- Ensuring a moist, as opposed to drier, texture by adding in a small can (6 ounces, or 3/4 cup) of V8, which also added some more veggie nutrition.
In place of the green pepper called for in the Kraft recipe, I used 3 banana peppers. I also added in some jarred mushrooms, ’cause we like mushrooms. And, instead of using Italian salad dressing to cook the veggies in, I used a wee drizzle of olive oil in my non-stick skillet.
So, I got everything going in the skillet, let it simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, et voila — we had Easy Skillet Lasagna.
And peoples, let me tell you, it was YUMMY! And almost as easy — and, I know, tastier — than Hamburger Helper! (No offense meant to Hamburger Helper — it can be handy, too!)
Now of course, it’s not like a traditional, authentic lasagna — for one thing, there’s no ricotta or cottage cheese — but it is very lasagna-like and gives you happy lasagna thoughts while you eat it.
Because it all cooks on the stove top, it’s perfect for warmer weather, but like most skillet meals, it can be yummy year-round. In colder months, I’d likely bake up some bread so that the oven could heat the kitchen up.
You could add a Florentine flavor to this by adding in a 10 ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed and gently squeezed dry. Or, if you have some fresh spinach leaves, use those.
If you prefer, you can use low carb/high fiber or whole grain/whole wheat lasagna noodles instead of the more traditional noodle.
Easy Skillet Lasagna (Makes about 4 to 6 servings, depending upon heartiness of appetites being fed)
- 1 to 1.25 pound lean (93/7 or greater) ground beef or ground turkey (or use Italian turkey sausage, bulk turkey sausage, or reduced fat, lean bulk pork sausage)
- Olive or canola oil
- Red wine (white would likely work, as well)
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped/diced (I whiz it up in my wee food processor)
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped/diced (I whiz it up in the food processor)
- 1 to 2 stalks celery, finely chopped/diced (I whiz it up in the food processor)
- 1 green (or red or yellow) bell pepper OR 2 to 3 banana peppers, seeded and diced
- Fresh or jarred mushrooms (optional)
- Minced garlic to taste
- 26 ounces or so of your favorite prepared red Italian pasta sauce (I like Hunt’s Garlic & Herb — good flavor and texture, low in added sugars)
- 1 can (6 ounces) (3/4 cup) V8 juice (tomato juice would also work, or 8 ounces (1 cup) of tomato sauce)
- 2 cups water
- 4 ounces (about 1 cup) grated part-skim mozzarella cheese (do yourself a favor and grate your own!)
- Worcestershire sauce (Vegetarians: Leave out or use a vegetarian substitute)
- Seasonings to taste: basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, parsley and rosemary (optional))
- 8 to 9 lasagna noodles, broken (may substitute Malfada or Campanelle)
- Brown ground meat in a large non-stick skillet in a splash of olive or canola oil.
- Add in diced onion and sauté for just a bit. Add in minced garlic and sauté. Add in some healthy splashes of wine (I prefer red; I used some Shiraz, because that’s what I had on hand and open) to “deglaze” the pan, and simmer the onion, carrot, and celery for just a bit. Add in minced garlic and fresh mushrooms (if using).
- Pour in prepared pasta sauce and vegetable juice (or tomato sauce). Stir together.
- Add seasonings to taste: a splash of Worcestershire sauce, basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, and parsley. I also like a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to give it a hint of “fra diavolo” flavor. I’m lucky enough to have fresh rosemary growing in my herb garden, so I like to lay a snipping or two of rosemary twigs on the sauce to simmer (as with bay leaves, I remove them before we eat). I much prefer fresh rosemary to dried, but you can use dried if you prefer, or you can just leave the rosemary out. Add in jarred mushrooms, if using.
- Add in 2 cups of water and broken lasagna noodles. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
- Cook, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until noodles are tender and desired consistency is obtained, about 30 to 40 minutes. If too liquid at the end of the cooking time (ours was just perfect after 40 minutes), simmer uncovered until desired consistency is achieved.
- Remove from heat. Top with shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese.
- Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.