Skillet Lasagna

I am craving comfort foods from my youth, right about now.

I wanted lasagna the way Garfield scratches his belly for it……. I just didn’t feel like cooking it and putting together all the wonderful layers. Between Zoom Calls and family responsibilities and such I have hit a COVID19 wall lately when it comes to cooking…..but I still want lasagna.

One answer to my 99 problems, and my craving for lasagna is easily solved.

Skillet Lasagna!

With this simple recipe, you can enjoy this comfort food any night of the week. Everything cooks in just 30 minutes This easy skillet lasagna recipe uses traditional ingredients like ricotta, mozzarella and Italian sausage for that authentic lasagna flavor. If you don’t have a large skillet, no problem, just use a deep Dutch oven.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1/2 pound uncooked lasagna noodles (1/2 of a 16-ounce box)
1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, divided
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
salt, to taste
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, divided
One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with onions, undrained
One 12-ounce jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
3/4 cup Mozzarella-Parmesan cheese blend

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Break the noodles in half and cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water, drain the noodles and set aside.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook the meat, breaking it into pieces with a wooden spoon, for about 8 to 10 minutes or until cooked through. Drain the excess fat from the meat and return to skillet. Stir in crushed red pepper flakes, salt to taste and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds — do not burn the garlic.

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese, salt to taste, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the basil; set aside.

Remove the skillet from the stove. Add dollops of the ricotta cheese mixture by rounded tablespoons over the sausage. Top with the noodles, making 1 flat layer. Note that the noodles will overlap just a little bit.

Pour tomatoes and bell peppers over noodles, making sure that noodles are completely covered. Add water, and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon Italian season. Add about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to the perimeter of the skillet.

Cover the skillet with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven and uncover and sprinkle with cheese blend. Cover again and let is stand for 3 t0 5 minutes until the cheese is melted. You can let it stand for and additional 5 minutes if you like it less saucy. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped fresh basil just before serving, if desired. Cut into wedges, and serve with a slotted spatula.

Cook’s Notes:
You can substitute the canned tomatoes and diced bell peppers with one 28-ounce jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce.

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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Did you know that the hallmark of a great pancake is that it can be eaten without mounds of syrup?

The lemon and ricotta flavors meld together nicely and enhance each other’s delicate profiles so amazingly well. A fresh cheese with a slightly sweet flavor, ricotta is produced from whey drained off while making other cheeses, such as mozzarella and provolone. It lends a delicate texture to these melt-in-your-mouth pancakes.The ricotta also adds just enough moisture, giving these pancakes such a tender crumb that you will not be able to resist.Be sure to fold the ricotta into the batter very gently: that way, when you bite into the pancake, you get these pockets of pillowy ricotta.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, plus more as needed
Powdered sugar, fresh  fruit, or  syrup, for serving (optional)

Directions:
Preheat cast iron skillet moderately-high heat.

In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt for 30 seconds. Make a well in center of flour mixture and set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together milk, ricotta, eggs and vanilla until well blended. Then, whisk lemon zest with lemon juice and add to milk mixture along with melted butter and blend until combined.

Pour into flour mixture and whisk just to combined. The batter should appear to be slightly lumpy.

Add the coconut oil to the to the skillet. Pour about 1/4 – 1/3 cup batter onto the oiled skillet and cook the pancakes until bubbles begin to appear on surface and bottom is golden brown, then flip and cook opposite side until golden brown. When done, remove the pancakes from the skillet.

Serve warm dusted with powdered sugar if desired and drizzled with maple or  raspberry syrup.