Those of you who follow Budget Bytes on Facebook may recall a few weeks back when I tried to make Alton Brown’s slow cooker lasagna and it turned out… less than fabulous.
Well, everyone seemed so excited about making lasagna in a slow cooker that I’ve been researching the idea ever since. After looking at about a million recipes, I have come to the conclusion that there isn’t much of an advantage to making lasagna in the slow cooker. The recipes all looked like just as much work and required either a) cooking ingredients prior to putting them in the slow cooker, b) laborious layering just like regular lasagna, or c) an awkward cooking time (4 hours? Can’t do that while you’re at work or while asleep so what’s the point? Just make regular lasagna in half the time…).
Anyway, I’ve decided that the easiest way to achieve lasagna goodness is to make it in a skillet. Yes, like hamburger helper… but a hundred times better. It isn’t pretty and layered like regular lasagna but in exchange you don’t have to spend time building it and you don’t have to subsequently bake the thing for 45 minutes. AND IT’S EVERY BIT AS DELICIOUS!
So, here is how it’s done:
- 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.27)
- 4 cloves garlic ($0.23)
- 1 1/4 lb. Italian sausage ($3.88)
- 1/2 cup red wine, optional ($1.26)
- 3 oz. tomato paste ($0.25)
- 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes ($1.12)
- 1/2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning ($0.07)
- 1/2 cup water ($0.00)
- 8 oz. pasta ($0.83)
- 15 oz. ricotta cheese ($1.83)
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan ($0.24)
- to taste salt and pepper ($0.05)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella ($1.04)
- 3 cups baby spinach, optional ($0.66)
- Mince the garlic and cook it with olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until softened (2 minutes). Squeeze the Italian Sausage from it’s casing into the skillet. Break it up and cook until thoroughly browned.
- Add the wine and tomato paste to the skillet. Cook and stir for about two minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning and a 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low.
- As the sauce simmers on low, cook the pasta according to the package directions (boil for 7-10 minutes or until al dente). Drain the pasta in a colander.
- Stir the drained pasta into the sauce. Add the fresh spinach and stir in until wilted.
- In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, a dash of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Stir until everything is evenly combined. Drop the ricotta cheese mixture onto the sauce and pasta by spoonfuls. Sprinkle one cup of shredded mozzarella over top and cover with a lid (or foil) to allow the cheese to melt (about 5-10 minutes, heat should still be on low). Serve hot!
Step By Step Photos
Like all good recipes, start by cooking some minced garlic in olive oil over medium heat until softened.
This sausage has quickly become one of my favorites. It’s super flavorful and a lot less fat than pork sausage… and it’s gotta be good for me to pass up pork.
Squeeze the Italian sausage out of its casing into the skillet. Break it up as it cooks and continue cooking until it is completely browned.
Add the wine and tomato paste then cook for about 2 minutes. 3 oz. of tomato paste is half of one of those little cans… you can put the rest in a freezer bag and keep it for your next recipe. I actually used some that I had frozen for this recipe. It thaws in just a minute or two under running water!
Add the diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup of water and the Italian seasoning. I used diced tomatoes with basil and oregano for a little extra flavor. It doesn’t cost more, so why not, right?
Let the sauce come up to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and continue to let it simmer. While the sauce is simmering, boil the pasta.
When the noodles are done cooking, drain them in a colander. The sauce should have simmered enough by this time as well. Stir the noodles into the sauce. I used lasagna noodles that I had broken up into pieces but next time I will definitely use a different shape. The lasagna noodles tended to suction together because they were flat. Next time I’ll use curly egg noodles.
Add the fresh spinach and stir it in until it becomes wilted from the heat.
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan and a dash of salt and pepper. Stir it all together.
Drop the ricotta by spoonfuls onto the skillet of lasagna.
Sprinkle a cup of mozzarella over top.
Either place a lid on top or cover with foil (I don’t have a lid for that big skillet). Keep the heat on low and allow the heat to melt the cheese on top. This should take between 5-10 minutes. Afterwards, it’s ready to serve!
Yeah, it might not be the prettiest dish but OMG, DOES IT TASTE GOOD!