Thursday, January 13, 2011

Skillet Lasagna with Italian Sausage and Vegetables

At the entrance of my local grocery store there’s a massive tower of Hamburger Helper. Our college students are back in session and need cheap food, right? So I suppose I shouldn’t be annoyed.

But I am. I’m quite irritated in fact. How did “Hamburger Helper” become food anyway? Now, I’m not one of those always-make-it-from-scratch nutters and shortcuts are quite welcome in my hectic life. Food shortcuts. Not MSG loaded chemical shortcuts.

When did it become acceptable to eat non food items? Why did this happen?

Trust me. I know how much cheaper and easier it is to grab a pound of bargain priced hamburger and a box of garbage, but in the end these new adults aren’t doing themselves any favors.

If I could devote my life to helping students cook I would. Maybe I still will. Until then I’ll create copycat recipes with real vegetables, real dairy, whole wheat pasta and organic meat. It may cost more, but what are the lives and health of those I care about worth?

A lot more than a box of chemicals I can tell you that.

Skillet Lasagna with Italian Sausage and Vegetables

Printer Version
The ingredient list looks long, but this hearty skillet dinner isn’t difficult to make.

8 ounce box whole wheat or regular lasagna noodles
1/2 cup ricotta
1/3 cup shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces thinly sliced mushrooms
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound Bulk Sweet Italian Sausage (not in casing)
8 ounce zucchini, sliced into 1/8” thick half moons
24 ounce jar red pasta sauce (I like Newman’s Own Sockarooni Sauce in this dish.)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Break lasagna noodles in half lengthwise then break each strip into 1 to 2 inch pieces. Cook according to package directions, for whole wheat I cook them up to 5 minutes longer to soften to taste. Strain water out and mix noodles with a small amount of olive oil to keep them from sticking together.

2. In a small bowl, mix together ricotta and Pecorino Romano or Parmesan. Set aside.

3. In a very large skillet add the olive oil and melt the butter over medium high heat until the foam begins to subside. Add mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook for several minutes until the vegetables start to soften.

4. Add the sausage and break it up in the pan, then add the zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally until sausage is thoroughly cooked through. Turn off heat and strain mixture in a colander and place back into the skillet.

5. Turn the heat to medium. Stir in pasta and pasta sauce and cook for a few minutes until heated through. Stir in water then dollop on ricotta mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella. Swirl in the cheeses. Top with more Romano or Parmesan if desired before serving.

Note: Can’t eat dairy? Want to save some money or cut down on calories? Feel free to leave out the butter and all cheeses. Just substitute another tablespoon of olive oil for the missing butter. At the end, taste for salt and pepper as you might need to add extra to make up for the missing salty cheese.

Recipe and photographs by Laura Flowers.


Stephanie @ The Brunette Foodie said...

I love this idea! Lasagna is one of my favorite dishes to make, but I'm always looking for new ways to serve it.

The Atwoods said...

Oh this looks great Laura! I have to shamefully admit that my hubby actually enjoys Hamburger Helper (can you believe it!?). However, he does make it for his lunch when he closes at nights so that I don't have to eat it with him. :) I'm going to give this one a try!

notyet100 said...

looks delicious,..:-)

Caroline said...

This would be such a worknight-friendly meal, instead of having to wait for an entire casserole to cook in the oven. The fresh veggies alone elevate this dish to something better than HH, but I'm sure it tastes sooo much better, too!

Joanne said...

Well, I am one of those crazy do-it-your-self-ers. AND I'm a student. So there Hamburger Helper! Blech. I've actually never had the stuff. And I never will. My mission is to show college students or anyone really that it's much easier and will satisfy you so much more to just stand at the stove for 30 minutes. Love this lasagna! So much easier than the layer and bake version but just as delicious.

The Cooking Photographer said...

Yeah Joanne! You rock.


The Cooking Photographer said...

I feel like I threw a temper tantrum here. I hope you all will forgive me.


Unknown said...

ohh i am loving this. Any way I could make lasaga faster, I'm there.

Unknown said...

I have been wanting to try skillet lasagna, thanks for sharing especially with pics!~

Fresh Local and Best said...

I can't agree with you more. It starts by resisting the temptation to take short cuts. This looks fabulous, plus you have tons of great leftovers.

Rhonda said...

Convenience food is supposed to be that, convenient and not a way of life. If people would only realize how simple it is to make some of the boxed items by scratch or semi-scratch they would never go back. We do this at our house occasionally also...the addition of the zuccini is great.

Veronica said...

Now I see what you mean about the temper tantrum. I'm kind of impressed b/c I don't think you've ever shown a temper before! We all need to lash out at life's absurdities once in a while, and Hamburger Helpers needs a little butt kickin. You go girl.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I happen to like Hamburger Helper...after I've "helped" it by adding not only hamburger but also other "real" ingredients! Now it is food.

Your friend - "Anonymous"

The Cooking Photographer said...

Lol my friend Anonymous! Love the signature... Wonder if I know you...

Adding real ingredients to hamburger helper means you are eating real food from those ingredients, but not from the stuff in the box. You're also getting plenty of MSG and other things you probably don't need.

Why not make it from scratch instead? Most of those skillet meals were invented because they weren't too difficult to make in the first place. It's all in the marketing.


Sharon said...

What a great idea! I LOVE lasagne but I've never made it myself because it looks rather complicated. This looks absolutely delicious and doesn't seem to difficult to make! I should give this a go sometime, I love it :)

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

I've never purchased the stuff, even when I didn't know how to cook yet. I didn't grow up eating it, and it never appealed to me. Same goes for Cool Whip - real whipped cream is a cinch to make, and it tastes 100 times better.

Monet said...

Laura! I wish you would take college campuses by storm! I'm shocked by some of the food my students eat. I don't know how they can go day after day eating such junk! Thank you for sharing such a delicious and simple lasagna recipe. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, love!

stephchows said...

Go you! No chemicals for me please :)

softhef said...

we share the same soap-box laura! and i make a similar dish...i call it LML, Lazy Man's Lasagna :)

Amy said...

Thank you so much for this recipe and your "dairy-free note". I am having to go dairy free for my nursing baby and struggle finding dairy free recipes (I love dairy) this came at the perfect time!

Sue said...

When I was a kid, I am sad to say that my mom did make Hamburger Helper:( I did not follow suit. Thanks for the easier version of lasagna, Laura. It looks tasty!

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