Lazy Lasagna Ready in an Hour

A ricotta & sausage lasagna you can eat in about an hour
Ricotta & sausage lasagna you can eat in about an hour

I promised to make a lasagna for our office potluck lunch Thursday. As I got ready for a trip to LA I tried to beg off making the lasagna.

I knew I wouldn’t be in the mood to make a lasagna because I was flying back Wednesday night.  My office mates wouldn’t let off the hook.

I was stuck. After I unpacked I dashed off to the market to get everything I needed.

I was making a “lazy” lasagna. No homemade pasta sheets. No long-cooked sauce. This puppy is in the oven in a half-hour.

Don’t be intimidated. This is a simple recipe for a weekend meal or even for a leisurely weeknight dinner.

I used no-boil lasagna sheets, sausage  browned out of its casing and a ricotta, mozzarella and pecorino filling. Canned San Marzano tomatoes made the quick tomato-basil sauce a snap. Leave out the sausage and you have a delicious vegetarian lasagna.

First start the sauce. It will be ready in about 30 minutes. Cook the sausage at the same time. In the meantime whip up the ricotta and mozzarella filling. When the sauce is ready assemble the 3-layer lasagna and bake it in a hot oven for about a half-hour.

How easy is that? You’ll be ready to eat in about 60 minutes start to finish.

The ricotta filling encased in tender pasta sheets is creamy and rich. The perky sausage layer bathed in the sweet tomato-basil sauce is a zesty counterweight. I savored every bite. 2 of my lucky mates snagged the leftover lasagna for their lunch the next day.

Serve the lasagna with a simple salad and a bold red wine. Have some crusty bread handy to wipe up the sauce left on the plate. You won’t have to wash that dish before you put it back on the shelf.

Buon appetito!

Lazy Lasagna with Tomato-Basil Sauce
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian-American
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 box oven-ready (no-boil) lasagna sheets
  • 2 pounds ricotta, drained
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, shredded
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano, plus more to sprinkle on top of the lasagna
  • ¼ cup fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound Italian mild sausage out of the casing
  • 2 28-ounce cans imported San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut in small cubes
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the canned tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them with you hand. Discard any basil in the can and any skin or tough stems.
  3. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cook the garlic until it takes on a light tan color.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the pan and sea salt to taste. Bring the sauce to a rapid simmer.
  5. Add the basil, reduce to low heat and stir the sauce occasionally for about 30 minutes. The sauce will thicken a bit as it simmers.
  6. As the sauce simmers put a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add the sausage and brown. Break up any clumps as you cook the sausage.
  7. Drain off the oil in the pan and set the sausage aside.
  8. In a large bowl beat the eggs then add the ricotta, most of the shredded mozzarella, pecorino, parsley and black pepper. (Set aside a ¼ cup of the shredded mozzarella to spread on top of the lasagna.)
  9. Beat well with a fork or whisk.
  10. In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish spread a cup of sauce evenly over the bottom.
  11. Dot with 1 tablespoon butter.
  12. Lay down a single layer of lasagna sheets to cover the bottom of the dish.
  13. Add half the ricotta filling and spread it evenly over the lasagna sheets.
  14. Add another single layer of lasagna sheets on top of the ricotta filling. Spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  15. Add the browned sausage in an even layer over the lasagna sheets.
  16. Top with another single layer of lasagna sheets and spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  17. Spread the remaining ricotta filling evenly over the sheets.
  18. Top with another single layer of lasagna sheets and spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  19. Sprinkle with the reserved shredded mozzarella and some grated pecorino.
  20. Dot with butter.
  21. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more to lightly brown the cheese on top of the lasagna,
  22. Let the lasagna sit for about 15 minutes before cutting the lasagna. (I usually make 3 cuts the length of the lasagna and then 4 cuts across the width to form 3 x 3 inch pieces.)
  23. Put any remaining sauce in a sauce bowl should your guests want to add more to their lasagna.
  24. (The lasagna is even better the next day.)

 

 

Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

Sauteed broccoli rabe and roasted Sicilian & Calabrese sausages
Sauteed broccoli rabe and roasted Sicilian & Calabrese sausages

Here’s one of my favorite dishes that’s easy and quick to make for a weeknight dinner. You’ll be eating in a half hour or so.

Roast the sausage in a hot 425 degree oven until they’re golden brown.

While the sausage is roasting steam/saute the broccoli rabe in a big covered pot with garlic, red pepper flakes and extra virgin olive oil.

The broccoli rabe is infused with garlic and the hot chili flakes add a perky sparkle as you swallow.

I chose two Little City Meats homemade sausages to diversify a bit. One is the mild Sicilian with fennel seeds the other a hot Calabrese with dried chili.

Sometimes I want to extend the heat and I’ll grab a hot Calabrese. Sometimes I want to calm it all down and go for the mild Sicilian instead. Either way with a crusty chunk of Italian bread you’ll be in heaven.

For a vegetarian alternative I often just have a bowl of broccoli rabe with a hunk of crusty bread to soak up the cooking broth.

Either way quick, healthy and delicious. Your dinner all on one plate.

Buon appetito!

Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 bunches of broccoli rabe
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ pounds your favorite Italian sausages
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • sea salt to taste
  • ¼ cup water
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Put the sausages in a roasting pan large enough so that they have room between them so they'll roast and not steam.
  3. While the sausage is roasting prepare the broccoli rabe.
  4. Remove any wilted or discolored leaves and the tough large leaf from each broccoli rabe stem.
  5. Cut off the tough bottom end of each stem. (You can peel the lower end of the stem but I usually cut it at the juncture of the floret stem and the lowest leaf.)
  6. Wash the broccoli rabe and drain them.
  7. Put the olive oil, pepper flakes and garlic in a large pot with a lid and heat the oil over medium heat until the garlic just starts to turn translucent.
  8. Add the broccoli rabe and sea salt to taste.
  9. Pour in the water, bring to a boil, and cover the pot tightly with the lid.
  10. Steam, lifting the lid to stir occasionally, until the broccoli rabe is softened, about 5 minutes.
  11. Uncover and cook over medium heat until the liquid is evaporated and the broccoli rabe is tender, about 5 minutes.
  12. (If you want a milder broccoli rabe blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds and drain them before adding to the hot olive oil. Finish cooking as above.)
  13. Return the sausages to the pot to warm them through.
  14. Serve the sausages on a platter, with the broccoli rabe on the side.

2 North Beach Sausage Winners

Little City Sausage and Peppers

I love Italian pork sausage. Luckily I can get the best right here in North Beach.

The Chronicle tasted 48 house-made sausages from all over the Bay Area, everything from traditional Italian pork sausage to Boudin Blanc and Spicy Georgia Peach Bourbon chicken sausage. Even with such a wide spread of sausage styles North Beach had 2 winners!

Calabrese pork sausage from Little City at Stockton and Vallejo came in second for “specialty sausages.” The Calabrese has a kick from the crushed hot pepper. It’s delicious.

My other personal favorite from the Little City guys is the Sicilian sausage, a mild pork sausage with fennel. I’m amazed their Sicilian didn’t make the top 5 in the mild sausage category. It’s a perfect blend of pork shoulder, salt, pepper and fennel seeds.

They sell a lot of sausage at Little City. If you get lucky you might catch fresh sausage being made on the counter at the back of the shop. You’ll want to see how this sausage is made. It’s an art.

The mild pork sausage with fennel from Molinari on Columbus got a favorable mention too.

Here’s my quick sausage and peppers recipe. It’s a zesty one-plate meal bursting with flavor and it makes a mean sandwich.

And here’s the Chronicle sausage post.

Buon appetito!

Frittata: Italian Egg, Sausage and Potato Pie

Frittata Italian egg pie recipe - Gianni's North Beach cooking video
Frittata Italian egg pie recipe - Gianni's North Beach cooking video
Frittata

Frittata is a versatile dish and you can make it in less than 20 minutes start to finish. Use whatever ingredients you want to make it your own. Here I use some of my favorites. Browned potatoes and onions are the base. Fresh mozzarella, roasted sausage, grated pecorino, and chopped parsley enhance the egg mixture.

Make yours vegetarian. Saute a couple of your favorite veggies to bring out their flavor.  Roasted asparagus or sauteed zucchini work well too. Let the sauteed vegetables cool before adding them to egg mixture. Prosciutto or ham are good substitutes for the roasted sausage. Fontina or another soft cheese can replace the mozzarella. Or just use grated pecorino, parmigiano or grana padano.

Serve frittata for brunch or dinner. A side fruit or green salad completes the plate. Frittata is a nice addition to an antipasti platter too. However you serve your frittata make sure you have enough left over so you can enjoy frittata panini (sandwiches) later on.

I use a well-seasoned 11-inch cast iron pan for my 10 egg frittata. Non-stick saute pans work well too. For my smaller 9-inch cast iron pan I use 6 or 8 eggs. If you are anxious about flipping the frittata to cook the second side use an oven-proof pan and put it in the oven to finish cooking.

The golden crust is nutty and the frittata is cooked through but still a moist on the inside. Enjoy a mouthful of flavor in every bite.

Buon appetito.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:91]

Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy brought me to tears. Check it out in the closing credits. Hand-crushed tomatoes and long-braised meats galore. The traditional, long-cooked pasta sauce from a small village in Campania. You have to make this one next Sunday!

Watch the video once, then follow along with Gianni, glancing at the recipe when you need to cheat:

Ingredients

Meat

  • Pork braciola: Thinly cut slice of pork shoulder or pork loin
  • Beef braciola: Thinly cut slice of beef chuck or round
  • Meatballs: Mixture of 1/3 ground beef, ground pork, ground veal,
  • 11/2 pounds total
  • 4 Italian sausage links
  • 1 cup Italian flat parsley, chopped fine
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the pork braciole: about 12 lightly toasted pinoli (pine nuts) and 12 raisins
  • For the meatballs: ½ cup of stale bread soaked in water or milk and squeezed dry to form the pinade (la pinada)
  • 1 egg

For frying:

  • 1/8 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Gravy

  • 2 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes imported from Campania, Italy
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 carrot, cut in half and then in 2 inch pieces
  • 1 celery stalk cut in 2 inch pieces
  • ½ white onion, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs fresh basil
  • 4 sprigs fresh flat Italian parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Pasta

  • 1 lb or 500 grams pasta. Fusilli napoletani is used in the recipe, but you can use any pasta you want. Make sure that it is durum wheat pasta imported from Italy that is extruded through a bronze die. Look for something like this on the package: “Pasta trafilata in bronzo”.
  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt

Cooking Directions

Gravy

  1. In a thick-bottomed pot, put the olive oil, the battuto (carrot, celery, onion, garlic and bay leaf). Turn heat to medium-low and sauté slowly. This is your soffritto (the odori, flavoring vegetables and herbs). You want these ingredients to be translucent, not browned, so they infuse the oil with their flavor.
  2. Crush the San Marzano tomatoes with your hands until they are all broken up into rough chunky texture. Discard any basil, peel or stems or veins on the inside of the tomato (usually white or yellow).
  3. When the soffritto is translucent and sizzling a bit in the oil, add the tomatoes. Stir to mix the tomatoes and the suffritto. Add the basil and parsley sprigs and submerge in the gravy. Add the sea salt. Reduce to low heat, cover the pot and simmer gently. Stir the pot frequently so it doesn’t burn. This is a long-simmered sauce and will cook for at least 3 hours after the meat is added to the gravy.

Meats

Braciole

  1. Finely chop the parsley and garlic. Set aside. You will use half for the braciole and half for the meatballs.
  2. Lay the pork and beef braciole out flat on the board. Take ½ of the garlic/parsley and equally divide the garlic/parsley paste between the two braciole. Spread the paste evenly over the surface of each braciola leaving about a 1/2 inch border at the long edges. Sprinkle ¼ cup grated Pecorino evenly over both braciole. Sprinkle salt and tower to taste over both.
  3. For the pork braciola only: Spread 12 toasted pinoli and 12 raisins evenly over the pork braciola.
  4. Tightly roll up each braciole and tie with string to keep the paste inside and to maintain the shape of the braciole.

Meatballs (Polpette)

  1. Put the ground meat, the remaining chopped garlic/parsley, Pecorino, stale bread pinada, egg, and ground salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Combine the ingredients with your hand. Squeeze everything together so that it is a homogeneous mixture. Put about 2 tablespoons of the meat into the palm of your hand and roll into a ball, round and slightly flat.
  2. Over a high flame, heat a large sauté pan, add the canola and EVOO and heat until it ripples and smokes a bit. Add all the meat and reduce heat to medium-low and cook the meat until a brown crust forms.  Cook the meat in batches if necessary so you don’t crowd the pan. Do not touch the meat until you can easily move the meatballs, sausage and braciole in the pan, without them sticking. Turn over and brown on the other side. You want to caramelize the meat and form a nice brown crust.
  3. When well browned, transfer the meat, except the meatballs, in the gravy. Make sure all of the meat is submerged. Leave the lid of the pot ajar a bit to let some of the water evaporate so a thicker gravy forms. Gently simmer for at least 3 hours on a low flame. You want the braciole to tenderize by simmering in the gravy. Add the meatballs to the gravy about a half hour prior to cooking the pasta.

Cooking the Pasta and Finishing the Dish

  1. Put the water and salt in a large pot. Make sure that the pot is big enough to allow the long fusilli to “dance” in the salted water. Cook about 8 minutes until the pasta is very al dente. It will finish cooking in the gravy in a sauté pan.
  2. Put about 2 cups of the gravy in a large sauté pan and heat over a medium flame. Pull out the al dente fusilli and put in the sauté pan. Finish cooking the fusilli in the gravy, turning it so that the gravy is absorbed by the pasta to finish cooking. You should just have enough gravy to fully coat all of the fusilli.
  3. Close the flame. Grate Pecorino to taste and mix to distribute it throughout the pasta. If you wish, drizzle with a good quality EVOO.
  4. Remove the strings from the braciole and slice into ½ inch slices. Put the braciole, meatballs and sausage on a serving platter and top with some of the gravy.
  5. Serve the pasta in a warm bowl or plate. Traditionally, the pasta is served as a separate course, followed by the meats as the next course. To be honest, I usually serve the pasta and the meats at the same time. My guests can decide how to enjoy the pasta and the long-simmered meats.

Serve with a hearty red from Campania, an aglianico or taurasi perhaps.