When I flipped open the cookbook "One Pan, One Meal" (Hamlyn, November 2021), the first thing I read were several bold sentences in the introduction. Elena Silcock wrote: "I don't want to have to wash up more than absolutely necessary. ... I don't want to be stressed. ... I don't want to have to buy a lot of ingredients."
Sound familiar? It's a refrain I sometimes hear from readers if I suggest a recipe that calls for several pans or if the ingredient list goes beyond their comfort zone. There is a place for such recipes, of course. Some of us want to try new-to-us spices or ingredients and we're eager to explore various cooking techniques, but on a weeknight after a long day of work or school, I get it. Sometimes I am thinking those very same things as I head into the kitchen.
I am not going to tell you that this skillet lasagna is as delicious as the classic layered, baked casserole, but on a busy weeknight it satisfied a craving for that dish, and it did so in one pan. Yes, it has a dozen ingredients, if you count the oil, garlic, salt and pepper, but you should have those in your pantry, right?
You whip it up on the stovetop in about 40 minutes, which is less time than it takes to bake my favorite lasagna – and that doesn't include all the usual prepping of all its components.
You must have a large, nonstick skillet where, in hot oil, you fry the zucchini until golden with nutmeg and garlic. You whisk together the sauce, a mixture of cream cheese, heavy cream, Parmesan, lemon zest and water, in a bowl and pour that over the vegetables and heat until it starts to bubble. Then, you add handfuls of fresh spinach and basil and stir and cook until it wilts.
The dry lasagna noodles go in next: You break them in three or four pieces and slip them in, making sure they are fully submerged, cover and cook until they get soft. Then you must stir them, tucking sauce and vegetables between the layers so they don't stick together. Finally, the whole thing simmers until the sauce is as thick as you like.
Slip a bottle of pinot grigio in the refrigerator before you get started and whip up a salad as the dish simmers on the stove.
Silcock, who is from Britain, wrote: "One of my pals has made this dish almost weekly since I gave her the recipe. It was inspired by the flavors of a spinach and cream cheese pasta from a Jamie Oliver book I loved when I was first learning to cook."
I can understand that. I'll make it again myself because it is so easy, delivers rich flavor and because, now that I have the liquid-to-pasta ratio, I can adjust the ingredients to suit what I have on hand or what is in season.
I might use spinach or whole wheat pasta, a different squash or try asparagus. My husband suggested browning some sausage before the zucchini for a meatier dish. Instead of spinach, you could use spring greens or de-stemmed kale, Silcock noted, adding that if you have mascarpone, use it in place of the cream cheese for a bit more tang.
Spinach Skillet Lasagna
Adapted from "One Pan, One Meal" by Elena Silcock (Hamlyn, November 2021).
Storage notes: Leftover lasagna can be stored for up to 5 days.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 to 2 zucchini (12 ounces total), sliced 1/2-inch thick
Fine sea or table salt
1 3/4 cups water
8 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup heavy cream
Generous 1 cup (about 3 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided, plus more as needed
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced or finely grated
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
12 ounces fresh spinach
1 small bunch of fresh basil, divided
7 ounces dry lasagna sheets, each one snapped into 3 or 4 pieces
Toasted pine nuts, for serving
In a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the zucchini in a single layer, if possible, along with a big pinch of salt, and saute until softened and charred in spots, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
In a large bowl, combine the water, cream cheese, heavy cream, 3/4 cup (about 2 ounces) of the Parmesan and lemon zest. Lightly season with salt and pepper and whisk until well combined. It's OK if there are a few lumps of cream cheese – they will melt when heated.
Once the zucchini is ready, add the garlic and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour the creamy mixture into the skillet and stir until it just starts to bubble. Add all of the spinach and most of the basil a handful at a time, stirring as it wilts down before adding more. Once the spinach and basil are wilted, reduce the heat to medium.
Add the lasagna pieces and, using a wooden spoon, make sure they are all submerged and spread out as much as possible in the sauce.
Cover the skillet and cook for about 6 minutes to soften the noodles. Uncover and stir the lasagna pieces, making sure that some of the sauce and vegetables get tucked between them, so they don't stick together. Then, flatten them out as much as possible, keeping them submerged: This will create a lasagna that you will be able to cut into. Scatter with the remaining Parmesan, then cover and cook for 2 minutes, or until a knife slides through the noodles without any resistance. The lasagna will appear a little soupy.
Remove from the heat, uncover and let sit for 5 minutes. If the lasagna still seems too saucy, return the pan to medium-low heat and simmer, uncovered, for another 2 minutes.
When ready to serve, scatter over the remaining basil leaves, more cheese, if using, and the pine nuts. Use a large spoon or spatula to divide into portions and serve straight out of the pan at the table.
Nutrition information per serving (1 1/4 cup), based on 5 | Calories: 405; Total Fat: 28 g; Saturated Fat: 13 g; Cholesterol: 128 mg; Sodium: 588 mg; Carbohydrates: 25 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugar: 2 g; Protein: 16 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian's or nutritionist's advice.