Not a Cold Dead Place
by Jonathan Almerido
Hey y’all! My name is Jonathan (code name: the Ladies’ No. 1 Snart Machine), and I am delighted to be co-authoring this blog alongside my BEFF (that’s Best Ever Friend Forever). You’ll find that I have a slightly less refined (read: less awesome), more decadent taste for food than my friend, mostly because I am a fatty. I, for example, don’t measure the amount of butter or oil that I use while cooking. I go for that extra cupcake. I keep chocolate hidden in my room so I can snack on it if I’m too lazy to walk all the way to the kitchen. I am the kind of guy who won’t hesitate to eat cookie dough right out of the mixing bowl because cookie dough is better than the cookie and I don’t care if the eggs are raw and YOU’RE NOT MY MOM YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO SO SHUT YOUR BLOWHOLE.
Now for food.
When I’m at home, there are many afternoons where I just look around on the interwebz for something to make for dinner. It’s always hard to find just the right thing to make for my family insomuch as everyone has different tastes. I’m not saying that it’s a problem or anything, but I just wish that sometimes they would like everything that I like and do everything that I want to do. Like, srsly. It’s not that hard, you guys.
Notwithstanding the ostensible difficulty in finding something to make for dinner (sometimes I even try Googling “WHAT SHOULD I HAVE FOR DINNER,” like that, in all caps. That endeavor is always a bust), I actually think of it as a fun challenge. There are so many things to factor in, like budget, ingredients, time, how many effs I give about making dinner that night, how big of a breakfast I had that morning, what we had for dinner the evening before. I turn it into a game, where the prize is Finally Getting Off My Butt and Just Cooking Dinner, Dammit. Today’s game ended with Skillet (or, in my case, Stock Pot) Lasagna.
Lasagna is one of those dishes that’s easy to make but requires too many dishes to be washed. The dishes to satisfaction ratio is far too high to convince me to make lasagna. When I found this recipe, however, I realized that, hey. Maybe I can have those lasagna flavors all up in my mouth in fewer than two hours! Score one for my tummy!
For all you moms, dads, and busy students out there, this one’s for you. It takes almost no time to make and is fairly inexpensive considering the quantity that the recipe yields (I paid $20 for the ingredients).
(adapted from Ezra Pound Cake, but only slightly)
28 oz. diced tomatoes
1 T butter (or olive oil, but we only have, like, a quarter cup left at home and I’m saving that for something that’s so special I don’t even know what it is yet)
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 t dried thyme
1/2 t dried oregano
1 T tomato paste
1/2 t salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 t red pepper flakes
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. Italian sausage, mild or spicy, casings removed (in a shocking, daring, and totally unplanned move, I used one mild and one spicy link)
10 lasagna noodles, broken as best as you can into two-inch pieces (let’s get real, though. Breaking these suckers into two-inch pieces is pretty difficult to do perfectly. No one’s going to judge you if your food isn’t perfectly uniform)
15 oz. can tomato sauce (if you’re being awesome and comparing recipes, you will see that the source recipe uses an 8 oz. can. This recipe reflects all of the goofs that I made. If you enjoy the almost soupy consistency that I achieved, by all means, use that 15 oz. can. If not, totally remember to use only 8 oz. and not 15)
1/2 c, plus 2 T parmesan cheese (divided use. I used shredded parmesan, but feel free to use what you have on hand)
1 c ricotta cheese (or more, if you’re feeling adventurous)
Chopped fresh basil (you’ll see that I didn’t use basil. Don’t get me wrong. I love basil, and the basil would have made the dish. It’s just that the grocery store at which I shop didn’t have basil today. Instead, the space that was labeled “Basil” had several bunches of chives, which made me want to throw the biggest hissy fit in all of history)
Here we go.
In a liquid measuring cup with a capacity of at least a quart, pour in your diced tomatoes. Fill up to the 4 cup line with water.
In a large skillet (or, in my case, a medium pot. Just make sure that you use something with a lid that will fit all of the above ingredients), heat butter on medium heat. Add onion, thyme, oregano, tomato paste, and salt. Saute until the onion is softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and cayenne, cooking until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the ground beef and sausage, breaking up the meats and cooking until browned, about 4 minutes. When the meat is browned, place the lasagna noodles on top and pour the diced tomato-water mixture as well as the tomato sauce on top. Do not stir. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the pasta is al dente, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
Take skillet/pot/whatever off heat. Stir in 1/2 c parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon your ricotta cheese on top (this is why the quantity varies. Use whatever feels good to you). Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Top with extra 2 T parmesan and chopped basil (or, in my case, imaginary basil).
So, you guys got through a post of mine. Thanks for reading and putting up with all those ingredient notes and flubs! As a prize, you get “Memorial,” by Explosions in the Sky, which I have been listening to all day. The entire album, to which the title of this post alludes, is close to perfection.