Last weekend I spent a whole day at home alone, just me and my laptop, belting out music and blasting online TV shows while I mixed dough and pushed pans into the oven. I could tell you I ate a sandwich, a cup of soup, some fruit – that I scrambled eggs, even…
But I’d be lying. In fact, I ate a handful of oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies, followed by some other cookies, chased with a hazelnut coffee. All of these were eaten while I stood over the sink or fiddled with ingredients for my recipe in progress, never while I was seated, and certainly not off a plate.
These are the joys of eating alone.
There are different joys, of course, when eating with friends: conversation, for example, which is not to say that speaking cannot happen when one is alone in the kitchen, but just that most speaking is improved with a listener and their less predictable responses.
Also, eating with someone amplifies the sensual understanding: knowing someone else smells the sweet doughy air when you pull cinnamon rolls out of the oven gives you a stronger sense of the experience as a whole.
You’re not just smelling something; you’re smelling something with someone. They may comment on it, they may not react; it is irrelevant. The communal seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, communicating – what’s known as commensality – changes the way you eat. You are no longer just eating. You are eating with someone else, and having a shared experience, usually around a table.
Eating alone, however, is filled with entirely different pleasures. There is something to be said for learning to be alone, just you and your thoughts and the kitchen, and being comfortable.
Alone, you don’t have to be interesting or smart or funny even. You don’t have to talk, you don’t have to chop the onions the “right” way, you don’t have to worry about making a mess. There are no rules but the ones you make for yourself, and those are okay to break.
No one’s watching. Alone, you can just be you.
Eventually, as this long solo day wound to a close, I wanted some substance. And having never blow-dried my hair or put on makeup, let alone donned normal daytime clothes, I didn’t want to go out. Thus, this version of a classic dish was born: lasagna for one.
Essentially, you cook up some onions and garlic in a skillet, then add broken chunks of lasagna noodles, topped with diced tomatoes and sauce. This simmers for a while, softening the pasta and flavoring it with the sauce and olive oil, maybe a bit of salt and pepper.
Next comes the cheese – my favorite part – which you scatter on top of everything before covering the pan and removing it from the heat. Enclosed, the skillet will melt the cheese, sending it oozing and bubbling over the tomatoes and noodles, creating a sloppy, saucy medley.
Remove the cover, and voila: something that’s a lot like lasagna without the picky layers or needing to heat up the house by turning the oven on just for one dish, ready to be eaten, all for you.
Just between us, dining over the sink works fine. But at the end of a long day, sometimes it’s so much better to lounge on the couch, pour a glass of wine, put your feet up, and dig into something good.
This dish is also perfect if you’re headed out of town, since there won’t be any leftovers. It makes one substantial serving, or two smaller servings that will pair nicely with a fresh green salad, or maybe some leftover veggies if you have them, like these tasty rosemary carrots.
Hungry yet? I thought so! Heres’s the recipe:Print
No leftovers – or worries, for that matter – when you make lasagna for one, easy as can be, in a skillet on the stovetop.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 5 curly-edged no-boil lasagna noodles broken into 2-inch lengths
- 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
- water (as needed)
- 4 ounces tomato sauce
- 1/8 cup plus 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped basil
- Pour tomatoes with their juices into 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Add water until mixture measures just over one cup.
- Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Scatter pasta on top but do not stir. Pour diced tomatoes with juice and tomato sauce over pasta. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.
- Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/8 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with heaping tablespoons of mozzarella, cover and let stand off heat for five minutes. The cheese will melt and ooze all over the softened pasta by the time you remove the cover. Sprinkle with basil and remaining Parmesan. Serve.
Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Measure Ingredients
First, measure all of the ingredients listed to establish your mise en place.
Laying out all of your ingredients close to your cooking workspace before you start helps to save time, since you can more easily grab them, and they’ll be ready to go.
Step 2 – Prep Vegetables
Dice up your onions and tomatoes. Then measure out the diced tomatoes along with their juices and seeds, adding water as needed to fill to one cup, using a liquid measure.
Note: A cutting board with a reservoir around the edge is perfect for saving all of those flavorful juices. Just pour them right into your measuring cup. Or, if fresh tomatoes aren’t available, you can use the diced canned variety with the juice from the can.
If you’ve prepared some tomato concasse ahead of time, it’s perfect for this. See our article on storing fresh tomatoes for more info.
Step 3 – Cook the Onions
Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with oil. Add the onions, and cook until browned and soft, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the garlic and the pepper flakes, cooking briefly. Be sure to scrape up any browned onion bits that stick to the pan! There’s lots of flavor in those.
A wooden spoon or silicone spatula is best for this, to avoid scratching your pan.
Step 4 – Add Noodles and Simmer
Break up the lasagna noodles, then scatter them on top of the vegetable mixture. DO NOT stir.
Pour the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce over the top.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the noodles are tender.
Step 5 – Stir in Parmesan and Season
Remove from heat and stir in 1/8 cup of the parmesan cheese. Taste the sauce, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 6 – Melt Mozzarella on Top and Garnish
Add mozzarella cheese in heaping tablespoonfuls all over the top of the mixture in the pan. Cover and let stand for a few minutes, until the cheese has melted.
Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese and garnish with freshly chopped basil. Dinner is served!
Italian Made Easy
Lasagna is usually one of those dishes reserved for big gatherings or Sunday dinners when you have all day to prep. I was blown away by how simple this recipe was to make, and how flavorful every bite was.
This is the easiest lasagna recipe I’ve ever made, and it’s perfect for a weeknight when you need that Italian pasta fix, but don’t have hours to dedicate to crafting the perfect pan of lasagna to feed a crowd.
You can even play around with this recipe to make it fit your tastes!
Like it a little spicy? Add more red pepper flakes.
Have leftover rotisserie chicken or cooked Italian sausage in the refrigerator? Throw some in when you add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce for a boost of protein.
Want more fresh herb flavor? Stir in some additional freshly chopped basil and when you add the parmesan and taste for seasoning, for a boost of herbaceous notes.
Regardless of how you love your traditional lasagna, you are going to have fun making this simple recipe at home.
And the best part? No need for even layers or trying to make each serving look like a slice of perfection. The mess is what makes this easy recipe so gorgeous!
For more pasta inspiration, check out all of our pasta recipes now!
<id=”noads”>Would you make this dish for yourself or would you share…? Be sure to give this recipe a rating and let us know what you think of the dish in the comments below.
Don’t forget to Pin It!
Photos by Meghan Bassett, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on December 10th, 2008. Last updated: July 11, 2018 at 16:28 pm with additional writing and editing by Meghan Bassett and Allison Sidhu.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.