Inspired by the Marcella Hazan recipe that once won me a cooking contest.
In 2016, I won a lasagne contest.
Sure, I was only competing against one other chef, and, okay, okay, both “judges” were my best friends, but it’s still a crowning achievement in my dinner party career.
My opponent put forward a truly admirable specimen. He’d spent days perfecting his entry. There was a slow-braised short rib sauce, homemade ricotta, lasagne noodles purchased fresh from a specialty shop.
If only he’d known he couldn’t have stood a chance—I had Marcella Hazan in my corner. In particular, her recipe for tegame di verza e maiale al forno , or baked layered savoy cabbage and pork. It’s a dish my mom would make on special occasions (the ones that called for homemade béchamel) when I was growing up, and fighting with my sisters over the corner slices armed me with some of my most important life skills.
“Think of this dish as a sort of lasagne,” Hazan writes in the headnote. “Parboiled and flattened savoy cabbage leaves replace the pasta, and sautéed ground pork takes the place of the meat sauce.”
The night of the face-off, my ambitious rival paused, mid–final Parmesan sprinkle, to poke at a cabbage leaf in my baking pan.
“Is that—is that even lasagne?” he said.
“Think of this dish as a sort of lasagne,” I said, and placed it under the broiler to finish.
In the years that’ve passed since my victory, it’s no surprise that I’ve combined pork, cabbage, and creamy sauces of varying types in more ways than one might think reasonably practicable.
That—plus a leftover half-head of green cabbage—is how I ended up with a skillet pasta that I can’t stop making in the colder months.
It calls on sweet Italian sausages, uncased and deeply browned, and cabbage cooked allll the way down until tender and caramelized. Like the creamy sauce in Hazan’s tegame al forno, this one has a pinch of nutmeg, but you should consider it more of a cheater’s béchamel: There’s no careful thickening, just starchy pasta water, heavy cream, and melted Parm. Al dente conchiglie (shells!) get tossed in, before the whole thing hits the broiler for browning on top. (After some earlier iterations of this dish, I learned that Hazan has another, similar savoy cabbage and pork sausage stovetop pasta recipe, in which she advocates for a noodle shape with ridges or crevices for the best possible sauce coating.)
The result is somewhere between the Hazan lasagne I’ll never stop talking about, a stovetop mac and cheese, and baked pasta. Think of it as a
hybrid—and don’t forget to serve it with extra Parm.