Monday, January 27, 2014

Lasagna Cups


I have made these twice in the last week because they were such a hit! They are the perfect party food, or family dinner on the go. Each little cup is a mini-personal lasagna that has insanely good crunchy corners (the ones sticking up and making the pretty flower shape) and soft and meaty/cheesy goodness throughout. If you didn't want to take the time to make individual lasagna cups, you can ditch the wonton wrappers and use regular lasagna noodles to make a traditional 9x13 family sized lasagna. (I have also doubled the Italian sausage and made a 10x15 sized dish with no problem.) But the cups are pure genius! It's my 7 year old's new favorite food. You should try it this way at least once.

Like any lasagna, there are multiple steps, but none of them are difficult, they just take a little planning. This is definitely not a "dinner in a hurry" but it's worth every minute. I was inspired to make them this way because of the lasagna cupcakes that I saw on the Food Network one morning, but I wanted to use my own lasagna recipe. (Which incidentally I have never taken the time to write down until now. I usually just cook it by look, taste and feel. I still have no idea how much cheese I use. I just put enough on until it looks right. At least you have the pictures so you can see what it looks like too.)

I start by browning my meat. I doubled my recipe on this day, so I had to do my meat in batches. First I browned my ground turkey. (Just cooked it over medium high heat, while breaking it up into pieces using a spoon or potato masher, until all the meat is brown and cooked through.) If you are not using a lean ground meat, you will want to drain off all the grease. Beef and bison are both good substitutes if you didn't want to use ground turkey.

Then I cooked my Italian sausage and onion together. I tend to leave my sausage in bigger pieces than the turkey.

When the sausage and onions are browned I added back in my cooked turkey, a little garlic and my marinara or pasta sauce. You can make your own or just use a canned/jarred sauce. No one is in your kitchen to judge, and there are some really great sauces out there to choose from.

I also added in about 1 1/3 cups water, because I wanted the sauce to simmer for a while and not get too thick.

This night I only simmered it for 30 minutes, but I have done it for 2 hours before with great results. If you do decide to simmer it for hours, keep an eye on it and add a little extra water if it gets too thick. (It does tend to "spit" at you, so use a splatter screen or strategically placed lid over the pan to still let out the steam, but save you -and your kitchen- from getting spattered with sauce.)

The next step is to make the Ricotta Mixture. In a mixing bowl, I combined the Ricotta cheese and egg. (Again, I doubled the recipe so I have twice as many ingredients shown as you will need.)

Then I added in some salt, dry basil and dry parsley,

and a little garlic. I added about 2 tsp garlic (2 large cloves minced), but this is to taste. If you want more or less garlic then by all means change it to your tastes.

The last ingredient is the Parmesan cheese. I used the fresh shredded from the store, but if you can grate your own it's best. I just put a couple handfuls in. My handfuls are about 1/3 cup each. Stir it all together and set aside.

If there is any one ingredient that sets these lasagna cups apart from all other lasagnas it is this package of wonton wrappers. You can find them in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. If you are making a full recipe, you'll want 2 packages.

Make sure to spray your 12 cup muffin trays (this recipe makes 48 lasagna cups, but they don't have to be made all at once). Press one wonton wrapper over each each muffin cup, facing it towards you to make a square.

Gently press down with your fingers, pressing the wonton wrapper into the edges of the muffin cup. The corners will stick up out of the cup slightly, but that's OK.

Next, spread a little of the Ricotta Mixture into the bottom of each cup. I just scooped it with my spoon. I used about 1 or 1 1/2 tsp, but don't go crazy and measure each one. Just eye ball it. You just want the bottom of the cup covered with a thin layer.

Next comes the Meat Sauce. Just put a little dollop into each cup.

Then top the sauce with a little shredded Mozzarella and Parmesan.


Then lay down another wonton wrapper. This one should be placed over the cup in a diamond shape, instead of a square. Just rotate the wrapper 90 degrees from the one on the bottom of the cup. Gently press the wrapper over the other ingredients, making sure to have the second wrapper touching the first wrapper.

Repeat the layers again: Ricotta Mixture . . .

Meat Sauce . . .

and cheese.

Now, you can leave it at 2 layers. . . . Or you can go for a third layer. One package of wonton wrappers will make 19 2 layer lasagna cups and 5 3 layer cups. If you choose to make them all 3 layer cups then you won't need all 48 muffin cups.
On your last layer, top it with extra cheese (ending with the Parmesan on top because it browns better).

They are baked @ 375F for 20 minutes. The protruding corners get brown and crunchy while the sauce and cheese bake up bubbly and soft. They need to sit for AT LEAST 10 minutes before serving. They need to set up and cool a bit. 20 minutes is best. One of the beautiful things about these, though is that they are just as great at room temperature as they are warm, so they can easily be made ahead of time.

Don't they look so cute? Like little lasagna flowers. :)

Now, you can serve them one at a time for dinner. (They are really easy for a dinner on the go if you have family members that need to rush out for a sporting event or scout meeting, or what have you.) You can certainly eat them with a knife and fork if you desire, but I prefer to just pick them up and attack them like I would any other muffin.

When I served these for book club I piled them high on a platter. I thought they turned out rather wonderfully.
I really hope you try this new way of making an old family favorite.
I doubled this recipe and made 48 lasagna cups and a family sized (9x13) lasagna. **I made 24 for dinner and book club one night, and then made the other 24 a couple days later. *The 9x13 I froze for another meal down the road.

Lasagna Cups

Meat Sauce:
1/2 pound Italian Sausage (mild or hot is up to you)
1 pound lean ground turkey or beef 
1 small onion diced (or 1/2 large onion)
1 tsp garlic (1 clove minced)
3 cups marinara or pasta sauce
1 1/3 cups water
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ricotta Mixture:
32 oz Ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp dry basil
1 1/2 tsp dry parsley
1 to 2 tsp minced garlic (1 or 2 cloves, minced) to taste
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

2 packages of wonton wrappers
Mozzarella cheese, grated (at least 1 lb)
Parmesan cheese, grated (at least 2 cups)

For the Meat Sauce: Brown the Italian sausage, ground turkey (or beef) and onion with a little salt and pepper over medium high heat; breaking up the meat as small as you like it. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the marinara sauce and water. Simmer for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. (You might need to add more water, the longer you simmer it.)
Combine all the ingredients for the Ricotta Mixture until smooth.
Spray 4 12 cup muffin trays with no stick cooking spray. Press one wonton wrapper into each cup, completely covering the bottom and some of the sides.
Spread about 1 to 2 tsp of the Ricotta Mixture, and top with some of the Meat Sauce (again about 2 tsp but just eye ball it). Sprinkle on some of the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Lay down another wonton wrapper, rotating it 90 degrees from the last one (so the corners make a flower or star-like shape). Repeat the layers again. (One package of wrappers will be enough to make 19 2 layer lasagna cups and 5 3 layer cups. If you choose to make them all 3 layers, then you won't need all 4 muffin trays.)
On the final layer, top with extra Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, so that no sauce is visible.
Bake @ 375F for 20 minutes. The exposed corners of the wonton wrappers will be brown and crispy but the sauce and cheese will be bubbly. Let it sit for AT LEAST 10 minutes before serving. The cups need time to set up and cool down. 20 minutes would be best.
Now just try not to eat half a tray all by yourself.!

*They freeze nicely. You can freeze them in the muffin tin before baking or after baking. If you freeze after baking they loose their crunchy texture, which is one of the best parts if you ask me.
**To store these in the fridge and still retain the crunchy corners, put them on a plate or in a container UN-covered. They will stay this way for a day or two no problem. (I wouldn't know past that as they don't last that long in our house!) Enjoy!!

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