Introduction: Lasagna Cupcakes
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I recently read this post on BoingBoing that linked to an article from the Wall Street Journal about "lasagna cupcakes." It seemed like a totally ridiculous idea, so I decided I needed to try to make them. Honestly, the photos are a little disappointing because I didn't expect them to be that good, I just made use of what I already had in the kitchen and the photos were sort of a "just in case" thing. They. Were. SO. Good. Like, make a special trip to the grocery store for more ingredients good. The last step includes a few tweaks that I think would make them even better, but I could totally eat them all the time just the way they are. They're also a total blank canvas for all sorts of delicious fillings.
Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment
Ingredients to make a dozen:
12 Lasagna Noodles - 1 standard noodle per cupcake (you'll cut them in half)
8 oz block Mozzarella Cheese, shredded might have worked better
1 can tomato paste
12 meatballs - by all means, make your own, or just pull some out of the freezer
Basic Kitchen Stuff
Step 2: Prep the Noodles
Cook your lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain them and let them cool a bit. As they cool they get sticky, and sticky is very good for this.
While they're cooking cut squares of parchment paper that work as muffin pan liners. I was able to get three squares across on my roll.
Also slice up some of the mozzarella, you'll need it to be in pieces small enough to drop into the bottoms of the cups.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Step 3: Turn the Noodles Into Cupcakes
You need to form the noodles into cupcake liner shapes. First off, cut each noodle in half. Be careful picking them up, sometimes they hang onto heat for longer than you would expect.
Put a little olive oil on the parchment paper. You don't really need to do this, but it adds a nice flavor and a bit of that greasy pizza vibe.
Place one piece of noodle diagonally across a piece of parchment paper. Push that into the cup. Place the other half of that noodle into it at a right angle to the first. Look at the picture, you want them to make an X that will hold all of the filling goodness.
Repeat with the rest of the noodles. It will be kind of messy and chaotic but it will all come together soon enough.
Step 4: Prep the Filling
Put the meatballs and a bit of water into something microwave safe. Heat them up until the meatballs are safe to eat. Don't count on the baking to take care of this, they need to be safe to eat right now.
Add the tomato paste and hearty dose of italian seasoning. Heat this some more until the paste is hot.
Step 5: Fill the Cupcakes
Put some cheese in the bottom of the cup.
Put in a meatball.
Repeat until all of the cups are done this far.
Most of the tomato paste should still be in the container you heated it in. Add water and stir until it's more like a very thick spaghetti sauce. Thin sauce will escape, you want this just moist enough to be pleasant to eat.
Divide up this sauce between all of the cupcakes.
Top with more cheese.
Step 6: Fold Them Closed
Fold the noodles closed over the top of the filling. I was reliably successful with getting one noodle to stick shut, the other noodle not so much. As it turns out, this was totally okay because this just left more edges to get nice and crispy.
Step 7: Bake
I baked mine for 15 minutes. I should have baked them longer. If you bake them for longer, cover them with foil until the last 15 minutes unless you're really into super crispy edges.
Next time I'm planning 15 minutes covered, 15 minutes uncovered.
Step 8: Serving and a Few Notes
Pull them out of the oven and serve them. The parchment makes a handy wrapper. The noodles were glued closed nicely, baked and crusty, and kept all of my filling inside and tidy. They were really easy to eat finger food style. No forks were used for this one.
In retrospect I would make a few changes. I would definitely bake them longer, and, as I said in the baking step, cover them with foil for part of the time. I could have let my filling me a bit wetter, the noodles really held together well. I can also think of a ton of different fillings (this was just what was already around). I'll be trying a spinach and ricotta blend topped in tomato sauce next.
If I was going to make these for a special occasion I would probably make my own pasta and custom cut it to fit perfectly. I would also try harder to not get tomato sauce on the outsides.
I made a very filling dinner out of 4 of these. I could have gotten by with 3, but they were awesome enough that I might have been willing to stuff myself with more than 4, but I was nice and shared instead :-)
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