Most people really like lasagna and there are so many ways to tinker with the standard recipe. In fact, many Italian cooks don’t even have a recipe for it! They just make one of their wonderful spaghetti sauces, mix up some ricotta cheese with an egg, add some seasoning, cook the lasagna noodles, layer them with sauce and ricotta, adding Parmesan to each layer and more on top and pop it in the oven. Bake until hot and bubbly and golden brown on top. Done!
Some use a meat sauce; some add tiny meatballs. Some put all the noodles the length of the casserole; some put the first layer the long way and the next layer the short way (I’ve done that and it does make cutting a bit easier – it doesn’t slide around as much).
There are recipes that use zucchini instead of the traditional pasta; for Passover, some Jewish recipes use matzo!
But when I stumbled across this one, individually made in muffin tins, my head said WOW and my hands yelled one less big pan to scrape and wash! It’s so simple and each is so cute, I think this will be a winner that I’ve adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown of Food Network fame.
CAUTION: Don’t try to eat these the minute they come from the oven (tho I promise you’ll be tempted! The tomato and cheese will stay super-hot and I don’t want any burned tongues! Let them sit for about 10 minutes (just as you would for the casserole) so some of the steam comes out, then gently lift them (I used a spoon on one side and a fork for balance on the other side) and set them on the plate. Sitting next to some fresh salad and perhaps a slice or two of garlic bread … what more could you want?
Of course … a glass of nice red wine! Enjoy.
Individual Lasagne Boats
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 whole cloves
- One 1-inch cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound mild Italian chicken sausage, casing removed
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella, plus more for topping
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for topping
- 3/4 cup part-skim ricotta
- 1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes, drained dry and finely chopped (or pesto)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 package won-ton wrappers (at least 48)
- 12 whole small fresh basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
For the meat sauce: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the whole cloves and cinnamon stick, and remove after a few minutes. Add the garlic and onions, sprinkle with a little salt and saute until softened but not browned.
Add the sausage, breaking up the clumps with your spoon. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, as well as some salt and pepper. Stir to combine and simmer uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow the meat sauce to cool, about 15 minutes, before building lasagna boats. While the meat sauce is cooking, prepare the ricotta filling.
For the ricotta filling: Stir together the mozzarella, Parmesan, ricotta and sun dried tomatoes. Season with salt and lots of pepper, about a teaspoon, and set aside.
To assemble the boats: Pull out your favorite cupcake pan. If your pan is not nonstick, spray the cups with cooking spray. Place a wonton wrapper in each cup. Don’t worry if you’re using square wrappers, they’ll give a nice look to the boats. (You can use 2 wrappers for the bottom layer if you want it thick; if you do, offset them slightly so the points don’s “square” up.
Drop about 1 teaspoon of meat sauce into the bottom of each cup. Then add 1 teaspoon of ricotta filling. Then cover with another wonton wrapper, rotating it about 90-degrees so that the corners of the first wrapper and the second wrapper aren’t right on top of each other. Repeat this until you’ve built three layers total. Top each with a small basil leaf, then another wonton wrapper. Finish each boat with a spoonful of meat sauce, a little shredded mozzarella and pinch of grated Parmesan.
Pop them into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. When time’s up, resist the temptation to eat them right away or else you’ll burn your mouth! Let them rest on the counter for about 10 minutes, and they should slip out of the muffin tin easily. Top with more shredded basil if you like. Serves 12.