I love cooking a big batch of homemade spaghetti and meatballs on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and this week I’m using the leftovers to create a deliciously simple Meatball Lasagna.
I use homemade meatballs and marinara sauce in the recipe, but you can substitute frozen meatballs and your favorite prepared marinara sauce if you want to make this when you don’t have any leftovers.
Having already made the meatballs and marinara sauce is one trick to the quick preparation of this lasagna.
The other is packaged egg roll wrappers. These are essentially fresh pasta sheets, and they replace traditional lasagna noodles in the recipe. Look for them in the produce section of your supermarket.
If you can’t find them, no-boil lasagna noodles can be used in their place.
I suggest preparing the recipe in two square baking dishes, because each will serve about six adults and one can be frozen for another meal down the road. You can also make this in one large lasagna pan, however. Increase the baking time by 20-30 minutes.
I’m including the recipes for the meatballs and marinara sauce. Each makes enough for a meal of spaghetti and meatballs and the lasagna.
15 ounces cottage or ricotta cheese
8 ounces softened reduced-fat cream cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups (two 8-ounce packages) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
9 cups homemade or store-bought marinara
2 16-ounce package egg roll wrappers (you will need 1½ packages in all)
Half of the recipe for homemade meatballs, quartered, or 24 prepared frozen meatballs, defrosted, quartered
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9x9-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Beat the ricotta or cottage cheese, cream cheese and eggs together in a medium bowl. Stir in the garlic salt and black pepper. Fold in ½ cup of the mozzarella and ½ cup of the Parmesan. Set aside.
Spread ½ cup of the marinara in the bottom of each baking dish. Cover with a layer of egg roll wrappers, cutting strips to completely cover any open areas.
Spread one quarter of the cut-up meatballs over the egg roll wrappers in each pan and then top each with 1½ cups of the sauce. Sprinkle each pan with ½ cup of the remaining mozzarella. Top with more of the egg roll wrappers, cutting wrappers to completely cover the previous layer.
Spread half of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the wrappers in each baking dish. Top with another layer of wrappers, divide the remaining meatballs in each dish, spread each with 1½ cups of sauce and ½ cup of the mozzarella.
Top with another layer of egg roll wrappers, and then spread each casserole with ½ to 1 cup of the remaining sauce. Combine remaining mozzarella and Parmesan in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Cover with foil and bake lasagnas for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the foil and sprinkle with the cheeses. Return to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until bubbly and cheese is melted. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
Makes 12 servings.
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 teaspoons minced garlic, about 4 large cloves
1 tin anchovies, undrained
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 32-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt, to taste
Fresh basil cut into a fine chiffonade, about ½ cup, optional
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until soft, lowering heat if the onions start to brown.
Stir in the garlic, anchovies, if using, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Use your hands to crush the tomatoes into the pan and then add the juices to the pan. Add the remaining tomato products and sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Taste and add salt, as needed. Stir in the basil, if desired.
Makes about 3 quarts of sauce.
1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Prepared marinara sauce, half of the recipe above or store-bought
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush two rimmed baking sheets with olive oil and set aside.
Place the crushed crackers in a large bowl. Pour the milk over the top and stir to coat well. Set aside for 10 minutes, or until the crackers have absorbed all of the liquid.
Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to completely mash the crackers. Stir in the egg, salt, pepper, garlic and parsley. Add the beef, sausage and cheese and stir until well combined.
Form the meat mixture into 1½-inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn over.
Return to the oven and bake for 15-30 minutes more, until done. When the meatballs are done, add them to a pot of simmering marinara sauce and simmer until ready to serve.
Makes about 50 meatballs.