Years ago, my brother requested that I create lasagna cupcakes. This was before anyone had ever heard of lasagna cupcakes; a Google search for lasagna cupcakes today will reveal that lasagna cupcakes have been created many times by all manner of food bloggers and chefs. Sadly, I didn’t jump on my brother’s idea – I hadn’t yet embraced the world of savory cupcakes. Now, I regularly make savory cupcakes (see my mac and cheese cupcakes for a recent example), but I still put off making lasagna cupcakes because I tend to avoid making something everyone else is doing – this is supposed to be an experimental cupcake blog.
This week, my mom came to visit from New York and wanted to prepare her family-famous lasagna. I decided that this was the time to try lasagna cupcakes. She was already buying all of the ingredients and doing all of the labor, so all I had to do was ask her to save a few scraps for me to cupcakify. It was an all-around win:
- For my mom – she is so excited to see her lasagna recipe have a moment of glory on the blog
- For my brother – he finally gets his request fulfilled
- For me – I instantly fell in love with these single-serving lasagna cupcakes
- For you – maybe you have seen and put off making lasagna cupcakes OR maybe this is the first time you are hearing of them – this is your chance to try them!
The first way to make lasagna cupcakes is to make more of a traditional layered lasagna but in a cupcake liner. In the second method, I lined the walls of the cupcake liners with lasagna noodles to make a lasagna cup and then filled the innards with lasagna filling. Lasagna purists will probably prefer method one because the noodle to meat sauce ratio is more even. However, using the second method, when you pop the lasagna cupcakes out of the liners, you can actually hold them.
Because either lasagna cupcake method will work with any lasagna recipe (and you may already have one you swear by), I’m going to first go over the two lasagna cupcake techniques and then at the end of this post, I’ll share my mom’s specific lasagna recipe.
Lasagna Cupcakes, Method One
Have all of your lasagna ingredients ready (at the point where you would layer them in your lasagna pan).
After cooking your lasagna noodles, use round cookie cutters to cut the noodles into circles. For each cupcake, I used three circles – a 1 1/2″ circle, a 1 7/8″ circle, and a 2 1/4″ circle. I highly recommend getting a round cookie cutter set – it will have all of the sizes you need.
Start with the smallest size noodle circle and place it in the bottom of your cupcake liner. I recommend using silicone liners for this since paper liners will get soggy. I got these clear ones from Crate and Barrel. Layer the cupcake just as you would the lasagna in a big pan. When it’s time to add the next noodle, use the medium-sized circle. Continue to layer. End with the large circle topped with meat sauce and Parmesan cheese.
Put the filled liners into a baking dish (you can use the same type of dish you would use to bake lasagna). Cover with foil and bake at 375 F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another five minutes until the tops are bubbly. Serve warm, refrigerate, or freeze and store for a time when you need a quick snack.
When they are all cooked, they look like this:
Or, if you take them out of their liners, they look like this:
Lasagna Cupcake, Method Two
Like method one, have all of your lasagna ingredients ready (at the point where you would layer them in your lasagna pan).
This time, instead of using cookie cutters and making perfect little noodle circles, you shove a lasagna noodle (or a part of one) into a cupcake liner, letting it run up the sides (as shown above). It’s a big mess and that’s fine.
Next, pour some meat sauce on top. Cover that with one layer of lasagna innards (typically ricotta and mozzarella).
Top with a square of noodle (again, it’s totally imperfect), more meat sauce, and some Parmesan cheese.
Bake the same way as you would method one: Put the filled liners into a baking dish (you can use the same type of dish you would use to bake lasagna). Cover with foil and bake at 375 F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another five minutes until the tops are bubbly. Serve warm, refrigerate, or freeze and store for a time when you need a quick snack.
When they’re done, they look like this:
If you take them out of their liners, they look like this:
You can even pick them up and hold them.
My Mom’s Lasagna Recipe
My mom isn’t Italian, and she doesn’t make the fanciest lasagna. However, she’s made her lasagna recipe for almost every major occasion that I can recall, and each time everyone looks forward to it. We don’t get bored. I took copious notes when she made the lasagna during her visit, and I’m happy to share the secret family recipe with you. More importantly, though, I’m thrilled to have the recipe recorded so I can make it and share it with my loved ones.
Lasagna Cupcakes Two Ways
- 1 pound lasagna noodles typically this is one box
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds ground round Mom insists that ground round has just the right amount of fat for lasagna - not too much and not too little
- ground peppercorns to taste (Mom likes the multi-colored ones)
- garlic powder to taste
- onion powder to taste
- dried basil to taste
- oregano to taste
- 2 pounds Ragu Robusto 7-herb tomato sauce Mom will hear nothing of any other brand
- 8 ounces part-skim ricotta
- 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Cook lasagna noodles according to the package instructions. Mom cooks them just past al dente.
Pour olive oil into saute pan over medium heat. Swirl the pan to coat with oil.
Add meat and spices. Mom likes to use equal parts of each spice and she is fairly heavy-handed with them.
Cook meat until there is no more pink.
Hold a lid over the pot and tip it over the sink to drain out any excess liquid. "I don't like any extra fat," says Mom.
Add sauce to the meat and simmer for about fifteen minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Put a thin layer of the meat sauce into a lasagna pan.
Top with a layer of the noodles (slightly overlap them).
Top the noodles with a thin layer of ricotta, making sure to cover the entire surface.
Top the ricotta with a thin layer of mozzarella cheese, making sure to cover the entire surface.
Repeat steps 8-11 until you get almost to the top of your pan.
For the last layer, add the meat sauce and top with Parmesan, making sure to cover the entire surface.
Bake covered for 30 minutes and then uncovered for another 7 or until sizzling.
Let sit for a couple of minutes and then serve warm.
Yield: A 4.8 quart baking dish of lasagna or use a smaller pan to have some leftover for cupcakes