I hate being negative, but I do not like lasagna.
Which is a shame because my mom makes a very good one.
But every since my cheese-aversion started (at the ripe ‘ole age of three), I have been avoiding most cheeses (in all forms). Which means that lasagna, which is laden with ricotta and parmesan cheeses, is definitely not something that I would voluntarily eat. So what was my mom to do? How could she please two lasagna lovers and one person who only eats mozzarella cheese on pizza?
She created Faux Lasagna.
Basically, it is baked ziti with meat sauce, but it is probably the most delicious thing my mom makes. It is hearty meat sauce, al dente pasta, and some grated mozzarella cheese that is baked to melty, bubbly perfection. It has become a weekly dinner in our house (and my absolute favorite thing to bring to stock my friends’ freezers!).
And it is probably the easiest thing to make… which means that you can make it tonight for dinner!
It starts with a homemade meat sauce.
In a large, deep-sized skillet set over medium heat, pour in some olive oil. When the oil is hot, add in one medium-sized onion that has been finely chopped. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes until translucent.
Add in some minced garlic and continue to cook until the onion starts to turn golden brown and the garlic becomes fragrant.
Then add in a pound of ground meat – I have used both turkey and beef in this recipe and they are both delicious!
Using a spatula, break the ground beef (that’s what I used here!) in small pieces and brown it completely. When the ground beef is cooked all the way through, drain the meat mixture to remove extra grease. Pour the meat back into the pan and return to medium-low heat.
Add in some seasonings! I added some salt, pepper, dried oregano, and some hot pepper flake (which is totally amps up the faux lasagna).
Then pour in some good jarred marinara sauce – about 1 jar. You need the extra liquid for when the whole casserole bakes. Stir everything to combine.
Allow the meat mixture to simmer on low heat while you boil up a pound of your favorite short pasta… penne, rigatoni, ziti, etc. Just as long as it is short.
**Okay, confession time. I have TWO sets of photos for faux lasagna… so if the pasta shape changes, don’t be alarmed.**
Add the pasta to the meat mixture. Stir to thoroughly combine.
Then add in some grated mozzarella cheese. Stir to combine completely.
Pour the whole mixture into a greased 9″x13″ pan – we have this super groovy fluted one which increases the amount of crispy corners. Because everyone LOVES the crispy corners.
Top the whole pan with some more grated mozzarella cheese and then think about what you want to do next. You can let the whole pan cool completely and freeze it for another time (which is what we do sometimes) or you can cover the faux lasagna with a piece of tin foil (that has been sprayed with cooking spray) and pop it into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes + 5-10 minutes uncovered.
Then pull it out and admire its bubbly amazingness. Let it cool for about 5-10 minutes before digging in… it is nuclear hot.
But your patience is totally rewarded!
Definitely a dinner of champions.
So, kiddos, what’s your go-to weeknight meal?
Your cheese adverse friend,
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium-sized onions, chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced finely
- 1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
- 1 jar of good marinara sauce
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
- 1 pound dried pasta, prepared according to package instructions - like penne
- 1 pound part-skim mozzarella, grated
- In a large, high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in onions and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft and translucent.
- Add ground meat to skillet, breaking the meat apart with a spoon. Cook the meat until browned and cooked through, approximately 5-10 minutes.
- When the meat is cooked, drain the meat/onion mixture in a colander to remove excess grease. Pour the meat mixture back into the skillet over medium-low heat. Pour in the sauce and add the salt, pepper, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes. Stir thoroughly to combine. Simmer sauce over medium-low heat until the pasta is ready.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add salt and one pound dried pasta--cook according to the package instructions. When the pasta is al dente, drain pasta and add to the meat sauce. Stir to thoroughly combine.
- Add in half the grated mozzarella cheese to the pasta/meat mixture and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a greased 9"x13" pan. Top with the other half of the mozzarella cheese. Spray a piece of tin foil and cover the faux lasagna (cooking spray side down on the pasta). Pop the pan into a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes covered and 5-10 minutes uncovered until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
- Let the faux lasagna sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!