Friday, November 11, 2011
Who would have thought you could serve lasagna as an appetizer? No dealing with large casserole pans, no messy looking servings, just a neat little individual size portion of lasagna. The concept of lasagna "cupcakes" is nothing new, but I've developed a recipe that's more flavorful by using a combination of ground beef and italian sausage and adding herbs to the ricotta cheese. The wonton wrappers "mimic" lasagna noodles but are more tender which is ideal for this type of dish.
So the next time you want an easy, elegant and delicious appetizer, I hope you'll surprise your guests with these lasagna "cupcakes". You will not be disappointed.
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground italian sausage (mild or hot)
12 oz marinara sauce (either homemade or your favorite store bought brand)
1 package wonton wrappers (approx 50 wrappers)
10 oz ricotta cheese
Fresh grated parmesan cheese
Shredded mozarella cheese
Dried Italian Seasoning
Fresh basil leaves for garnish
Spray two 12 cup muffin pans with nonstick spray. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375
Using the opening of a standard wine glass the same approximate size as the muffin cups as your template, place the glass on top of a wonton wrapper and trace around the opening of the glass. Repeat this process with a total of 24 of the wonton wrappers. Leave the remaining 24 wonton wrappers intact (whole).
In a medium saucepan, brown the ground beef and italian sausage until no longer pink. Drain. Add marinara sauce and simmer covered for 10 minutes, stirring occassionally. Remove lid and simmer for a few minutes more to thicken slightly. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese with approx 1/2 tsp of oregano and 1/2 tsp of the italian seasoning. Tip: Be sure to crush the dried seasonings in the palm of your hand or between your fingers before adding it to the bowl with the ricotta cheese. This helps to release/revive the flavor of the dried herbs.
To assemble the lasagnas, gently press a whole/uncut wonton wrappers into the bottom of each muffin cup being careful not to tear them. Add approx 1/2 tsp of each cheese (parmesan, ricotta mixture and mozarella). Top with a spoon of the meat mixture (approx 1-1 1/2 tablespoons). Place a round wonton wrapper on top of the meat. Repeat the layering process with the cheese ending with the meat. Top with more parmesan and mozarella.
Bake uncovered for appprox 15-18 minutes or until bubbly and the edges are browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Using a sharp pairing knife, work your way around the edges of each lasagna to loosen, then remove from the pan.
To garnish - place a whole basil leaf on top of each cupcake (or if preferred, chiffonade the basil and sprinkle a little on top).
Note: This recipe can be customized according to your taste. Add chopped parsley to the ricotta mixture. Try using Italian Turkey Sausage, smoked gouda or provolone cheese. The amount and type of meat and cheese you use is entirely up to you!