One-dish meals that bake to perfection in the oven; it must be a casserole, right? The answer is neither yes nor is it no. Most lasagnas are complicated affairs starting with the white sauce and progressively building the dish into delicious layers of pasta, sauce, and cheese.
To Casserole or Not…
A classic casserole is a one-pot dish meal that is easy to prepare and make. Casseroles are considered comfort food. You can make casseroles with different combinations of meat, veggies, and starches, such as rice or pasta.
While that might sound just like lasagna, however classic lasagna is a little more complicated. The Italian classic is made with specific pasta sheets that are layered uniformly. Casseroles are usually a lot easier, and the ingredients are mixed and placed in the dish. Technically lasagna is a fancy casserole.
What Makes a Good Casserole?
A good casserole is a mixture of ingredients that cook together to marry the flavors. The dish is easy to make, and there is no pile of dishes leftover. A casserole in its nature is simple yet full of flavor.
The ingredients are spread evenly across the dish and baked to perfection; every bite should contain a little bit of everything. All good casseroles have three main components: meat or protein, vegetables, and starch. The ingredients go in raw together and cook together.
Let’s Make a Lasagna Inspired Casserole
This dish is an ideal option for days when you want lasagna’s flavor but don’t have the time to layer it and make it from scratch. This lasagna casserole is easy to make and tastes just like the real deal.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
- 1 lb Italian ground beef
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 lb medium pasta shells, uncooked
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 3 cups ricotta cheese
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
- 1 jar of pasta sauce
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon Italian herbs
Preheat your oven to 400F.
Grease a cast-iron casserole dish with a bit of butter. If your casserole dish is stovetop safe (you can look into this alternative), heat it over medium-high heat. If you do not have one, use a skillet instead. Saute the onion until golden brown. Add the Italian ground meat to the skillet, cook until browned. Add the pasta sauce into the meaty mixture and bring to a light simmer.
Pour the meat sauce into the casserole dish, add the dried pasta, fold the ingredients together and combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour in the chicken broth.
Drop spoons of cottage cheese into the casserole spread evenly across the dish. Sprinkle Italian herbs and parsley over the casserole dish. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and meat sauce mixture.
Cover the casserole dish with a piece of aluminum foil. Place the lasagna mixture into the oven for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with grated parmesan cheese; return the casserole to the oven uncovered for another 10 – 15 minutes.
Serve immediately once removed from the oven with a side of salad and some sour cream.
The mozzarella will be melted and delicious; however, you can use a mixture of sharp cheddar and mozzarella cheese.
You can use cooked noodles; however, you shouldn’t thoroughly cook them. If they are completely cooked, they will go mushy while they bake. Reduce the baking time by 20 minutes if you used pre-cooked pasta; always follow the package instructions.
Make A Head of Time
Much in the same way that lasagna can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer, this casserole is freezer safe. Make this meal in bulk by doubling the ingredients. This recipe is the perfect care package recipe for any friends and family that might need a hand with dinner or a quick heat-n-eat dinner.
Use part-cooked pasta, prepare a casserole dish for dinner you plan to make, and a freezer-safe catering tray that you can place into the oven for the frozen meal. Prepare and assemble the ingredients according to the recipe. Once the meat sauce has cooled to room temperature, you can seal and freeze the catering tray. When you are ready to use it, defrost it and place it in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes.
Wholesome Meals in a Flash
Lasagna is a family favorite in every household. A casserole with different kinds of pasta shells is a quick and easy way to enjoy lasagna without having to run to the store for lasagna sheets!