Inspiration from the Refrigerator

I’m sure you’re familiar with one of the most frequent family questions: What’s for dinner, mom?  Since our kids don’t live at home anymore, I guess it was just my head talking out loud. On my way out the door for work, I stopped by the freezer and hoped it would inspire some creativity for a necessary task… frozen marinara sauce and ground beef seemed like a pretty easy option, so I set them in the sink to do their magic.

Even those of us who do love to cook, aren’t motivated every single day especially if proper meal planning for the week has not been done, so spaghetti was about all I seemed to have energy to make, especially without a trip to the grocery store. All of a sudden, lasagna came to mind. I started pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator — onion, tomatoes, several types of cheeses, just a bit of spinach, only a cup of ricotta cheese that was desperate to be turned into something yummy,  but here’s some Greek yogurt, oh – and there’s some pepperoni and summer sausage.

After checking a few lasagna recipes to make sure I hadn’t lost my mind, I decided, I can make this work! I grabbed a notepad and a pen and started writing down each ingredient as I moved forward. After all, I have never made lasagna with pepperoni, spinach or Greek yogurt – but I’m on a mission to use what I have and make it work. And voila!

Lasagna slice Fresh Vegetable & Meaty Lasagna

2 T. caramelized garlic olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. ground beef
6-8 oz. minced pepperoni and/or summer sausage slices
2 tomatoes, diced
12 oz. marinara sauce (mine is homemade from the garden tomatoes and frozen, but any jar would do!)
1 cup baby spinach
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. miscuglio seasoning (Italian herb blend)
8 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 eggs, whisked
1 cup monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
10 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Cook the lasagna noodles in boiling water, salt and olive oil according to the package instructions.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic, and ground beef.  Break apart the beef into small chunks, stirring occasionally until browned.  Add the pepperoni and sausage pieces.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes before draining off the excess grease.  Add the tomatoes and marinara sauce. Add the seasonings, stir, and heat until hot.

Meanwhile, make the cheese mixture with the ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt and eggs. Add the shredded monterey jack and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Stir until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

To assemble the lasagna, prepare a 9×13 baking dish. Overlap 5 lasagna noodles in the bottom of the pan. Spoon half of the sauce over the noodles, spreading evenly. Evenly spoon the ricotta mixture over the meat layer.  Cover with baby spinach before adding the remainder of the noddles. Add the rest of the sauce. Top with shredded mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes until bubbling. Prior to serving, let the lasagna sit for 10 minutes to set up.

My husband was very complimentary of the latest invention but wanted to know where I got the recipe. I confidently said, I made it up!  After he insisted I must have fallen to my old standard of tweaking a recipe, I explained, “Truth be told, Ree Drummond just confirmed for me that it was possible to use pepperoni in lasagna. Since I already know the traditional base ingredients, it was really the inspiration from my refrigerator and a smidgen of creativity, and you’re right, it’s pretty darn good.”  Enjoy!


Copyright © 2019 Montana Mountain Maven / Tina R. Cusker. All rights reserved.

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