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This Lazy Lasagna Casserole is a no-fuss way to satisfy your craving for lasagna. Bake it after assembling or freeze it for an easy meal on a busy day.
When I say no-fuss I really mean it. This tasty pasta casserole makes use of pantry staples and unlike traditional lasagna, it’s really quick to put together.
This loose-form lasagna is an awesome quick and easy recipe for a busy day but it’s also an excellent recipe to prep on the weekend and pop in the freezer for one of those days when you really need it.
Freezer meals make my heart sing! They are there for us during those times when we just don’t have the inspiration or are just too overwhelmed with the daily grind to plan a meal.
Cheesy pasta dishes like this one and my Creamy Beef and Shells, Skillet Sausage Pasta, and Chicken and Spinach Skillet Pasta make a regular appearance on my menus. They are super low-stress for me and guaranteed to make everyone in the house happy.
How to Make Lazy Lasagna Casserole
The ingredients are all cooked in advance of the easy layering process and this casserole cooks up in about half the time of a traditional lasagna.
Cook a pound of lean ground beef with onion and garlic until no pink remains and then drain off the excess grease. Season the mixture with some Italian Seasoning, salt and freshly ground black pepper and then add a jar of your favorite marinara and a little water
Stir 10 ounces of cooked pasta into the beefy sauce mixture.
What Kind of Pasta is Best for Lasagna Casserole?
I love to use campanelle pasta for this casserole. The fluted edges resemble curly-edged lasagna sheets making it a natural fit. I’ve been able to find this variety of pasta at many grocery stores but when all else fails, you should be able to find it at Trader Joe’s. As in the case of TJ’s, you may see this variety of pasta labeled as gigli pasta but it is one and the same.
If you can’t locate campanelle or if you want to use up pasta you have in your pantry, there are several other great choices. Any dry short pasta will do the trick but go with one with a hollow center or cup that will hold on to that sauce. Penne, ziti, or medium shells will all work well.
For the creamy layer combine part-skim ricotta cheese with an egg. Stir in some shredded mozzarella cheese, Parmesan, garlic, parsley and freshly ground black pepper.
Now it’s just a matter of layering it up. First add half of the beef and pasta mixture to a 13- x 9-inch baking dish. The creamy mixture is layered right over the top. You can spread it out neatly like shown here or be even lazier and just drop dollops over the top like I did in the video at the end of this post.
The casserole is topped with the remaining beef and pasta mixture and a generous amount of shredded mozzarella and a little shredded Parmesan.
After baking for about 30 minutes I like to garnish the Lasagna Casserole with some fresh basil to brighten it up.
Make it a Freezer Meal
This dish fares very well when frozen. Follow the directions as written but after adding the final beef and pasta layer, cover the baking dish tightly with heavy duty foil, crimping the edges tightly, and transfer the unbaked casserole to the freezer.
To serve, thaw the casserole in the refrigerator overnight and remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking to take the chill off. Top it with the final layer of shredded cheeses and bake the casserole as directed, increasing the time as necessary to heat it through if it is still chilly when going in the oven.
How to Lighten it Up
- Substitute lean ground turkey for the ground beef. For a little flavor boost, give lean ground turkey sausage a try.
- Use a whole grain or a whole grain blend pasta. True whole grain pasta can have a somewhat chewy texture but the new wheat/white pasta blends from Barilla and Ronzoni are closer to the taste and feel of traditional pasta with some added nutrition. Look for them at the store and read the ingredient labels.
- Use part-skim ricotta and mozzarella. You can also reduce the amount of cheese and still have a very tasty result.
Lazy Lasagna Casserole
- 10 ounces campanelle (or another short pasta like penne, ziti, or medium shells)
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic, divided
- 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper divided
- 25 ounces marinara sauce (I like Mezzetta's Marinara)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 3 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes, or 1 tablespoon fresh
- fresh basil, optional for garnish
- Cook the pasta one minute shy of the package directions. Drain well and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, cook beef, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain the grease and return the pan to the heat. Sprinkle with Italian Seasoning, salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the marinara and water and let it simmer for a couple of minutes until warmed through. Stir in the cooked pasta, remove from the heat and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Add ricotta and egg to a large mixing bowl and stir until smooth. Add half of the shredded mozzarella, remaining garlic, half of the Parmesan cheese, parsley and remaining pepper.
- Add half of the beef/pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish. Spoon dollops of the ricotta mixture evenly over the top. Top with remaining beef/pasta mixture, spreading it out with the back of a spoon to cover the creamy layer.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, 5 to 10 minutes longer or until bubbly and cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh basil and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.