I got the idea for this over-the-top recipe from my very classy and sophisticated grandmother. My straightforwardly-palated grandpa doesn’t care for Italian sausage (it’s that fennel flavor) but beef-only lasagna is kinda boring, so my grandma cleverly and sneakily grinds pepperoni in a food processor and hides it in the sauce with the beef. If you have lasagna at her house you might not realize there is pepperoni in it, just that hers is somehow tastier than most. I am somewhat less classy and sophisticated than my grandmother, so I splash the pepperoni all over the top of my lasagna and turn it into it’s own deliciously pedestrian thing.
So, pepperoni inside, pepperoni on top, extra ricotta in-between, and a good blanket of mozzarella to bring it all together. Brazen? Maybe. Absurdly tasty? Yeah.
makes one 9×13 casserole
-1 5-to-7 oz package pepperoni, divided (leave 1/3 in rounds to decorate the top, dice the rest for inside the lasagna)
-1 medium onion, diced
-1 lb ground beef
-1 24oz jar marinara sauce (use homemade if you have it, but I’m too lazy to make sauce and lasagna in one sitting)
-2 cups water
-2 15oz tubs ricotta (I like whole milk, but you can use skim or one of each)
-2 medium cloves of garlic, minced or grated
-1 tsp dried oregano
-1 tsp dried basil
-2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided into two 1-cup portions
-1 cup parmesan cheese, grated (plus a bit more for serving)
-salt and black pepper, to taste
-1 large egg
-12 flat no-boil lasagna noodles
1. In a large frying pan over medium heat, cook the diced pepperoni until some fat is released and the pepperoni is a bit crispy on the edges. In the fat from the pepperoni, cook the diced onion until translucent and slightly browned.
2. Add the ground beef to the pepperoni and onion and continue to cook over medium heat, breaking up with a wooden spoon or spatula until the beef is thoroughly cooked. Drain the beef/pepperoni/onion mix by tipping the pan at an angle and scooping out the fat.
3. Add the marinara sauce and water to the beef and pepperoni mix. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer, then taste for seasoning and add more salt as necessary. Set the sauce aside until you are ready to assemble the casserole.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, garlic, oregano, basil, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, and all of the parmesan cheese. Taste and add salt and black pepper until you are happy with the flavor. Add the egg and stir well to combine.
5. In a 9×13 casserole dish, layer 1 1/2 cups sauce, 4 lasagna noodles, and 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Repeat this pattern three times and finish with the remaining sauce. Top with the reserved cup of shredded mozzarella and reserved pepperoni rounds.
6. At this point, you can choose to bake the casserole for immediate eating or freeze it for later. To bake it now, cover the casserole with aluminum foil, preheat the oven to 375F, and bake it for 40-45 minutes covered, followed by an additional 10-15 minutes uncovered.
7. If you freeze the casserole, cover it with plastic wrap and stash it in the fridge until it’s solid. Pre-lining the casserole dish with foil will make it easy to pop out of the dish after it’s frozen into a brick. Wrap it in a few layers of plastic and label it for future heating and eating.
8. To reheat from frozen, unwrap the casserole and pop it back into it’s original dish if necessary. Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake in a 300F oven for between 2:30 and 3 hours, or until a thermometer inserted in the middle of the casserole reads 165F. To crisp the top, remove the foil and broil the top for a minute or two.