Food & Drink

Tasty fried lasagna appetizers are perfect for your next get together

Lasagna bites made by Michelle Madden in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Lasagna bites made by Michelle Madden in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Happy New Year!

What better way to bring in the New Year than a party.

And what better way to please a crowd than with appetizers. If you want to make an impression at your next dinner party by creating a pasta bar or hosting a friendly lunch, I have the perfect appetizer that can be made with leftovers or with a fresh pan of lasagna.

Yep, I said lasagna — lasagna fritters actually, which are more commonly known as fried lasagna. This recipe is the same-day prep version, but you can plan anywhere from a couple of hours ahead or as far as a week in advance if you’d like.

When you pair your version of Fried Lasagna Appetizers with your own version of marinara sauce, you’ll love the feedback and results. Of course, you can use any type of sauce that you desire. The sauce featured in this article is my own version of a classic marinara sauce. I’ve tried it chunky for other dishes like spaghetti and even chili, but for easy dipping and pizza, I like to use a smooth, more traditional style sauce. Some people may prefer a cheese sauce or ranch (I don’t have a clue why but to each their own) or depending on the type of lasagna you’ve prepared, maybe try an Alfredo sauce.

This recipe can be made from a whole pan of lasagna or as in this recipe, one lasagna noodle at a time. It is best to fold your noodles rather than roll them when preparing the individual version. If you roll them they may cook unevenly and also are more likely to burst open while being fried. Folding helps to control portions of ingredients and even distribution. The square shape makes it easier to handle and easier to cut into smaller portions if desired.

Any way you fix these lasagna fritters you will enjoy them, I’m sure. There are so many possibilities when making them, as with many of my recipes. You can use spinach and artichokes with mushrooms and sauteed onions paired with a three-cheese Alfredo sauce, make a seafood fried lasagna with a spicy cocktail sauce or marinara, or keep it simple with a ricotta cheese blend.

You can even replace lasagna noodles with eggplant. You can create so many different versions of this appetizer that also can be a main dish. If you decide to do the more traditional layered version of lasagna, it’s not a problem, but you still need to be sure that it is frozen for easy battering and frying. Since it might be a bit thicker, it may take more time to freeze; but as I stated earlier, you can make this from leftovers straight from the freezer as well.

It’s time to get started creating your very own version of my recipe for Fried Lasagna with Marinara Sauce. It’s a fun and satisfying treat that takes a little effort but goes a long way. So let’s roll up those sleeves, wash those hands and get started creating your own culinary art.

Recipe

Fried Lasagna Appetizers

10 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente

1 15-ounce container ricotta

4 eggs, lightly beaten (divided)

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt (to taste) — you also can use seasoning salt

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground Italian sausage

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced green pepper (can use yellow and red also)

1/4 cup parsley

1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 bay leaves

1 cup water

3 tablespoons olive oil and/or butter (I use both but only 2 tablespoons each)

Ground pepper

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

vegetable oil

1/2 cup flour

2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

Marinara sauce

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Marinara sauce: This easy homemade marinara sauce recipe can be made with 4 to 6 fresh tomatoes or 2 cans, 8-ounces each of canned tomatoes. Best of all, it’s ready in about 20 minutes.

Note: Marinara sauce and tomato sauce are not the same thing. While marinara is a quick sauce made with just a handful of basic ingredients, tomato sauce is more complex, often includes more vegetables, and is simmered for a longer time.

First, brown seasoned ground beef and Italian sausage in a large skillet.

Next, saute onion and garlic in butter in large pot, then stir in tomatoes, add herbs, peppers, sugar, salt and pepper, and simmer over low heat (partially covered) until thickened. Remove bay leaves. Save half of sauce for dipping and use other half to combine with meat for the lasagna fritters.

Lay cooked lasagna noodles flat, in an even layer, on a greased (I used olive oil but feel free to use canola, vegetable oil or butter, etc.) baking sheet.

In medium bowl, combine ricotta, 1 egg and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Mix until evenly combined. Spread ricotta mixture onto each lasagna noodle, add meat and marinara sauce mixture then sprinkle with mozzarella. Fold each lasagna noodle 3 to 4 times, to create a square. Freeze lasagna servings on baking sheet for 30 minutes, or until hardened.

When lasagna squares are frozen, set up dredging station. Divide flour, 3 eggs and breadcrumbs in three separate shallow bowls. Season breadcrumbs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, dredge lasagna in flour mixture then dip in eggs. Toss it in breadcrumbs for final dredge.

Meanwhile, heat oil. Pour about 1 1/2 inches vegetable oil (can use peanut oil or canola oil if preferred) into large, deep skillet (or shallow pot). Heat over medium heat until oil reaches about 350 degrees, or until oil shimmers. Working in batches, add 3 to 4 lasagna squares to hot oil using tongs. Do not crowd pan, or oil will cool. Cook until golden brown on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and cook until second side is golden, 2 to 3 more minutes. Place fried squares on cooling rack lined with paper towels. Repeat until all lasagna is fried.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with warm marinara for serving.

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