All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012
See that picture above? Yeah – that’s micro cilantro on there – not basil. I paid $5 for a container of micro cilantro & intend to get my money’s worth – even if I have to garnish dessert recipes with it! I don’t care. Anyway –
These lasagna cupcakes are super easy to make – once you have assembled the ingredients. You can also modify this recipe endlessly to reflect your own favorite lasagna recipes. The only real NEWS here is the concept of using a cupcake pan & using wonton skins instead of pasta. I am certain this can be made using actual pasta or adding meat or with a white sauce – whatever. Also – I tried this two ways – 1) leaving the wonton skins square & folding them down over the top creating little closed baskets and 2) cutting the wontons round with a cookie cutter so that they were layered more like a Neapolitan. The result was two more different little lasagnas than I would have guessed. The square wontons resulted in a cupcake far easier to remove from the tin (the round ones needed more cooling time to be removed & still retain their shape). Also – the added wonton quantity in just keeping the squares in tact made those cupcakes more bready – for lack of a better word. The round ones allowed the flavor of the sauce to come through more powerfully – primarily because there was less wonton flavor competing with it.
Also – if you use a jarred sauce & store-bought ricotta – you could assemble a tray of these in the time it takes your oven to heat up & then cook these cook in under twenty minutes. They are elegant & different & EASY and pretty and delicious. This recipe below made 24 cupcakes. Each person I served had at least two. Serve with a nice salad & some crusty bread & a box of wine & you are good to go! This recipe is broken into three parts: sauce, ricotta & cupcakes. If you are using store-bought sauce & ricotta – buy two jars for the 24 cupcakes & 1 lb of ricotta. Also – I used some canned tomatoes in this recipe because I already had them. I will try to avoid using them in the future. Read why HERE.
Lasagna Cupcakes with Arrabiata & Homemade Ricotta
ARRABIATA (Spicy Tomato Sauce)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TBS crushed red pepper (for a very spicy sauce. Use LESS if you want less heat)
20 cloves of garlic – 1/2 minced, 1/2 left whole
3 oz tomato paste (1/2 small can)
26 oz chopped tomatoes (preferably NOT canned but – maybe – POMI)
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 TBS dry oregano
3 sprigs fresh oregano
Heat the oil in a deep sauce pan. Saute all the garlic until the minced garlic begins to turn golden. Add the tomato paste & stir over high heat for about a minute. Lower the heat to medium & add the rest of the ingredients. This sauce was very spicy with the full TBS of crushed red pepper – so ease into using the red pepper & add more according to your own palette & tolerance. Bring this to a boil & then cover & lower heat to low & let simmer – the longer the better. I made this a day in advance & refrigerated it overnight – letting the flavors blend – but this isn’t necessary. Let it cool before assembling the cupcakes.
1 gallon whole milk
2 cups buttermilk
5 TBS white vinegar
2 tsp salt
Make this in two batches. Divide the ingredients in half & do it in two batches. For some reason – doing it all at once produces less ricotta. Sounds crazy – but my friend tried & agreed. Plus – the half batches are more manageable to dry in the cheesecloth.
Heat half the milk & half the buttermilk in a pan. When it just begins to bubble in the corners – turn off the heat. Add half the salt & half the vinegar & stir. With a slotted spoon – scoop out the curds that form until all that is left is the yellowish whey. Alternatively – CAREFULLY pour the curdling milk through a cheesecloth-lined colander. In either case – let it cool a bit & then wrap it up in cheesecloth and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Repeat with the other half of the ingredients. Unwrap the ricotta from the cheesecloth & put in a bowl & set aside (or chill).
2 packages of small wonton wrappers (about 2.5 inches square)
Ricotta cheese – 1 lb store-bought or the quantity from the recipe above
4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
4 large balls fresh mozzarella (preferably the sort sold in water) or 4 cups of another variation of mozzarella
4 cups pasta sauce (the recipe above or two jars)
1 chopped tomato as garnish (optional)
Heat the oven to 375
Spray your cupcake pans with a nonstick spray. Place a wonton into each cup – letting the corners stick up & out. OR – use a cookie cutter & cut the wontons into circles the correct size for your tray. Layer with a little grated Parmesan, then ricotta then sauce. Add another wonton – putting the corners in the opposite direction the first wonton was placed and press it down on the first layer. Add another layer of Parmesan, ricotta and sauce & top with another wonton. I used a round-cut wonton for this top layer even if I left the corners on for the first two layers. Top with some sauce & then press the corners of the wontons down into the sauce so the cupcakes all stay “closed.” Be sure a little sauce is covering the entire surface. Top with a sliced disc of fresh mozzarella.
Put these in the oven & bake. Check them at the 15 minute mark. They should be done in between 15-18 minutes. Remove from the oven & let sit & set & cool for five minutes. Carefully run a knife around each cupcake & pop them out onto a serving dish. Garnish with shredded fresh basil & some chopped fresh tomatoes (if you are using them). If you used all rounded wontons in the Neapolitan style – let sit longer than 5 minutes as this version is more smooshy & fragile. The squared wontons look prettier – as you get a nice golden “crust” around them but both version are delicious!