Lasagna is a tried-and-true meal that pleases everyone in my family, even when they were the youngest and pickiest of eaters. The only two aspects I don’t love about the classic Italian pasta casserole is the time it takes to prepare and all the pots and pans that get dirty! With my teenagers’ sports season in full swing, and so many practices and games scheduled on busy weeknights, I barely have the time and energy to get to the stadium on time, let alone execute an elaborate menu afterward.
To avoid eating fast food every night on the way home, I came up with a great meal prep idea that celebrates all the yumminess of lasagna, but in a fraction of the time. Earlier in the day, I brown a couple pounds of lean ground beef with Italian seasonings that we use later that evening to make lasagna “stuffed” foods – like hoagies, bell peppers and potatoes. But the lasagna riffs are nearly unlimited, consider lasagna-stuffed quesadillas, queso, wraps, whole-grain bowls and more. Find this this easy, make-ahead, all-purpose Italian beef recipe at the bottom of the post, along with my serving suggestions.
Pro Tip: Keep seasoned, browned ground beef warm in a crock pot so it will be ready to eat when you walk in the door.
Once we get home, I pull all the other lasagna “stuffing” ingredients out of the refrigerator, including ricotta, mozzarella, bottled pasta sauce and even spinach, mushrooms and other veggies on hand. I’ve noticed my boys happily eat vegetables if I set them out, but don’t usually ask for them by name otherwise! Having this variety lets everyone pick and choose what they prefer and encourages healthy, balanced eating!
After loading up our rolls, peppers, and potatoes as high as our appetites dictate, a sprinkling of cheese adorns the top before spending a few minutes under the broiler. Since the beef is already cooked and kept warm in a slow cooker, nothing takes more than 15 minutes to make—and the sandwich is done even quicker!
Lasagna-Stuffed Bell Pepper
Slice top quarter off pepper like a “hat” and scoop out seeds. Microwave for 1 minute to soften slightly and then stuff with spinach, mushrooms, ricotta, prepared Italian ground beef, sauce, and cheeses. Place in an oven-safe bowl and set under the broiler until cheese starts bubbling.
Use fork to poke small holes in potato and microwave for 3 to 5 minutes, turning once until potato is softened through. Slit potato lengthwise and stuff with spinach, mushrooms, ricotta cheese, prepared Italian beef, pasta sauce and cheeses. Return to microwave for 1 minute to melt cheese.
Slice a large hoagie roll or Bolillo lengthwise, about halfway through, and scoop out some of the bread to make a “boat.” Stuff with spinach, mushrooms, ricotta cheese, prepared Italian beef, pasta sauce and cheeses. Place on pan and sit under broiler for a couple minutes until cheese begins bubbling.
Pro Tip: Use zip-top baggies to freeze leftover steak slices or extra ground beef in single-serve portions. Economical, convenient and great way to ensure adequate protein intake when just one or two need a quick meal.
As far as “real” lasagna goes, with the noodles and all, my family loves this recipe for No-Fuss Beef Lasagna and I can get it on the table in around an hour thanks to jarred pasta sauce and no-boil noodles!
Make-Ahead Italian Ground Beef
Use in lasagna-inspired quick recipes as described in blog post or in any number of traditional Italian recipes.
To meal prep, let cooked beef cool and package in 3.5 oz. portions in small plastic freezer bags or containers. Store in refrigerator up to 3 days or in freezer up to 3 months. Thaw in microwave or defrost in microwave before use.
Based on 93% lean Ground Beef
Nutrition information per serving: Calories 180; Total fat 8 g (Sat. fat 3.5g; Trans fat 0g); Cholest. 70mg; Sodium 320mg; Total Carb. 1g; Fiber 0g; Total Sugars 0g; Protein 24g; Vit D (0% DV); Calcium (0% DV); Iron (15% DV); Potas. (8%DV)