I decided to do an experiment this weekend and I am happy to announce that it was a success! Something I have learned in the kitchen is to roll with the punches and adapt as you go. I took this idea after binge watching the food network channel and saw one chef make enchiladas, another make a glorious lasagna, and yet another make a tasty looking Mexican rice casserole. I decided to combine all of these elements and create my own version in my itty bitty kitchen. Thankfully, I am happy with the results and figured I should share my success with you.
Trying to figure out a name for this concoction was difficult… Mexican Enchilada Casserole? Mexican Fiesta Fajita Enchilada Lasagna Casserole? I decided to stick with Mexican Lasagna because I layered the ingredients instead of mixing them all together like I normally see in a ‘casserole’. This dish has so many flavors and textures that my mouth is watering right now just thinking about it.
Don’t be intimidated by the number of steps that goes into making this meal, nothing is very complicated. It will take a bit of time to make all of the components but keep in mind- this recipe makes two full pans! One pan for tonight and one pan goes into the freezer for another day!
Freezer Cooking: Mexican Lasagna
- 2 cups enchilada sauce
- 3 cup salsa
- 1 pound Monterey jack cheese, shredded
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 cups cooked rice (leftover or freshly cooked)
- 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can (15 oz) corn, drained
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 24 small flour tortillas
Directions: In a large liquid measuring cup mix together 2 cups red enchilada sauce (about 1 can) with 3 cups salsa. Shred a 1 pound block of Monterey jack cheese and set aside. Next, chop the bell pepper, onion, and mince the garlic. In a large deep skillet, drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Once the skillet it warm add the garlic, bell pepper, and onion and saute until the vegetables are beginning to soften. Salt and pepper the vegetables, to taste. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes and add them to the skillet with the peppers and onions. Cook down another 5 minutes. Remove the vegetable mixture to a bowl and set aside.
In the same skillet cook the ground beef until it is completely browned. While the beef is cooking drain and rinse both cans of beans and drain the corn. Once the beef is cooked through add the beans and corn as well as the seasonings, mix well and continue heating until everything is warmed through.
Time to assemble: in a 9×13 pan pour a thin layer of the enchilada sauce and salsa mixture, top with 6 tortillas, half of the vegetable mixture, half of the beef/bean mixture, a healthy handful of cheese, 6 more tortillas, cover the tortillas with sauce, and another handful of cheese to finish it off. Repeat with a second 9×13 pan: sauce, 6 tortillas, sauce, rice, veggies, beef, cheese, tortillas, sauce, and the last of the cheese. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until everything is bubbly, melted, and lightly browned on top. Allow the pan to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve this dish with your favorite taco toppings and enjoy! If freezing, cover with a double layer of aluminum foil and label.
Here are the cast of characters for this delicious Mexican lasagna: tortillas, cheese, beef, beans, corn, rice, garlic, onion, tomatoes, a green pepper, and of course the enchilada sauce and salsa mixture that I have already mixed together in a large liquid measuring cup. I failed to include the spices in this photo because I had forgotten about them until I was already cooking the beef. Whoops! At least I remembered them later on.
The first thing I did, just to get it out of the way, was to go ahead and grate the entire 1 pound block of cheese.
Look at that tower of cheese!
Yum, I am a big fan of cheese. I believe just about everything is better with cheese.
Now, prepare the onions, peppers, and garlic. I chopped the onion and pepper roughly the same size, not too small, but not very large.
Once the pepper, onion, and garlic were ready to go I heated 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in my deep skillet pot thingy. What’s the proper name for this thing? I like using this deep skillet to avoid messes and spill overs.
Once the pan is nice and hot throw in the chopped vegetables as well as some salt and pepper- just a bit to add more flavor.
While the peppers and onions are cooking go ahead and chop two tomatoes about the same size as the other vegetables.
Once the peppers and onions have cooked for about 5 minutes and are halfway tender, stir in the tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes of cooking the tomatoes will have cooked down a little and become saucy. Pour the vegetable mixture into a bowl and set them aside to await assembly.
In the same skillet add your ground beef and cook until completely browned. I suppose if you want to speed up the whole process of this recipe you could use two different pans and cook the vegetables at the same time that you cook your beef but I like to use as few pans as possible to make cleaning up easier. Feel free to go the route you prefer.
While the beef if browning drain and rinse your beans and corn. I love the colors that are going into this meal!
Add the seasonings, beans, and corn to the cooked beef and stir to combine all of the seasonings.
Allow the beef and bean mixture to warm through. My kitchen smells so good!
Now it is time to build the lasagna! Assemble all of the components and roll up your sleeves!
Cover the bottom of a 9×13 pan with a thin coat of your sauce mixture.
Layer 6 tortillas, overlapping to fill the pan.
Another layer of sauce…
Half of the rice…
Half of the vegetables…
Half of the meat mixture… I’m getting excited!
A healthy dose of cheese…
Another 6 tortillas…
Cover the tortillas with some more sauce…
And last, but not least… cheese!
Repeat with another 9×13 pan with the remaining ingredients. I have a confession to make… originally I had planned to make this all in one pan so that there would be two sets of layers but once I got to the second layer of tortillas in my first pan I realized that my dinky pan simply could not encompass the massive amounts of ingredients that I had prepared. Instead of being defeated I simply grabbed another pan and cheered that I would have another tasty meal waiting in the freezer.
Pop your pan into a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until the whole pan is gloriously bubbly, hot, melty, and crispy browned on top. If you don’t like a crispy top, check the pan between 20-25 minutes.
Top this delicious meal with your favorite taco toppings, anything goes- pile it high, or keep it simple like I have here with a dollop of sour cream and fresh cilantro. There are so many flavors and textures going on in this dish that all of my tastebuds were dancing with glee when I took my first bite.
If you try this dish let me know what you think!