Cooking In Real Time: Mexican Lasagna

Five ingredients and no fuss go into this spicy, Mexican dish.

This warm comfort food will drive away the cold! It is infinitely flexible with whatever you have on hand, so no grocery store run is necessary. There are no noodles to boil and you’re using already-prepared ingredients, so it all comes together in a flash.

This recipe came into being out of sheer laziness. Last night, I’d planned on making a tamale pie with my leftover chili con carne, but saw that I’d run out of cornmeal for the crust. With the snow coming down, I was less than motivated to run to the store. Instead, I pulled out a few things from the fridge and pantry and threw this together.

Use what you’ve got—if you have leftover chicken, shred that and throw it on. Crumble in that one remaining hamburger patty. Or, go completely meatless; with all the cheese and beans, no one will notice. Got some cooked rice or corn? Sure, add it—why not? Poke around in your fridge and cupboards, put everything on the counter and start layering!

Mexican Lasagna

12 to 15 soft corn and/or flour tortillas, 6 to 8 inches in diameter
24 oz. salsa or enchilada sauce or combination
15 to 20 oz. cooked beans, chili, refried beans or combination
1 to 3 cups cooked meat, optional
2 cups shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350º. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Measure out your various ingredients to make sure you’ll have enough for each layer. There’s nothing sadder than running out of cheese just as you get to the top of your lasagna!

Cut the tortillas in halves, set aside. (Don’t have enough tortillas? Use tortilla chips instead.) Taste your salsa/sauce. Add a couple dashes of hot sauce if it’s not spicy enough. If it’s too spicy, smooth it out with 2 to 4 tablespoons of tomato sauce or juice. Use cheddar, Mexican cheese blend, spicy Monterey Jack, or a combo. Even Velveeta will work!

If you’re using beans straight from the can, drain them first. If you’re using refried beans, mash them in a bowl with some of salsa so they’re a bit gloppy.

Spread three-fourths of a cup of salsa in the pan and arrange six to eight tortilla halves over the sauce. You don’t have to worry about total coverage, it’s fine if there are a few small gaps. Overlapping slightly is fine, too.

Spread the bean or chili mixture on top of the tortillas, sprinkle on any cooked meat, rice or corn. Cover with one cup of salsa and three-fourths of a cup of cheese. Repeat the layers twice: tortillas, beans/chili, meat/rice/corn, salsa, then cheese.

On your last layer, end with salsa. Hang on to that remaining cheese, you’ll use it later.

Cover your pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the lasagna with the remaining cheese and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until everything is nice and bubbly. Let the lasagna stand about 10 minutes, then dig in!

Top your lasagna with sour cream, sliced black olives, cilantro, chopped onion or scallions, fresh diced bell peppers, avocado, shredded lettuce.

Eric S. January 11, 2012 at 02:54 PM
This sounds almost identical to something my mom made for years that was an adaptation of something she learned from our Mexican American neighbors when I was a kid in Phoenix. We called it "enchilada casserole", but it's basically the same idea, and it's delicious. I suggest the corn tortillas over flour, because they won't get as chewy in the cooking process.


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