Time to dust off those muffin pans! Not to make muffins, mind you—those sugary dessert bombs disguised as breakfast that can turn you into a muffin shape—but to make savory mini meals with healthy ingredients.

They’re convenient, bake quickly and arrive with their own built-in portion control. Leftovers freeze easily. Just rewarm, add a green salad and you’ve got lunch or dinner.

To get you started, here’s a flavorful, nutritious mini lasagna recipe—with the right balance of cheese, tomato sauce, spinach and pasta to satisfy you without loading you down with a lot of starch or calories. Each serving, at about 100 calories, is rich in calcium, vitamin A and protein. Serve one as an appetizer or a side dish, or place two or three on each plate for a satisfying main dish.

Mini Veggie Lasagna

  • 5 ounces wide egg noodles (3¾ cups dry noodles), uncooked (Don’t use classic lasagna noodles, they’re too wide and thick for a muffin pan.)
  • ¾ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • ¾ cup (3 ounces) grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray and line the bottoms of the cups with circles of parchment paper (this prevents sticking).

Cook noodles in boiling water according to package directions until al dente (chewy). Drain, but do not rinse, and transfer to a bowl. Add the ricotta cheese, ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper into the noodles and stir until well mixed. Then stir in the spinach.

Spoon ¼ cup of the noodle mixture into each muffin cup…press down lightly with the back of the spoon. Spoon about 2 teaspoons marinara sauce and 1 teaspoon mozzarella cheese on top of each cup. Repeat, with remaining noodle mixture, marinara sauce and mozzarella. Finish by sprinkling each cup with 1 teaspoon of the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake until cheese is melted on top, edges of noodles are lightly browned and the sauce is bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes on a wire rack, then run a knife or spatula around the edges of the lasagnas and lift with a thin spatula onto serving plates. Makes 12 mini lasagnas.

General tips for muffin-tin meals…

  • Chop vegetables, fruits and other chunky ingredients very small. (One large broccoli floret, for instance, takes up most of the room in a muffin cup!)
  • To freeze, cool “muffins” in the pan on a wire rack for five minutes, then loosen the edges with the tip of a knife or spatula and let them cool completely. Wrap the entire pan with foil and freeze until solid (about six hours). When frozen, use a knife to ease the muffins from the pan, then place them in heavy-duty zip-top freezer bags and return to freezer. Store up to one month.
  • To reheat: Place frozen “muffins” back into a muffin pan or on a baking sheet, cover with foil and warm in 350°F oven until hot (about 20 minutes). Or microwave one or two at a time, covered, at medium power until hot (two to four minutes).

Got a variation on this recipe—or a muffin-meal recipe of your own? Share it below in the comments section. And stay tuned for more muffin-meal recipes—including breakfast.