Meat Lovers Pizza Casserole


Indulge in the ultimate comfort food with our delectable Meat Lovers Pizza Casserole, a symphony of savory meats, zesty tomato sauce, and gooey cheese, all nestled beneath a golden crust. This hearty dish captures the essence of a classic meat feast pizza in a convenient casserole form, perfect for cozy family dinners or casual gatherings with friends. With a burst of Italian flavors and a touch of homemade charm, this recipe is sure to become a staple in your culinary repertoire.

Ingredients Overview:

  • 1 lb lean ground beef: Lean ground beef provides a rich meaty flavor without excess grease, ensuring a wholesome and satisfying meal.
  • 1 lb pork sausage: Pork sausage adds a depth of flavor and succulence to the casserole, infusing each bite with a delightful smokiness.
  • 1 cup chopped pepperoni: Pepperoni lends its signature spicy kick and robust taste, elevating the dish to gourmet heights.
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour: All-purpose flour acts as a thickening agent, binding the ingredients together and creating a luscious, velvety sauce.
  • 4 tsp Italian seasoning, divided: Italian seasoning blend imparts a fragrant medley of herbs and spices, infusing the casserole with authentic Italian flair.
  • 1 (26-oz) jar tomato basil pasta sauce: Tomato basil pasta sauce forms the flavorful base of the casserole, providing a luscious backdrop for the meats and cheese.
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese: Shredded mozzarella cheese blankets the casserole with gooey goodness, creating irresistible cheesy strands with every forkful.
  • 1 (13.8-oz) can refrigerated pizza crust dough: Refrigerated pizza crust dough serves as the crowning glory, delivering a crispy, golden-brown crust that perfectly complements the hearty filling.
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil: Olive oil adds a touch of richness and helps achieve a golden crust, enhancing the overall texture and flavor.
  • 3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese: Grated parmesan cheese lends a nutty, salty note and a tantalizingly crisp finish to the casserole.

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions:

1. Preheat and Prepare:

  • Preheat your oven to 425º F. Lightly spray a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray to prevent sticking and ensure easy cleanup.

2. Brown the Meats:

  • In a large skillet, cook the ground beef and pork sausage over medium-high heat until no longer pink, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks. Once cooked through, drain well and return the meat mixture to the skillet.

3. Flavor Infusion:

  • Add the chopped pepperoni, all-purpose flour, and 3 teaspoons of Italian seasoning to the skillet, stirring until well combined. Let the flavors meld together as you stir.

4. Sauce Simmering:

  • Pour the tomato basil pasta sauce into the skillet with the meat mixture, stirring until everything is evenly coated. Allow the sauce to come to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, then remove the skillet from the heat.

5. Assemble the Casserole:

  • Spoon the meat and sauce mixture into the prepared baking pan, spreading it out into an even layer. Sprinkle 1½ cups of shredded mozzarella cheese over the top, ensuring every inch is covered with cheesy goodness.

6. Crust Creation:

  • Unroll the refrigerated pizza crust dough and carefully place it over the cheese-topped casserole mixture. Gently press the edges of the dough to seal it to the sides of the pan.

7. Finishing Touches:

  • Brush the surface of the pizza crust with olive oil, then sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of Italian seasoning, ½ cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, and grated parmesan cheese evenly over the top.

8. Bake to Perfection:

  • Slide the assembled casserole into the preheated oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly and melted.

Storage and Reheating Tips:

To store any leftovers of this Meat Lovers Pizza Casserole, allow it to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for longer-term storage. When ready to enjoy again, simply reheat individual portions in the microwave or oven until heated through.

Helpful Tips for Enhancing the Recipe:

  1. Customize Your Meats: Feel free to swap out the ground beef or pork sausage with your favorite meats, such as ground turkey, Italian sausage, or diced ham, to suit your taste preferences.
  2. Fresh Herbs Upgrade: Add a handful of freshly chopped basil or oregano to the meat mixture for an extra burst of herbal freshness.
  3. Cheese Variations: Experiment with different cheese blends, such as cheddar, provolone, or fontina, to create unique flavor profiles.
  4. Vegetable Boost: Incorporate diced bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, or olives into the casserole for added texture and nutrients.
  5. Spice it Up: For a kick of heat, sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes or drizzle hot sauce over the finished casserole.
  6. Make it Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free pizza crust dough and flour alternatives, such as almond flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour, for a gluten-free version of this recipe.
  7. Meal Prep Friendly: Prepare the meat mixture in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before assembling and baking the casserole for a quick and easy weeknight meal.
  8. Serve with Sides: Accompany the casserole with a crisp green salad, garlic breadsticks, or roasted vegetables for a complete and satisfying meal.
  9. Garnish with Freshness: Sprinkle chopped parsley or basil over the finished casserole for a pop of color and freshness.
  10. Portion Control: Cut the casserole into individual servings before freezing to make reheating and serving more convenient.

Popular Questions and Answers:

Q: Can I make this casserole ahead of time? A: Absolutely! You can prepare the meat mixture in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When ready to enjoy, simply assemble the casserole and bake as directed.

Q: Can I freeze leftovers of this casserole? A: Yes, you can freeze leftovers of this casserole for future meals. Just be sure to allow it to cool completely before transferring it to a freezer-safe container. To reheat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then bake until heated through.

Q: Can I use homemade pizza dough instead of refrigerated dough? A: Certainly! Homemade pizza dough adds a personal touch to the casserole. Simply roll out the dough to fit the size of your baking pan and proceed with the recipe as directed.

Q: Can I omit the pepperoni or substitute it with another ingredient? A: Of course! Feel free to customize the recipe to suit your preferences. You can omit the pepperoni altogether or replace it with cooked bacon, Canadian bacon, or diced ham for a different flavor profile.

Secrets for Achieving Culinary Perfection:

  1. Balanced Flavors: Taste and adjust the seasoning of the meat mixture before assembling the casserole to ensure a perfectly seasoned dish.
  2. Even Distribution: Spread the meat and cheese layers evenly across the pan to ensure every bite is bursting with flavor.
  3. Golden Crust: For a beautifully golden crust, brush the pizza dough with olive oil before baking and rotate the casserole halfway through the cooking time for even browning.
  4. Rest and Set: Allow the casserole to cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving to allow the flavors to meld together and prevent the cheese from oozing out.
  5. Quality Ingredients: Use high-quality ingredients, such as freshly grated parmesan cheese and premium pasta sauce, for the best flavor and texture.
  6. Watch the Bake: Keep an eye on the casserole during the final minutes of baking to prevent the crust from over-browning.
  7. Let it Settle: Allow the casserole to rest for 5 to 10 minutes after baking to allow the filling to set before serving.
  8. Customize and Experiment: Don’t be afraid to get creative and customize the recipe to your liking by adding your favorite toppings or ingredients.
  9. Share and Enjoy: Gather your loved ones around the table to savor this comforting dish together, creating cherished memories with each delicious bite.
  10. Embrace Imperfections: Remember that cooking is an art, not a science, so embrace any imperfections and enjoy the process of creating something delicious from scratch.

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