America is a country of innovators. From guys like Benjamin Franklin and Henry Ford to Tom from Myspace and whoever created that Evil Kermit meme, we’re a people who take big risks in the hopes of a greater reward. With that in mind, I’d like to recognize a new group of trailblazers to the annals of American mold-breakers: the online geniuses who created the Totino’s Pizza Lasagna.
As far as I can tell, the culinary creation first surfaced online on July 27, 2016 when a YouTuber named Angie Boyle stacked three layers of Totino’s frozen pizza on top of each other, added some extra cheese and baked it in the oven. Amazingly, what emerged 25 minutes later was a hearty lasagna that looked gooey and delicious, and even held its form admirably in the face of all the melty cheese and sauce (this is key for any good lasagna).
In addition to Boyle, at least two other people have had the same idea, seemingly independent of each other. One was redditor @Bobsbrain — who dubbed it the “Totino’s Party Lasagna” on Reddit and Twitter — and the other was a guy named Mac Pylant, who shared his invention on Totino’s Facebook page. Somehow, these three mozzarellian masterminds figured out that, paradoxically, the way to make the rather basic Totino’s pizza more exciting was to simply add more Totino’s pizza. Brilliant.
Angie, Bob, Mac, I salute you. I’ve been personally inspired by your actions, and as such, I’ve decided to make my own Totino’s Pizza Lasagna. To do so, I reached out to Mac, a fast food manager in Chattanooga, Tennessee who founded the Facebook group Mac EatsnChatt. He was happy to help, but before we got down to business, I asked him where he dreamt up the idea in the first place. “I saw ‘pizza lasagna’ on a meme somewhere and thought that Totino’s — which I grew up on — would work perfectly for that, since they’re so easy to stack,” he told me.
With that in mind, here’s what he recommended…
Step #1: Pre-Cook Your Totino’s for Five Minutes at 450 Degrees
This is a step built from experience, as Mac has made several Totino’s Pizza Lasagnas and now has it down to a science. “The first thing you want to do is pre-cook your Totino’s for about five minutes,” he advises. Which flavor of Party Pizza is up to you, but he prefers meatball, as it tastes more like an actual lasagna, whereas the pepperoni are more pizza-like. I chose pepperoni though, because my grocery store didn’t have the meatball kind.
Step #2: Build Your Lasagna
Mac recommends spreading some sauce in the baking pan first, just like with regular lasagna. Then, he tops that with ricotta cheese and a layer of shredded mozzarella before laying down the first Totino’s. After that, he repeats the pattern for each layer: sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, pizza. Finally, on top, he adds another layer of mozzarella. Mac specifically advised me to make it with just two layers, but that didn’t quite seem big enough to me, so I went with three.
Step #3: Cook for 10 to 15 Minutes
I was told to do the normal Totino’s cook time — 10 to 12 minutes — for two layers, so I tacked on another five minutes for that third layer. I wasn’t quite sure if that would be enough though, as my lasagna seemed very tall, towering several inches over my pan.
Step #4: Pull It Out and Let It Cool
When I pulled my pizza lasagna out of the oven, it appeared a little bit overdone, but not so much as to be offensive. It smelled good too, pretty much like a regular frozen pizza would. I let it cool for 10 minutes. But to be honest, it didn’t look nearly as good as the ones I saw online, so I was a little worried.
Step #5: Eat!
After letting it cool, I cut into my creation. The top layer had a bit of crunch and the knife pierced the insides a little too easily, which made me worry it was going to fall apart.
Surprisingly, it held its shape fairly well when I picked up the portion with a spatula and put it onto my plate.
When I took my first bite, I was mildly pleased with the results. It was perfectly edible and had a saucy, cheesy taste that fell somewhere in between lasagna and pizza. The little bits of pepperoni disappeared entirely among the other flavors, so I didn’t taste any of that, but the cheese and sauce blended together nicely. To be clear, though, it didn’t taste like a good lasagna would. Instead, it tasted like something you’d get in a school cafeteria — not bad, but not remarkable in any way. The only real, measurable downside was that, as I’d feared, the crusts turned to mush, making it all just taste like soggy bread instead of sturdy lasagna noodles. Right away, I could see why Mac recommended two layers.
Still, for a meal that’s made primarily from frozen pizzas that cost $2.50 each, it’s a hell of an invention, and it delivers on the levels one might expect it to. So, regardless of my mediocre experience, I can only salute the brave online pioneers of Totino’s Pizza Lasagna — you’ve made a discovery that’s simultaneously ingenious and unexceptional, which isn’t easy to do. Maybe next time I’ll try meatball instead.