Tortilla casserole isn't authentically Mexican, beautiful, or fancy in any way. It's simply a delicious, homey way to put a healthy and inexpensive vegetarian entree on the table. If you have kids, odds are it will be a hit with them too. In my family we like to put something like this together on Sunday night and refrigerate it, then bake and serve it for dinner early in the work week. That guarantees us at least one hot home-cooked meal even if no-one has time to cook.
This recipe is for the basic tortilla casserole. The most complicated thing it asks you to do is dice an onion. You can embellish the basic recipe in any number of ways. For example, add finely diced zucchini or bell pepper, roasted poblano peppers, or corn kernels. You could also replace the refried beans with whole pinto or black beans, or add a tablespoon or so of minced chipotle pepper to the sauce.
If you have time, garnishes of crema (Mexican sour cream), fresh cilantro, and lime slices are nice. This dish provides a great opportunity to break out all of those hot sauces crowding your refrigerator door—everyone can doctor it up to their own preference of chile heat.
- 1 dozen corn tortillas (preferably a day or two old)
- 1 15-ounce can vegetarian refried beans (preferably not non-fat)
- 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
- 3 cups jarred salsa or enchilada sauce (mild/medium/hot as you like)
- 5 ounces (about 1 1/4 cups) grated Monterey Jack cheese
- 5 ounces (about 1 1/4 cups) grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400°F if baking immediately. Lightly grease a casserole (roughly 9x9 inches).
Lay down 3 tortillas, slightly overlapping, and then top with 1/3 of the refried beans, onion, salsa, and cheese (reserving some for the top). Make three layers this way, then cover with a final set of tortillas and the reserved cheese. You can stop at this point and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the cheese is bubbly and heated through, about 30 minutes (or 45 if it was refrigerated). Remove the top and attentively broil for a moment to brown the cheese. Serve with additional salsa and hot sauces.