CASA GRANDE -- What’s better than a gooey, cheesy quesadilla? Quesadilla cake — a six- or seven-layer cheese, meat and tortilla concoction — takes the flat quesadilla to new heights.

Quesadilla cake, which is also sometimes called taco cake or taco pie, is very easy to make. It has a taco-meets-lasagna taste, texture and consistency. And it’s a great an easy alternative to a flat taco or quesadilla.

Quesadilla cake is made by layering tortillas with traditional taco fillings such as ground meat, cheese and tortilla, much like a lasagna. The layers are stacked and baked in a springform pan, then released to give the quesadilla cake a fun, layer upon layer, appearance.

The best thing about the recipe is that it is versatile. It can be made spicy or mild, using spices and flavorings to suit any taste.

Most recipes call for using ground beef, and when I made this recipe, I substituted beef for ground chicken. Ground or shredded turkey, pork or a meat alternative would work nicely too.

Beans, corn, tomatoes or other vegetables could also be layered into the dish as well.

The quesadilla can be topped with tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo or other traditional taco toppings.

When I made this cheesy, meaty quesadilla cake, I used flour tortillas and a blend of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese. It was a hit — everyone loved it — and it was super easy to make.

Quesadilla cake

1 pound beef, preseasoned with taco seasoning

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or preferred type)

salt and pepper to taste

6 or 7 flour or corn tortillas, about the size of a springform pan

In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook onion and garlic for about five minutes or until soft. Add ground meat (and seasoning if not preseasoned) and cook until no longer pink, about five minutes.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well, cooking for another two or three minutes.

Grease a springform pan.

Place one tortilla on the bottom of pan and top with a layer of meat and cheese. Repeat with remaining ingredients. The last layer should be a layer of cheese. Top with cheese.

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven until top is golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about five or 10 minutes. When pan is cool enough to touch, remove from pan and garnish.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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