Last weekend, I had a hankering for lasagna! And while I have many yummy variations on lasagna, I had a specific hankering for Cheese Lasagna — and not just because we hadn’t yet had our meatless meal for the week, but because it sounded good to me.
After having grown up with my mom’s yummy lasagna, which she made with cottage cheese, I had, in recent years, typically switched to making my lasagna with ricotta cheese — and its creamy texture does had a little “something-something” to the dish.
However, in my area, good quality ricotta cheese has become increasingly expensive — I even gave making a ricotta-style cheese at home a try.
As a result, the last several times I’ve made lasagna, I’ve used the more affordable cottage cheese. And here’s a little trick I’ve learned — if I whiz the cottage cheese through my wee little food processor before I season it and use it in the lasagna, it has a much creamier texture! Not quite as creamy as the ricotta, of course, but still, it’s incredibly yummy.
As Wikipedia tells us:
Cottage cheese is a cheese curd product with a mild flavor. It is drained, but not pressed, so some whey remains and the individual curds remain loose. The curd is usually washed to remove acidity, giving sweet curd cheese. It is not aged or colored. Different styles of cottage cheese are made from milks with different fat levels and in small-curd or large-curd preparations. Cottage cheese which is pressed becomes hoop cheese, farmer cheese, pot cheese, or queso blanco.
Hubby and I had plans to attend the matinee showing of “Now You See Me” last Saturday, and I didn’t have enough cottage cheese on hand to assemble the lasagna ahead of time, so I prepared my sauce so it could simmer and also cooked the noodles: after cooking them al dente, I drained them, gently dried them, and placed them in layers on a platter, separated by sheets of waxed paper and damp paper towel, and refrigerated them ’til I was ready to assemble the lasagna.
So the next time you have a hankering for some Cheese Lasagna, give this easy version a try! It’s smells — and tastes — so yummy, you’ll find yourself singing along with the Lasagna Song 😉
Leftovers will keep for a few days in the ‘fridge; you can also freeze leftovers for enjoyment later. You can make this up to a day in advance, refrigerate, and bake; or you can make it up, cover well, and freeze for later use.
Cheese Lasagna (Makes about 8 – 9 servings, depending upon appetites)
- Olive or canola oil
- Red wine (white would likely work, as well)
- 1/2 to 1 medium to large onion, finely chopped/diced
- 1 – 2 carrots, scraped and finely chopped/diced
- 1 – 2 celery stalks, finely chopped/diced
- Minced garlic to taste
- 1 can (14 -15 ounces) diced tomatoes
- 1 tin (24 – 26 ounces) Hunt’s Pasta Sauce (or another favorite ready-made sauce)
- 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
- Approximately 3 cups (24 ounces) cottage cheese
- 2 eggs
- 6 to 8 ounces (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups) grated or shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (do yourself a favor and grate your own!)
- Grated Parmesan and/or three-cheese Italian blend to taste (optional)
- Worcestershire sauce (Vegetarians: Leave out)
- Seasonings to taste: bay leaf(ves), basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, parsley and rosemary (optional))
- 9 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
- In a medium sauce pan or skillet, heat a small amount of oil. Saute finely chopped/diced onion, carrot, and celery until softened and fragrant. (Be patient! The longer you cook the vegetables, the more the natural sweetness of their flavor will develop, and the richer the flavor in the sauce.) NOTE: I whizzed my veggies through my little mini food processor.
- Add in minced garlic and sauté. Add in some healthy splashes of wine (I prefer red; I used some Shiraz, because that’s what I had on hand and open) to “deglaze” the pan, and stir in the Pasta Sauce. Whiz the tinned tomatoes, UNDRAINED, through a food processor or blender and add them. Stir in tomato paste. Add in a bay leaf(ves) and stir in a splash of Worcestershire. Sprinkle in some red pepper flakes to taste. Add additional seasonings as desired (I layered my lasagna with fresh oregano and basil from my herb garden, so I left the seasoning in the sauce quite simple). Simmer sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened and flavorful (about 45 minutes or so).
- While the sauce simmers, cook lasagna noodles al dente. (Remember, they’ll be baking in the lasagna, too.) Rinse in cold water and drain.
- Whiz your cottage cheese through a food processor or blender until it’s smooth and creamy. Lightly beat two eggs into the cottage cheese. Season to taste with parsley and coarse ground black pepper.
- Lightly spray a 13″X9″ (3 quart) baking pan (preferably glass) or lasagna pan with cooking spray or oil lightly.
- Spread a small amount (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup) sauce along the bottom of the pan.
- Gently dry 3 lasagna noodles and lay them side-by-side in the pan. Sprinkle noodles lightly with some grated or shredded Parmesan, Three Cheese Blend, Romano, whatever floats your boat. Spread about 1/2 of the cottage cheese mixture along the noodles. Spread a bit less than 1/3 of the remaining sauce on top of the cheese. Sprinkle lightly with some grated Parmesan or Italian cheese blend, if desired. Sprinkle with a bit of the shredded or grated mozzarella.
- Gently dry 3 more lasagna noodles and repeat layers, which will use up the remaining cottage cheese mixture, but will only use about half of the remaining sauce and mozzarella.
- Gently dry the last 3 lasagna noodles and place side-by-side in pan. Top with remaining meat sauce, making sure all noodles are covered. Sprinkle with some grated Parmesan and/or Italian cheese blend, if desired. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Cover and bake at 350F until cooked through and bubbly; about 45 to 60 minutes. (Uncover during last 15 minutes of baking, if desired.) Let rest 15 minutes before serving. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.
To make ahead: Assemble lasagna. Keep covered, in refrigerator, for 24 hours, or in freezer for a couple of months. Bake refrigerated lasagna, covered, for 45 minutes or so, then uncover for another 15 to 30 minutes, until done. Bake frozen lasagna, covered, for 45 minutes or so, then uncover and bake for another 40 to 60 minutes, until done.