Friday, September 19, 2008

Good, Old-Fashioned Lasagne

Growing up, we didn't have much in the way of funds. We used lots of elbow macaroni and egg noodles, and plenty of rice. They were cheap. Mom encouraged us older girls to be creative in the kitchen. She taught us the basics and then let us fly! She is a good cook, but her idea of a great day does not involve pots and pans, unlike my sister Stephanie (Fun Foods on a Budget) and I. If we wanted meat that was not already ground up, we had to put in a request with the head grocery shopper, and we would be given whatever roast was the cheapest. I learned a lot about which meats do best with which cooking methods, how to make food from scratch, and how to substitute ingredients. Good lessons, good food.

Following along this frugal and easy train was my mother's lasagne. It was easier to pour rice and water in the rice cooker and turn it on. Toss that around with some eggs and cheese and you have rice lasagne! Yep, rice instead of noodles. Sometimes we had spinach tucked in there too, it was very good. I would read the Garfield comics and wonder what on earth was so special about lasagne that he worshiped it? Certainly lasagne is good, who can't resist tomato sauce and cheese, but to that extent?

Then I got out on my own, and my sweet husband asked why on earth I was using rice in the lasagne one evening. "Because I don't know how to make it any other way!" Well, now I do... And now I can understand you a little better, Garfield. :-)

12 regular lasagne noodles
1 pound ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 can spaghetti sauce, any flavor (Like the big cans of Hunts)
4 cups (2 lbs) cottage cheese
2 cups mozzarella + 1 cup for topping
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 eggs
2 tbsp parsley

In a large pot, bring lots of water to a boil. Place the noodles carefully in the pan, so they do not break. Bring back to boil and cook about 10 minutes, stirring carefully. Drain and lay flat on a cookie sheet so they don't stick. I had to lay some crosswise on top of the others and had no problem.

Brown the ground beef in a hot saucepan with the onions and garlic. You want very small pieces of meat rather than large chunks, so while it is cooking, squish the meat to crumble it up. Once it is cooked, add the spaghetti sauce. Cook until heated through.

In a large bowl, mix the mozzarella, cottage cheese, and parmesan with the parsley and eggs.

Spread about 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Lay 4 noodles down the long way, overlapping the edges. Spread about 3/4 cup sauce over the noodles and the 1/2 of the cheese mixture (which will be thick). Again layer the noodles, then sauce, then cheese. Then the last 4 noodles, the remaining spaghetti sauce, and top with the cup of plain mozzarella.

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, or until it is bubbly and the cheese slightly golden. Let sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

I have found that I prefer cottage cheese over ricotta. I have used both, for fairness, but the ricotta always seems a little more dry to me. If you want to add spinach, use a package of the frozen, thaw and squeeze out the water. Then layer it with the other ingredients.

1 Tasty Tidbits:

Stephanie said...

I'm more into the cottage cheese as well. We did ricotta once and I just don't like the texture. This lasagna looks really good! And your intro in this post brought back some good old memories! I think you were usually the one to request the cuts of meat, though I'm sure I did a few times too. We sure had fun experimenting in Mom's kitchen, didn't we? And we still do any time we visit. And Mom is still just as glad to let us as she always has been! :-)