Friday, May 4, 2012

Italian Cowgirl Lasagna

This recipe is coming to you from 33,000 feet in the air. I am returning home from a business trip from Texas and my American Airlines flight has wifi! Since we've passed the weather and it's now smooth, I thought it would the perfect time to get this out. And to pass the time- there is still two hours left on the flight. I am already itching to get out and walk around.

Okay, on to lasagna. Being an Italian girl, I you'd think I would make more pasta dishes, but I really don't. Well, not unless there are people coming over or the captain requests it. As for lasagna, I only use two recipes, my momma's and grandmas. You can find a combination of both here. It's super simple and the most important part is to let the sauce simmer. Sauce + noodles + ricotta and mozzarella cheese + meat mixture. Layer, bake and it's super delicious. How can you not love a good lasagna. You can make them vegetarian or loaded with meat for the meat lover in your family. You can even add your own twist to them too - add olives, veggies and red pepper flakes to the sauce. You can add pork and ground beef to the sauce or you can even use ground turkey. The options and combinations are endless!

When I received my new Pioneer Woman cookbook last month, I put a sticky note on the page with her "best lasagna ever". I guess the sticky note meant I wanted to try it? Guess that means I have a lot of things to try then- I pretty much sticky noted the whole darn cookbook! The two things that drew me to this recipe was - 1. It said it was the best ever and 2. it was made with cottage cheese instead of ricotta. Cottage cheese in lasagna grosses me out, but I wanted to roll with it and try it. I've never never had cottage cheese in place of ricotta, but apparently, it's pretty popular. In fact, some people prefer it. When I asked my mom about this new ingredient, she said that's how she used to make it for my Dad before I was around. Guess I had to try it to see how it really was and face my cottage cheese fear.

Let me tell you, this lasagna was fantastic. I am not so sure about best ever ever, but it was pretty darn good. Even better, you'd never know there was cottage cheese in there. Seriously. In fact, I think it may be better than with ricotta. I can't believe I just said that, but I wouldn't tell you that if I didn't mean it. This lasagna is homey, delicious and something everyone will love. The original recipe called for ground beef and hot jimmy dean sausage (this would make it extra cowgirly), but I just couldn't do the jimmy dean. I'm not sure why, but I just couldn't. So, I went with a hot Italian sausage (hence the Italian cowgirl factor). You can use the jimmy dean if you want though. Don't let me stop you. Just promise you will try this one once - I swear you'll be a believer in the cottage cheese madness too!

the line up. not included = red wine. Oops.

browning meat + garlic

cheesy mixture.

tomatoes added to the pool

I added about 1/2 up of red wine. This is optional, but does add a great "all day" cooked flavor.

after 45 minutes add in the fresh herbs

make sure to add olive oil to your water when boiling the noodles. this helps them not stick together. If they stick, it's a pain to get them all unstuck.

see, just a little meat and liquid. This is so the noodles don't stick to the bottom of the pan.

layers & layers



served with home made onion foccicial and salad. yum!

 Italian Cowgirl Lasagna (adapted from Pioneer Woman)

1-1/2 pound Ground Beef
1 pound Hot Italian Sausage
6 cloves Garlic, Minced
2 cans (14.5 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes
2 cans (6 Ounce) Tomato Paste
2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley
2 Tablespoons Dried Basil
1 teaspoon Salt
3 cups Lowfat Cottage Cheese
2 whole Beaten Eggs
1/2 red wine (use what you'd drink!)
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley
1 teaspoon Salt
1 pound Mozzarella Cheese (shredded or sliced)
12 Lasagna Noodles (for a three layer lasagna)
1/2 cup cooked pasta water (optional)
(add 1/2 Teaspoon Salt And 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil To Pasta Water)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan, combine ground beef, sausage, and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until browned. Drain fat, keep some if you’re feeling naughty. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons parsley, basil, wine and salt. After adding the tomatoes, the sauce mixture should simmer for 45 minutes while you are working on the other steps.

In a medium bowl, mix cottage cheese, beaten eggs, grated Parmesan, 2 more tablespoons parsley, and 1 more teaspoon salt. Stir together well. Set aside. Cook lasagna until “al dente” (not overly cooked).

To assemble:
Pour 1/4 cup plus 1/4 cooking water and mix on the bottom of a large baking dish, Then, arrange 4 cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of a baking pan, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles. Spread evenly. Cover cottage cheese with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Spoon a little less than half the meat/sauce mixture over the top.

Repeat, ending with meat/sauce mixture. Sprinkle top generously with extra Parmesan.
Either freeze, refrigerate for up to two days, or bake immediately: 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until top is hot and bubbly.

Don't forget, this is a great make ahead meal. you can make it up to two days in advance, then just pop in the oven until warm and bubbly. You can also freeze this (uncooked) and just pop in the oven when you want a warm and noodly dinner. 

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