There are two primary reasons I contacted Jennie and Jonna about writing for Food Lush. First, I wanted to inspire myself to cook more, and what better way to feel the pressure to create things in the kitchen than by becoming a “food blogger” of sorts? Second, as someone who has long aspired to spend more time in the kitchen, and who has lost many hours reading food blogs, it is my belief that Food Lush is just about the most accessible food blog I have found. In other words, the site really seems to make more of an effort than most to speak to food lovers like me -- people who love food, who want to cook, who want to try new things, but don’t exactly have a kitchen full of double broilers and a variety bucket of spatulas and a mandolin. Oddly enough, I DO have a mandolin, but you get my point.
It is in that spirit that I share my first, and favorite, recipe with you. The recipe is for my mother’s lasagna, the best lasagna I have ever tasted. Even though I have not spent much time in the kitchen preparing meals for my husband and myself, I kind of come by a decent set of cooking skills naturally. My mother is hardly a trained chef, but her cooking is truly excellent. The dishes she makes are not complicated by any means -- the staples in my mom’s kitchen are highly accessible things like ground beef, potatoes, and bacon grease. And garlic salt. My mother loves garlic salt. To that end, everything I cook at home now has a heavy hand towards seasoning, and the spirit of a woman who cooked for many years to satisfy the palate of my father, the hungry farmer.
- 2 lbs ground hamburger
- 16 oz tomato paste
- 1 small can tomato sauce
- Sugar to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Garlic salt to taste
- Oregano to taste
- 1 bag of pepperoni (my mom uses Hormel)
- 3 24 oz tubs of cottage cheese, drained of liquids (we’ll talk about that more in a minute)
- 1 egg
- Sliced mozzarella cheese
- 10 large lasagna noodles
All right, now before we get to the cooking directions, a word on cottage cheese. This is a highly unorthodox cheese to use in lasagna. Most recipes call for ricotta cheese. My mother finds this to be an abomination, and I tend to agree. Ricotta is a dry cheese, too dry I think for the best lasagna. The cottage cheese adds a great deal of moisture, and provides a wonderful texture that is missing entirely from ricotta based lasagnas. I know it is weird, but just give it a try. I like to use low fat cottage cheese as, much to my mother’s dismay, I prefer my lasagna to be somewhat runny. This runny effect is lessened when using full fat cheese, and the egg will help make the cheese stay together a bit better.
To Make the Sauce:
Brown hamburger meat. Add tomato products and seasoning. Simmer for, in my mother’s words, “as long as you have time for.”
A word on this sauce: It, alone, does NOT taste very good. And it looks like meaty ketchup. Trust me, it will all work out. But, no, it is not a great new meat sauce recipe to put over your spaghetti.
While this is simmering, cook your lasagna noodles according to the directions on the package.
To Make the Lasagna:
The order for the layering of the lasagna should go as follows: meat sauce as the bottom layer, then add a layer of cottage cheese, then pepperoni then noodles, then a layer of mozzarella. The ingredients in the quantities listed should be sufficient to create two sets of layers.
Bake at 400 degrees, covered with foil (pro tip: spray non-stick cooking spray on the part of the foil that will touch the lasagna to avoid sticking) for 1 hour. This recipe also freezes incredibly well, both cooked and uncooked. And let me tell you from experience, it just gets better and better as it sits in the fridge.
I cooked this on Saturday and realized a few things. First, I highly recommend Whole Foods brand cottage cheese for this purpose. I used the fat free cheese and it had very little liquid. I also had a carton of a different brand of cheese and it was considerably more liquidy. Second, this makes a LOT of lasagna. I halved the recipe and it worked out just fine. But this recipe freezes great, so it would be fantastic to make the whole batch and put it in two pans and freeze one. The halved recipe fit inside of a regular brownie pan.
Lastly, because I am a masochist, I figured out the nutrition on this recipe and was pleasantly surprised. I used a 96/4 mix ground beef, fat free cottage cheese, and full fat mozzarella (fat free does not melt well) and it ended up being 350 calories and about 14 grams of fat per serving. This recipe serves 8. I ate one serving and my rather tall husband ate about 1 1/2 servings.
A Note on Gluten:
I’m allergic to gluten, but this recipe is very easy to adapt. I use gluten free pasta- in my opinion, Tinkyada makes the best GF pasta products (available at Whole Foods). Avoid using any corn pasta for this recipe- those items tend to fall apart, and would certain disintegrate among these heavy ingredients. Hormel lists their pepperoni and turkey pepperoni as a “meat products not containing gluten.” If you are highly sensitive to gluten, you might want to investigate that claim a little more. I used Applegate Farms pepperoni. As a replacement, there are a ton of gluten free sausage options available. Daisy Cottage Cheese is gluten free, but always check your ingredients list! Del Monte tomato products are gluten free, as are most brands.