When I hear the words “Italian Lasagna” unless this famous pasta dish is made the way my mother used to make it, to me it’s just not lasagna. My mother was 100% German, and my father was 100% Italian. After 25 years of marriage, my mom who was already an excellent cook had mastered the art of lasagna making, “Lorraine style.”
Now for those food critiques out there who insist upon the extensive labor of homemade noodles and an herb tomato sauce simmering over the heat for hours to qualify as authentic Italian cooking, I completely get it. I can sincerely appreciate the incredible depth of flavor that is accomplished through the artful making of homemade ingredients. I have great admiration for those who have the time and technique to create delicious pasta dishes with that level of time and commitment. However, my mother wasn’t one of them. Not because she didn’t want to, but because her schedule didn’t allow it. Even so, whatever she created in her kitchen was delicious!
Like many hard working families today, my mother worked away from the home while raising five kids. She didn’t have the luxury or the energy to make time-consuming recipes after a long hard days work. But she did want her family to eat well so instead she improvised with ingredients readily available at the local grocery store that got the job done.
Boxed noodles, Ragu spaghetti sauce and Green Giant Mushrooms all played a part in the symphony of flavors that created her famous lasagna. But the true culinary magic was found in the combination of spices, loads of mozzarella cheese and the unexpected and unassuming dried cottage cheese sprinkled between each layer that created the feeling of culinary pleasure for those who at it.
The art of making lasagna is not exactly rocket science, but there is a method that matters. This lasagna recipe includes 3 layers starting with noodles on the bottom, a layer of sauce, a layer of cottage cheese and a layer of mozzarella cheese. Repeat, cover with foil and bake.
What is dry cottage cheese, you ask? Dry cottage cheese seems to be a thing of the past. You might be hard pressed to find a container of dry cottage cheese at most grocery stores. Yet it is the dry cottage cheese that sets this recipe apart from all of the others. The soft white bits of cheese generously sprinkled between each layer of sauce and noodles creates a pleasantly subtle flavor and texture that takes lasagna to an entirely new level of deliciousness.
What’s one to do if you can’t find dry cottage cheese at the grocery store? What ever you do, do not substitute it with ricotta or another soft cheese or you will end up with a soupy mess on your plate. Create your own dry cottage cheese by placing the cheese in a colander over the sink. Using cool water and your sink sprayer, gently spray off all liquid from the cottage cheese until only the curdles are left in the colander. That’s it! Now you have dry cottage cheese.
Warm cheesy Italian Lasagna with layers of meat-filled red sauce and tender dry cottage cheese is a refreshing take on this favorite one pan meal. Serve it with your favorite salad and baked garlic bread for the perfect Italian meal your entire family will love. Give this recipe a try and let me know how yours turns out! Buon Appetito! Enjoy your meal!
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