Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vietti Lasagna

When I met my hubs 13 years ago - I didn't know how to boil water - seriously. At that time, I didn't need to. We were young and crazy and ate out every night - it was only when I got pregnant with my oldest (now 6) that I realized I was missing very crucial cooking knowledge. I started to teach myself to cook and bake and experiment. This has given me a sort of food philosophy. Don't be afraid to experiment - it's how we learn. Cooking and baking are easier than you imagine it will be. AND make every dish your own - cater dinner to your own little family's tastes. Eliminate things you don't like and add things you do. We relate food to holidays, events, childhood memories, etc. Food feeds the soul...

I know, I really need a decent camera - and some serious 'food presentation' coaching - but I always think a picture helps and just look at those chunks of chicken...2 of my 3 kids are allergic to eggs. Because of this, I have had to use creativity and make little adjustments to my dinner choices. This lasagna came out of necessity. Most lasagna recipes consist of the same basic ingredients - and most use eggs as a binder. This recipe is straight out 'me noggin - and incorporates all of my family's tastes. I'll give you the 'original recipe' first - and then I'll tell you how today - for the first time, I 'tweaked' it.

Vietti Lasagna
12 oz ground Italian sausage
1 lg chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
Lasagna noodles (uncooked)
15 oz. container cottage cheese (you can also use the traditional Ricotta - but it's about 4x more expensive - and in a dish like this, you really can't taste the difference)
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
6 oz shredded mozzarella
1 7oz can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 t dried basil
1 t dried oregano
1/4 t pepper

For sauce: cook meat, onion and garlic till meat is brown. Drain fat. Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, oregano and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. For the filling, combine the cottage cheese and grated Parm. Spray your casserole(s) dish with Pam. Put a small amount of the sauce (no meat) on the bottom of the pan. Then layer the noodels, followed by half the cottage cheese mixture, then half the meat sauce and half the mozz. repeat layers x 2.
Bake for 30 - 35 miutes on 375.
This makes a hearty 9x13 casserole OR I make 2 8x8 casseroles. One to eat and one to freeze.

*Trade Secret: I don't cook the lasagna noodles - you don't have to. While the lasagna is cooking, the dry noodles soak up the liquid and cook while everything else is cooking. This helps with 2 factors - 1. your lasagna is never 'watery' and 2. you get a perfect cut - the noodles aren't overcooked, so your dinner is much more 'in tact.' And - you don't have to cook the noodles seperatley!

OK. So - tonights substitutions... my hubs is in town (which is rare) so I asked him what he'd like for dinner - without thinking he blurted YOUR LASAGNA. It's his fav. While looking for ingred. though, I realized - I was fresh out of sausage AND diced tomatoes (kinda important). BUT, I did have cottage cheese and chicken that needed to be used up in the next couple of days - and I had spaghetti sauce in my pantry. Voila - a twist. Chicken instead of sausage, and spaghetti sauce instead of the last 6 ingred listed - and my table was all silence as the 5 of us sat down and chomped us some good dinner.

I also made 'Italian Bread' tonight... stay tuned for the best, easiest loaf of bread you've ever made (good for beginners)...

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