We had houseguests, and I wanted an easy dinner that could be tossed together in advance, then just heated and served when needed – a perfect time for my version of my mom’s lasagna – not to be confused with a traditional lasagna, or even Julia Child’s Lasagna a la Française – this lasagna calls for cottage and swiss cheese and IS. DA. BOMB! – so stop eating with your ears and try it.
And, as luck would have it, I had just scored a deal on a cool stoneware baking pan that is just the size for a batch of flat, baked sheets of pasta layered with sauce and cheese, especially when using the shorter lasagne noodles now available at a market near you. By the way, don’t let that ‘no boiling’ bit on the package sway your dried pasta sheet buying decision – you don’t need to boil ANY lasagna noodle if you have a bit of time and a roll of foil handy; and, as a bonus you end up with a better tasting lasagna that also holds its shape when you serve it. The secret is that foil, and baking it twice.
I also had a packet of Usinger’s Milwaukee-style linguiça – that garlic-ful Portuguese sausage we love – that I wanted to try, so figured I’d use that along with some ground beef for the sauce. It was good, but a touch too smoky for my tastes – I am just going to place an order with Gaspar’s and stick with my traditional Southeastern Massachusetts style linguiça in future.
Ready to make some lasagna? BTW – did you know that ‘lasagne’ is the plural of ‘lasagna’?
•Lasagna noodles – nine of those smaller noodles worked a treat in my new pan
•Sauce – whichever you like, I’ll go into what I did for mine below
•8 oz Swiss cheese, sliced
•32 oz small-curd cottage cheese
•Mozzarella – about six thin slices
First, the sauce. I decased the linguiça and cooked it with the ground beef in a big pot until well and truly done, then drained and ran that combination through the Cuisinart fitted with the metal blade to chop it really fine.
Return the meat mixture to your pot and add your sauce fixins’ – I used a batch of those tasty roasted tomatoes and a bag of balsamic roasted peppers from the freezer as a base, then added a jar of tomato basil pasta sauce and a bit of water to fill it out and let it simmer for a while on the back of the stove to blend the flavors.
When you’re ready to make the lasagna, place your chosen pan on a larger, foil-lined rimmed pan (to catch drippage), then spread a bit of the sauce in the bottom of your chosen pan and top it with a layer of noodles – you can see how perfectly three of these smaller sheets fit in this approximately 14-1/2″ x 8-3/4″ x 2-3/4″ deep pan.
Spread some more sauce on top of the noodles, then add the cottage cheese. I tend to spoon this on sort of evenly, then spread it evenly over the sauce layer.
Add a bit more sauce, another layer of noodles, then another layer each of cottage and Swiss cheese.
Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and pop into a 300º oven for 90 minutes. Pull it out and allow to cool. If you peek – it’ll look like this – noodles all plump and cooked and packed with flavor from the sauce liquids they’ve absorbed
About two hours before dinner, pull the pan from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Peel back the foil and top the lasagna with one last layer of sliced cheese – I used mozzarella for this top layer.
Heat the oven to 325º, slip the lasagna, now loosely covered with the foil, back in for about an hour, until the cheese is nicely melted and all those ooey-gooey layers are heated though.
Remove from the oven, uncover, and allow to rest for fifteen minutes before serving.