I think everyone loves eating Lasagna or Lasagne, an favorite Italian dinner loved all over the world. Just like the spelling, there are many ways to prepare this dish. This Lasagna with Cottage Cheese recipe is one of my favorite ways to eat lasagna!
Lasagna with Cottage Cheese
The most common lasagna recipe outside of Italy, is Lasagne al Forno, which uses a thick Ragu sauce and a cheesy Béchamel sauce. This is not that recipe! Lasagna with Cottage Cheese is a popular recipe that is eaten in Canada and the USA, and probably not as authentic as we would like to think.
Ricotta cheese is the staple in many traditional Lasagna recipes, and wasn't as common in stores 50 years ago as it is now. Cottage cheese was substituted, making all our lives easier. To make Lasagna al Forno, making Béchamel sauce took too much time, so layering with mozzarella became the timesaver. Instead of using homemade tomato sauce, people bought ready made pasta sauces.
Some Canadian Lasagna recipes add spinach to the cottage cheese, but I don't love spinach in my lasagna. It's a sneaky way to add vegetables to your dinner! Across Italy, there any many different types of Lasagne recipes, depending on the region you are in. So there really isn't a right way to make Lasagna, just different variations.
When my wife moved to Canada from Australia, she made Lasagne with Béchamel Sauce or Lasagna al Forno. It was so different from what I knew Lasagna with Cottage Cheese to be! She even showed some friends the way Australians prepare Lasagna, which is closer to how the Italians make it. As awesome as her recipe is, I still love the Lasagna with Cottage Cheese from my childhood.
Traditional Dry Lasagna Sheets
It's become popular to use Oven Ready Lasagna Sheets, that don't require pre-cooking. This wasn't always the case. In the olden days, we bought the uncooked lasagna sheets, and cooked them al-dente style, before being able to build the lasagna. It was hard finding the original uncooked lasagna sheets here in Australia, but they do exist!
There are a few different types of lasagna pasta sheets that you can use. For this recipe, I made it like my mom made it, using dry lasagna sheets that need to be cooked in boiling water before using. You can still find these in some Canadian grocery stores, and Italian stores sell them, but their popularity is on the decline.
You can use oven ready pasta sheets, and every grocery store sells fresh lasagna sheets. While that might be easier to make, I love the tradition of boiling the traditional lasagna sheets al dente before using. When using oven ready lasagna sheets, depending on the brand, they can soak up too much sauce, leaving your lasagna dry. Alternatively, they can also not soak up enough sauce, making the lasagna taste stodgy. Pre-cooking the old fashioned lasagna sheets ensures you get it right every time.
What is Passata?
Passata is an uncooked tomato puree that is strained from seeds and skin. You can find Passata at all Continental Delis. In North America, it's often called Tomato Sauce or Tomato Puree. It's the quintessential Italian sauce. Here in Australia, Italian families celebrate Passata Day or Sauce Day. In the peak of summer, when tomatoes are ripe and plentiful, Italian families spend the day, chopping tomatoes, cooking, and making jars, jars and more jars of Passata. This is enough sauce for the next year!
When possible, always use Passata, it's an incredible base for all your Italian cooking. If you can't find Passata Tomato Sauce, then you can use store bought pasta sauce, but it won't be as good!
Can You Make Lasagna with Cottage Cheese Instead of Ricotta?
Of course! Many lasagna recipes are made with Ricotta Cheese, and for a more authentic recipe, use Italian Ricotta Cheese! However, there are a few differences between the two cheeses. Ricotta is a finer cheese and Cottage is chunkier in texture. I find that Cottage Cheese more creamier and a little runnier than Ricotta. Not that Lasagna is diet food, but Cottage Cheese is lower in calories than Ricotta, almost 50% lower. It's up to you, but I suggest trying this recipe as is, because I'm sure you'll love it!
How to Make Lasagna with Cottage Cheese
This Lasagna recipe can be broken down into 4 main parts. Cooking the pasta, making the meat sauce, preparing the cottage cheese, and layering the lasagna with ingredients. Cooking the pasta is self explanatory, so I'll start with the meat sauce.
The meat sauce isn't a traditional Ragu, but an easy ground beef with onions, celery, carrots and Passata sauce recipe. Brown the veggies, add tomato paste and ground beef until cooked. Mix in Passata and fresh herbs, season and your lasagna meat sauce is ready.
To prepare the cottage cheese, just mix together with 2 eggs, fresh parsley and some black pepper. Grate some mozzarella cheese. Now you're ready to layer your lasagna.
Start by setting aside 2 cups of meat sauce, one for the base of the lasagna, and one cup for the final topping. Spread 1 cup of meat sauce on the base of your lasagna dish. This prevents the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the dish. Layer with lasagna sheets, add ½ the meat sauce and sprinkle with ½ the mozzarella cheese. Add another layer of pasta the cover with the cottage cheese mixture. Add pasta again and cover with remaining ½ of meat sauce. Add last layer of pasta, and the last cup of meat sauce. Cover in mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Bake at 350F°/175C° for an hour, covered with foil.
- LASAGNA BUILD RECAP: Bit of meat sauce > noodles > more meat sauce > mozzarella > noodles > cottage cheese > noodles > more meat sauce > noodles > bit of meat sauce > mozzarella > parmesan
- I used 4 layers of noodles, but you can use 3 layers of pasta. I don't like leftover pasta sheets, so I will work all the lasagna sheets into the recipe
- Substitute Cottage Cheese with Ricotta Cheese
- For a meatier Lasagna, add an extra 1lb/500g of ground meat
- Instead of Ground Beef, use a 50/50 mixture of Ground Pork and Ground Beef
- Add a splash of red wine into the meat sauce
- If you can't find Passata, substitute with 1 large jar pasta sauce (24oz/680g)
- If you're using oven ready lasagna noodles, then add extra water to the meat sauce. Fill half the passata jar with water, shake and add to the meat mixture.
- When Lasagna is baked and removed from oven, leave the lasagna for at least 10 minutes before cutting. This allows the lasagna to set and not be as runny.
Italian Pasta Recipes You Need To Try!
Lasagna with Cottage Cheese is a family favorite, full of flavor, cheese and calories. If you've only enjoyed Lasagna al Forno, give this Canadian Classic recipe a try. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
- 12-16 lasagna noodles original uncooked style not oven ready
Lasagna Meat Sauce
- 2 tablespoons oil for frying
- 2 onions diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 celery rib diced
- 1 carrot diced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 lbs /1kg ground beef
- 1 jar of tomato Passata 700g
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf optional
Lasagna Cottage Cheese Mixture
- 1 tub cottage cheese 500g/16oz
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
- black pepper to taste
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese grated
- ½ cup parmesan cheese grated
- Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles according to instructions ensuring they are cooked al dente. Do not overcook the noodles! Drain the noodles, rinse with cold water and set aside.
Lasagna Meat Sauce
- In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions, garlic, celery and carrot until softened. Stir in the tomato paste and allow to cook for 2 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until browned and all the liquid has evaporated. (all up about 12 minutes)
- Stir in the Passata, basil, oregano and bay leaf and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Lasagna Cottage Cheese Mixture
- In a bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, eggs, chopped parsley and black pepper.
How to Make Lasagna
- Use a 13x9 or 11x13 inch baking dish to build your lasagna. Start with spreading 1 cup of your meat sauce across the base of the baking dish. Top with 3 pieces of cooked lasagna. Set aside 1 cup of meat sauce for the topping of the lasagna.
- Cover with ½ of the remaining meat sauce and spread evenly covering the noodles. Sprinkle with ½ the mozzarella cheese. Top with 3 pieces of cooked lasagna noodles. Spread the cottage cheese mixture evenly across the lasagna noodles. Top with 3 pieces of cooked lasagna noodles. Cover with remaining ½ of the meat sauce and spread evenly covering the noodles. Top with 3 pieces of cooked lasagna noodles. Cover with the 1 cup of meat sauce you set aside and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
- RECAP: Bit of meat sauce > noodles > more meat sauce > mozzarella > noodles > cottage cheese > noodles > more meat sauce > noodles > bit of meat sauce > mozzarella > parmesan
- Preheat oven to 350F°/175C°
- Cover lasagna with foil and bake for 1 hour until heated through. Remove foil during the last 10 minutes of baking allowing the cheese to lightly brown. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving to allow the lasagna to set.