Growing up, my mother would strive to make each and every birthday special for me and my two sisters. On your birthday, you could pick any dinner you want and Mama would prepare it for the Birthday Girl. My birthday dinner was always lasagna. This was probably because the classic dish was not something Mama prepared very often. And, it can be a pricey dish. However, it feeds a lot of hungry folks, so it is a favorite in many family.
When I was little, no one in my family cooked with ricotta cheese. I’m not even sure if the local grocery store even carried it. So, my mama baked her signature lasagna using cottage cheese instead of ricotta. Cottage cheese is less expensive than ricotta and everyone in my family loved cottage cheese as a side dish. Perfect with jello, yummy atop a green salad, excellent as a dip for carrots and cucumber strips, a creamy topping for saltines, delicious with fruit and jam, we really do love cottage cheese. So, this calcium-rich, dairy staple was the natural choice for the cheesy lasagna filling. Now, I know you Italians are muttering under your breath that ricotta is the only cheese for classic lasagna, and I don’t disagree. But, I will tell you that cottage cheese works, and it is the economical cheese that my family has always used.
As bad luck would have it, my oven element burned up the week before Christmas. And, then it snowed 20 inches. So, I was cooped up in my house with no oven. I decided to try my favorite lasagna in the slow cooker. I looked up a few recipes and decided to create my own that was close to the taste and texture of the lasagna of my childhood. This recipe fed 4 adults and 3 hungry children. So, half of it could easily be frozen after a family of four has enjoyed it for supper. Bon appetit!
Slow Cooker Lasagna
1 lb ground beef
½ lb Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
5 c. pasta sauce
1/4 c. red wine
15 oz. Cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
½ t. salt
1/4 t. fresh ground black pepper
2 T fresh chopped parsley
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, divided
2 c. mozzarella cheese, divided
9-10 lasagna noodles, uncooked
Brown beef and sausage in Dutch oven; drain. Return browned meats to pot and stir in onion and next 3 ingredients. Simmer 5 minutes. Combine cottage cheese and next 4 ingredients, plus 2 T Parmesan and 1 ½ c. mozzarella cheese. Spoon 1 c. meat sauce into slow cooker; top with 3 lasagna noodles, broken to fit. Top noodles with 1/3 of cheese mixture and cover with 2 c. meat sauce. Continue layering noodles, cheese mixture and 2 c. meat sauce ending with sauce. Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours or until liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses and let stand, covered, 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Thank you to Connie for this wonderful recipe! To see more of Connie’s recipes, visit Cook with Connie.