But I do have one tiny problem with lasagna- the ingredients. Its not that I don't like the ingredients. I love every bit of what goes in a traditional lasagna. The problem lies in whether or not I have them. I have to plan ahead and make sure that I have ricotta cheese (did you know it is pronounced rigot?!) and make sure that I make it before it has gone bad. Of course there is the alternative of using cottage cheese instead of ricotta, but when I buy cottage cheese, I eat it up before it can make it to the lasagna.
See my problem? Its in the cheese...
But I found a solution! Cream cheese! I always have tons of cream cheese (not sure why... maybe subconsciously I'm thinking of making cheese cake!) which means that we have a green light for the lasagna!
Now, for all the Italians out there, I'm sorry if you think that I have taken your beautiful cuisine and ruined it. I'll try better to not disappoint in my next Italian recipe undertaking. I just had to make it in a way that I could use it! That's why this is Country Style Lasagna, not From Italy's Kitchen Lasagna.
I was a little leery to try the cream cheese. Why mess with something that you know is already so good? But I was desperate. So I tried it. And I don't think I will EVER go back! (ok... maybe on occasion...)
Start with some brown hamburger.
Then add in spaghetti sauce. I actually make mine from tomato sauce, Italian seasonings, basil, oregano, dried onion flakes and garlic. Plus the salt and pepper or course! I add in a little olive oil and then a little water to get it to the right consistency. And I just give a little shake here and there. Nope, no real recipe... so sorry.
And, I have a confession- I don't like chunks in my sauce, except for the hamburger of course. To that end I don't put in any tomato bits or onions. But you sure can if it you want!
Then let it simmer for a little while.... simmer.... simmer... Lets those seasonings come ALIVE!
This is the perfect time to cook up the lasagna noodles and whip the cream cheese. The more the cream cheese is whipped, the easier it is to spread. I got a little crazy... and added some sour cream too! Just a dollop...
Once the noodles are cooked, the sauce has simmered, and the cream cheese has been whipped, its time to put it all together.
Grab an 8x8 dish and slather a scoop of sauce around the bottom. Before layering the noodles in the bottom, coat the top side with a healthy helping of the cream cheese. Its so much easier to spread it BEFORE its in the pan. Trust me. I tried it the other way... Put the noodles in the pan and cover with a few scoops of sauce. We like the layers really meaty/saucy, so I put a BUNCH. Then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. And if you are hard core (or just happen to have it in your refrigerator) add some fresh Parmesan cheese.
Then repeat! Cream cheese-ed noodles, loaded with sauce and cheese.
You may have a cute little helper that comes in from the sand pile that tries to pick in the noodles and cheese like I did. Don't worry, the eyes in the back of my head caught him before anything disastrous happened! And after washing his hands he had this very cute face that I just HAD to take a picture of.
And then I (lovingly) kicked him out of my kitchen so that he would stop picking... He is related to his dad.
Back to the lasagna... Its all layered and done, but you need to do one last thing. Cover the top with cheese! Lasagna is meant to be cheesy. And then for a little extra flav-a, add a little bit more of that yummy Italian seasoning.
Slowly your kitchen will fill with that tantelizing aroma, so either go out so you can't smell it or... be tough I guess! But once those precious 30 minutes have gone, you are ready to set the table and eat that delicious masterpiece!
Country Style Lasagna
1 lb ground beef, browned
1 (28 oz) Jar Spaghetti Sauce *
1 (16 oz) pkg Lasagna Noodles
2-3 cups Mozzarella Cheese (and Parmesan Cheese)
1 8 oz pkg Cream Cheese
Mix together browned beef and spaghetti sauce and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn down to low, cover and simmer.
Cook noodles according to package directions until 'Al Dente'. Set out to cool.
In a mixing bowl, whip one package of cream cheese. Spread over cooled lasagna noodles.
In a 8x8 baking dish, pour one scoop of sauce and spread over the bottom. Layer noodles, 2-3 scoops sauce, and 3/4 -1 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat layering twice. On the top, add remaining cheese and sprinkle Italian seasonings across the top.
Cook at 350 for 40 minutes or until the top is hot and bubbly. Let cool 10 minutes before cutting into.
* For a simple spaghetti sauce, mix 2 (13.5 oz) cans spaghetti sauce and your favorite Italian seasonings (oregano, basil, thyme, garlic, onion, parsley) plus a little salt and pepper. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1/4 to 1/2 cup water.