Lasagna with Cottage Cheese
Lasagna with Cottage Cheese is a classic Midwestern noodle casserole. Layers of rich meat sauce, pasta, creamy filling and cheese will have the whole family coming back for seconds!
I’ve mentioned a few times that my mom doesn’t really love cooking. We ate home-cooked dinners most nights when I was growing up, but I think my mom would be the first to tell you that cooking doesn’t spark joy for her the way that other hobbies do.
And what’s more is that her recipes have become some of the most popular recipes on this website.
Today, I’m sharing her Lasagna with Cottage Cheese. My mom often made this for Christmas day when I was a kid (and sometimes my birthday, too!).
About this cottage cheese lasagna:
First, let’s chat about that cottage cheese. YES, as the name makes crystal clear, this lasagna uses cottage cheese instead of ricotta cheese (which is more traditional in authentic Italian food, and great on top of minestrone pasta).
Hey, this recipe is from the Midwest (welcome, ope, have a brandy old fashioned!), where cottage cheese is readily available, affordable, and delicious, and I am here. for. it.
Is this lasagna recipe with cottage cheese authentically Italian? No. Is it delicious? Absolutely.
Have questions? I’ve got answers:
What is the difference between ricotta and cottage cheese?
Cottage cheese is unripened fresh cheese made from curds, which are created when milk is separated into curds and whey. Cottage cheese has a very mild flavor and a lumpier texture.
Ricotta is a traditional Italian cheese made from whey and has a smoother texture. I love it dolloped on top of fettuccine bolognese!
Can you use cottage cheese in place of ricotta cheese? Can you make lasagna with cottage cheese?
Yes! That’s what I’m doing in this recipe for cottage cheese lasagna, and the finished product is amazing.
I recommend using small curd cottage cheese (instead of large curd) for this lasagna recipe with cottage cheese, so that the curds disappear into the cheese mixture more easily and mimic the smoothness of ricotta a little more closely.
Can you use mix ricotta and cottage cheese?
Absolutely. Especially if you’re new to making lasagna with cottage cheese, feel free to use half ricotta and half cottage cheese, if you prefer. Stir them together before assembling the lasagna.
What are the other ingredients in this recipe?
- Meat. You’ll need 1-1/2 pounds total meat for the sauce. My mom likes a combination of ground beef and mild Italian sausage. My dad and I like a combo of ground beef and spicy Italian sausage. You could also do all beef (or even keep it vegetarian by subbing in a batch of my lentil pasta sauce), no sausage, but I believe the sausage adds an essential depth of flavor to this dish.
- Herbs. This lasagna with cottage cheese recipe has always been made with dried oregano and parsley. If you wanted to use fresh herbs, you could, but the dried herbs are what we’ve always used.
- Mozzarella. You can use shredded mozzarella, but we’ve found that this lasagna is easiest to assemble if you use mozzarella slices. Not the fresh, creamy mozzarella that is usually sold in a ball (even though I love that on a chicken pizza), but low-moisture, part-skim slices. Think cheese slices that you would put on a sandwich, probably found at or near the deli counter.
- Noodles. We use traditional (you have to boil them first) lasagna noodles for this lasagna recipe with cottage cheese. I know that they make those no-boil noodles now, but we’ve never tried this recipe with those (because boiling the noodles can happen while you’re cooking the meat sauce, anyway, so it doesn’t take any extra time). However, Cook’s Illustrated has a guide to the best no-boil lasagna noodles and how to use them, if you’d like to try it.
- Tomatoes. There is A LOT of intense tomato flavor going on in this lasagna, and I love it. You’ll need a combination of canned tomato sauce and tomato paste.
How many layers should lasagna with cottage cheese have?
This comes down to preference, but personally, I think it needs to have at least 3 layers to really get that feel of digging in to a tall piece of pasta-y, cheesy goodness.
I generally do 4 layers in this lasagna recipe with cottage cheese, because that’s how it works out for 1 box of lasagna noodles to layer into my 10×16-inch pan.
How to layer lasagna:
Layering lasagna is definitely open to interpretation, but here’s how my family has always layered our lasagna with cottage cheese:
- Spray a lasagna pan with nonstick spray.
- Place 1/4 of the cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of the dish in basically a single layer. It’s fine if they overlap a smidge, and it’s also fine to tear them into shorter pieces to really fit them into the corners.
- Dollop 1/4 of the cottage cheese mixture all over the noodles, and then use a spoon or spatula to spread this evenly. It’s important to go all the way out to the edges and get into the corners, so that the outside pieces are just as yummy as the center pieces.
- Arrange 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese slices evenly over the cottage cheese mixture. You can rip the cheese slices into halves or thirds to make them easier to arrange.
- Dollop 1/4 of the meat sauce over the mozzarella, and again use a spoon or spatula to evenly spread all the way out to each edge.
- Repeat layers 2 – 5 three more times, which will use up your remaining ingredients.
Do I cover it with foil for baking?
No, we do NOT cover our lasagna with foil while baking. Honestly, I love when the corners and edges get some crispy bits.
However, if your lasagna with cottage cheese starts to get too brown for your liking while it is baking, feel free to loosely tent it with foil for the remainder of the cooking time.
Can you layer cottage cheese lasagna the night before?
Yes! Just like with my Greek lasagna, this lasagna recipe with cottage cheese can be assembled, covered and refrigerated up to 3 days before baking. Bring to room temperature on the counter 1 hour before baking.
While the lasagna is baking, make a fresh salad to go along with it. My Christmas salad is great all winter long, not just for Christmas. Same story with my Easter salad. It’s the perfect accompaniment to something rich like lasagna.
Can you freeze this lasagna recipe with cottage cheese?
Yes, just like my chicken sloppy joes and sweet potato breakfast casserole, this lasagna freezes well! What I usually do is prepare and bake the full lasagna as written below, and then refrigerate the whole thing (or the leftovers after I’ve served it for dinner once) in the pan overnight.
Trust me, it’s MUCH easier to portion and wrap the pieces when the lasagna is chilled than when it is warm.
The next day, I remove the chilled pieces of lasagna with cottage cheese from the pan and wrap them individually in plastic wrap, then foil. I freeze the wrapped pieces in freezer bags.
To reheat, I unwrap as many pieces as I need and place them in a small casserole dish with a little bit of water in the bottom. I cover the dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees F until they are heated through.
Side note – I think lasagna actually tastes better as leftovers! Just like melomakarona, something about it just tastes better the next day.
For the Meat Sauce:
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound mild or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed if necessary
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 1 can (29 ounces) tomato sauce
- 1 can (12 ounces) tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
For the Cheese Filling:
- 2 eggs
- 3 cups small curd cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 box (16 ounces) lasagna noodles (traditional, NOT no-boil)
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 pound mozzarella cheese slices
For Garnish (optional):
- Additional grated Parmesan cheese
- Chopped fresh basil leaves
- Make the Meat Sauce: In large high-sided skillet, cook beef, sausage, garlic and onion over medium-high heat 10 to 12 minutes or until meat is cooked through, breaking up meat with back of spoon and stirring occasionally. Remove and discard any excess fat in pan.
- Stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano and salt; heat to simmering over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, make the Cheese Filling: Place eggs in large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper; stir until well combined.
- Prepare noodles according to package directions; drain.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 10 x 16-inch lasagna pan or large baking dish with nonstick spray. Arrange 1/4 of noodles in bottom of dish. Spread noodles with 1/4 of Cheese Filling. Arrange 1/4 of mozzarella cheese slices over Cheese Filling (you can rip the cheese slices into halves or thirds to arrange them easier). Spread 1/4 of Meat Sauce over mozzarella cheese slices. Repeat layers 3 more times.
- Transfer to oven and bake 45 to 60 minutes or until edges are bubbly. Let rest 15 minutes before serving topped with additional Parmesan cheese and basil, if desired.
Home Chef Tips:
- This lasagna can be assembled, covered and refrigerated up to 3 days before baking. Bring to room temperature 1 hour before baking.
- This lasagna freezes well! What I usually do is prepare and bake the full lasagna, and then refrigerate the leftovers in the pan overnight. The next day, I remove the chilled pieces of lasagna from the pan and wrap them individually in plastic wrap, then foil. I freeze the pieces in freezer bags. To reheat, I unwrap as many pieces as I need and place them in a small casserole dish with a little bit of water in the bottom. I cover the dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees F until they are heated through.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 469Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 118mgSodium: 1328mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 3gSugar: 9gProtein: 35g