Friday, February 1, 2013

Baked Lasagna with Ground Chicken

Talk about patience, I've been on the lookout the last couple of years for packages of lasagna for 99.99 cents, so I could make a budget lasagna. Finally I picked up a few boxes at this Hollywood 99c only Store, along with some ground chicken, 2 containers of cottage cheese, and a large can of Del Monte 3 Cheese Spaghetti Sauce. Now I'm finally ready to make a Baked Lasagna with Ground let's get cooking!

The rest of the ingredients are things I always have around, including: dried parmesan cheese in a can, a few half-used small packages of shredded cheese stored in the freezer, a large onion, a jar of chopped garlic, and some fresh herbs from my garden. Just very basic stuff for a simply delicious meat lasagna.

And this recipe is Wife Approved, by my number one taste tester; her only recommendation to me was to chop the onion a little finer next time, and this recipe is so delicious there will be a next time -- soon.

I used inexpensive ground chicken, but you could also use ground turkey, beef, or pork. For a vegetarian version substitute the meat with a couple of washed and sauteed bunches of spinach.

A traditional lasagna calls for a tub of creamy ricotta cheese, but I've found that cottage cheese is a cheap and tasty substitution. (I do, on occasion run across ricotta on sale.) Once the assembled lasagna is baked, the cottage cheese melts just like any other cheese. It's milder, so I supplement with a little dried parmesan, mozzarella and cheddar cheese -- now that's a lot of flavor.

You will also need a large baking pan (and aluminum foil,) or a couple of covered baking dishes. Of course you could just cut the ingredient amounts in half, if all you have is a single oven proof bowl.

You can feed your brood and still have leftovers with The 99 Cent Chef's latest hearty entree. And if you are single, then throw a Lasagna Party! (It also freezes well to pack for a few work lunches.) And, if you are looking for a great Pot Luck dish, this is it. My Baked Lasagna with Ground Chicken is a recipe you will want to pull out on a cold Winter day.

Ingredients (about 6 servings)
  • 12 ounce package dried lasagna
  • 26 ounces tomato sauce - any favorite. Or two 15 ounce cans.
  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey - okay to use ground beef or pork.
  • 16 ounces of cottage cheese - I used 2 small containers. Okay to use ricotta cheese. Add another 8 ounces of cottage cheese for a richer version.
  • 6 to 12 ounces of mozzarella cheese - or any extra cheese you have on hand for the topping.
  • 1 cup of water - to rinse out tomato sauce cans, adding every drop of sauce. Use red or white wine for a luscious sauce -- the alcohol cooks out.
  • 1 whole onion - rough or fine chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic - fresh or from jar.
  • 1 egg - to mix into cottage cheese.
  • A few tablespoons of dried parmesan - optional. Okay to use fresh grated.
  • 2 tablespoons oil - One to saute onion and another to grease the baking pan.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped herbs - fresh or dried including: basil, oregano, sage, and parsley. Okay to use an Italian dried herb mix.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Add oil to a large pan or pot over a medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic and saute for a minute.

While onion is sauteing, you can start boiling water for the lasagna. Follow package directions to cook the lasagna. If pasta is ready before meat sauce, then drain, rinse with cold water, and drizzle with a tablespoon of oil to keep it from sticking together.

Scoop in ground meat to the sauteed onion and garlic and spread it out. I like to let it firm up for about 3 minutes, then break it into bite-sized chunks. Continue to cook the meat until it is done, about 5-10 minutes total.

Pour in tomato sauce and the extra cup of cup of water (or wine) that was sloshed in the emptied tomato cans. Sprinkle on the chopped fresh or dried herbs. Mix well and heat through about 5 minutes.

This is a typical meat pasta sauce. If you have your own favorite pasta sauce recipe (pre-made canned or bottled) then use that.

While meat sauce is cooking you can prepare the cottage cheese sauce. Just add the cottage cheese to a bowl and break in an egg. Mix it well.

Now time to put it all together. Start the oven preheating to 375 degrees.

I used a metal baking pan that is about 9x13 inches, and 2 inches deep. If you don't have a large pan, this recipe is easy to half into a couple of pans or baking dishes. You may need to fold (or cut) cooked lasagna noodles in half for an easier fit.

Grease the bottom of the baking pan with a little oil or oil spray. Add a couple layers of cooked lasagna. Next pour on about a third of the meat sauce. Then spread on about a third of the cottage cheese. You can use any extra cheese you have, including dried parmesan, mozzarella and cheddar.

Repeat the 3 steps to fill pan

Repeat another layer of lasagna, meat sauce and cottage cheese. Finally top with mozzarella, parmesan and/or any favorite cheese.

Make sure to not fill the pan all the way up, as the sauce may boil over -- just to be safe, put a wide cookie sheet or extra foil underneath the lasagna pan.

Cover assembled lasagna pan with foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Now time to brown the top. Carefully remove the foil (it's hot,) reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees, and cook another 15 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and allow set a couple of minutes, then dig in.

 If you are worried about pasta sticking to bottom of baking dish, then add more oil to pan, or add a thin layer of sauce.

 My lasagna dish is just a basic recipe. There are many variations you can do. First, you can make more tomato sauce if you like it that way. And, of course, you can add more cottage and regular cheese for a richer entree -- you can never have too much cheese.

For a vegetarian version, leave out the meat and add 2 cleaned and roughly chopped bunches of spinach to the sauteing onions. And just layer it in with the cottage cheese. Almost any cooked veggies will work, including sliced squash, and florets of broccoli and cauliflower. If you like your veggies with some crunch, then just layer them in raw just before baking.

My meat sauce can be kicked up a notch by adding a cup of red or white wine. Again, if you have a favorite Italian pasta sauce then use it.

If  dried lasagna is too expensive then substitute with cheaper spaghetti, or any cooked pasta. The cheese, meat or veggie tomato sauce, goes with all types of  pasta.


Anonymous said...

That looks fabulous! I've never used cottage cheese in place of the ricotta, but I'm going to give it a try.

99 Cent Chef said...

hi Shara, I think you will like cottage cheese over regular cheese, it's lighter & cheaper ;-p

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