Monday, November 17, 2008

American Lasagna

This is my mom’s recipe. It is well-loved by all who taste it, and over the years has become one of the recipes that my friends and family request most.

But why is it called "American Lasagna"? Why not just “Lasagna”? It's a question I've pondered since childhood.

Calling it "American" sounds so patriotic, doesn't it?


Maybe it’s the use of Swiss cheese instead of mozzarella? But Swiss cheese is well…Swiss…

Maybe it’s the use of cottage cheese instead of ricotta. But cottage cheese isn’t strictly American. It’s made everywhere. It was probably one of the first cheeses.

Hmmm...AMERICAN Lasagna.

Maybe it's because this is a "melting pot" of a recipe: Italian, Swiss, American....


Oh, well. I guess it will serve as one of my life's mysteries.

Aside from the name, this is a pretty traditional lasagna. Tomato-based meat sauce, Italian cooking spices, lasagna noodles, layering, baking…it’s all there.

I’m not sure why this lasagna is so darn good, but I will testify to the fact that this blend of flavors is amazing.

And now, I will pass along the "Famous" American Lasagna recipe to all of you dear readers.

First, start boiling the water for the noodles. Once ready, you can  should lay them out on parchment paper so that they don't get all "tangly" and cool to the point of being easy to handle.

Then, brown 1 pound of ground beef with 2-4  cloves of chopped garlic.

Now stir in 6 oz. of tomato paste

Next, add canned, whole tomatoes (crushed work too!) and the spices: salt, pepper, oregano, and basil ( The basil is my personal touch. That’s not in my mom’s recipe). Cover the sauce and simmer for 20 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, go ahead and cook your noodles.

It cooks down into this

When the noodles are ready, drain them and lay out flat on a clean surface. Here is my lasagna building station. Sauce, cottage cheese, Swiss cheese, and noodles.

Now construction begins! I start with a little sauce in the bottom of a 13 X 9 baking dish.

Now I lay down 3 noodles. Next,  I spread a little more sauce over the noodles. Then I drop spoonfuls of cottage cheese. Then I top with cheese. Then more noodles. Then more sauce. Then more cottage cheese….you get the picture. Keep repeating layers until all of the ingredients are used. I like to end with sauce and parmesan cheese on top. You don’t want to end with just noodles. They tend to get dry and tough if exposed.

Now just pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Mmmm. I sure do wish I had a better "finished" photo. This one definitely doesn't do this amazing lasagna justice!

Here’s the recipe:

American Lasagna

Brown 1 lb of hamburger with 2-4  cloves of garlic.
Drain the fat. Stir in 1-6 oz. can of tomato paste.

Now add:
2 ½ cups canned tomatoes or a large can of crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon of salt
¾ teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon each of oregano and basil

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cook 1- 8 oz. package of lasagna noodles according to package directions.

You also need:
12-16 oz. cottage cheese
12 oz. Swiss cheese, grated or sliced

Top with:

Parmesan cheese

Beginning with the sauce; layer sauce, noodles, and cheeses in a 13X9 baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

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