Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Shortcut Lasagna

A quicker prep version of meat lasagna, using ground beef, commercial pasta sauce and oven-ready lasagna noodles.
A quicker prep version of meat lasagna, using ground beef, commercial pasta sauce and oven-ready lasagna noodles.

Shortcut Lasagna

There is nothing that can touch a homemade lasagna. Nothing. And let me tell you, when it's made with a sauce made from homegrown, backyard summer tomatoes, it is out of this world. But, like a good classic ziti, it's a labor of love from beginning to end and takes hours. Is it worth it?

You bet it is!

But the time factor pretty much relegates it to being a day off or weekend kind of meal.

Enter the lasagnas earmarked as easy or weekday, or even simply oven-ready lasagna, because instead of boiled lasagna noodles it uses oven-ready noodles that go into the casserole uncooked, and instead of a homemade sauce, a commercial pasta sauce is substituted.

Cooking time can't really be improved upon though - it still has to cook anywhere from 45 minutes to a full hour, depending on whether you go with it covered or not. Of course, that's hands-off time though, so once you assemble it, that's it and you can go about your business as it cooks.

Southern Style Hissy Fit Warning: There always seems to be some level of controversy when it comes to southern cooking.

Cornbread. Butterbeans. Grits. Dressing versus stuffing and whether bread belongs in it at all. Rolled or dropped dumplings. Whether marshmallows still have a place on top of sweet potato casserole. And that's only the beginning!

You'd think we'd all have better things to do than argue about food and try to tell other folks we think that our way of doing things in the kitchen is the only right way. Geez.

Even lasagna isn't safe.

It seems there is controversy as to the use of cottage cheese versus ricotta.

At a blogging conference, Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman, told me a reader called her a redneck because she used cottage cheese!

Can you believe that?

Well, if she's a redneck than so am I, because here in the Deep South where I'm from, cottage cheese is used more often than ricotta.

I don't know why that is, it just is.

Just like all other cooking, we tend to do what our Mamas did and what we grew up with. My Mama used cottage cheese, never ricotta, and that's what I also use.

Truthfully, the first time I ever heard of ricotta in a lasagna, I pretty much had the same reaction that the ricotta crowd has to the cottage cheese crowd. I've since tried ricotta of course, mostly to see what the fuss was about, but I actually like cottage cheese in lasagna far better. To each his own, right? 

Look. I've seen the reactions on every single recipe sharing lasagna with cottage cheese and they aren't nice. I would just respectfully ask the ricotta folks to be more kind. Nobody who uses cottage cheese is trying to lay claim to it being anything "authentic" Italian, if there even is such a thing. I always thought lasagna was an American thing. People all over the country make the same dishes totally different from each other and that is OKAY. It's all good!

As to "oven ready" lasagna noodles, when they first showed up on the scene, I didn't care much for them. There was something off about the texture to me. They seem to have been improved upon a bit since, though I can still tell the difference from boiled noodles, which are far more tender to me. I noticed too that oven-ready noodles also seem to literally soak up so much of the sauce that it's a bit more dry than I like.

As to the ratios, I essentially went with the back of the box recipe, with a few of my own tweaks, and even though I use 6 cups of sauce in my Mama's Lasagna (found on page 174 of my cookbook, Deep South Dish Homestyle Southern Recipes), the box recipe called for much less liquid. Obviously I like my lasagna a bit more saucy, but there's a fine line between just right and too much, so I think it's safe to say I will keep working on that sauce ratio for future tries with these oven-ready noodles!



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Posted by on December 4, 2018

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