This recipe takes me back to the “old school”…literally. Growing up, my elementary school put on a fundraiser every year called the Town Fair. There were various booths set up that would sell food, offer games or carnival rides. My mom was in charge of the “Cooks Corner” booth, where they sold baked goods, jams and casseroles. Their number one selling item every year was Lasagna Casserole. My mom would spend hours in the kitchen making LOTS of these. So it was only fair that my brother and I would catch a taste once in a while. Soon enough, we would ask her to make this on a regular basis. And so would everyone else. My aunt and uncle would drive for 1 1/2 hours just to snag a taste.
When my husband and I first got together, my mom made her Lasagna Casserole one night when he was over for dinner. After that, he was hooked. He even asked her to make it for our wedding dinner (which I voted against in an attempt to serve something more sophisticated). But knowing it was his favorite dish, I decided to make it for his birthday that year. My mom emailed me the recipe and my brother helped me put it together (these were in the days when I had no clue how to cook). At first glance at the ingredients my brother became very disappointed. “This is worse then finding out that Santa isn’t real!” was his reply. At this point in his life, my brother was a line cook at an upscale restaurant. He was creating complex recipes with farmers market ingredients. So he couldn’t be more let down to find out that his favorite childhood meal was made with jarred spaghetti sauce and a mixture of processed cheeses. Especially since my mom, who is also a gourmet chef and an extraordinary baker, makes most of her food from scratch. But simple, semi-homemade meals have their place at the dinner table too. Besides, who doesn’t love Kraft Macaroni and Cheese from the box…better than homemade any day!
1 1/4 Pound Ground Turkey
24 ounces of Tomato Sauce (My mom used Prego Traditional but you could use anything)
1 pound Extra Wide Egg Noodles
8 ounces of Cream Cheese, softened
1 Cup of Cottage Cheese
1/2 cup of Sour Cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Boil noodles according to package instructions.
3. Cook turkey in a pan until completely cooked through. Once cooked, add the spaghetti sauce and simmer for a few minutes on low until sauce is warmed through.
4. Blend together the cheeses and sour cream until creamy.
5. Assemble the casserole starting with 1/2 of the cooked noodles in the bottom of a pan (my mom always used this one). Next, spread the cheese mixture on top of the noodles. Then layer the last half of the noodles on top of the cheese mixture. Finally, pour the Turkey and Spaghetti Sauce on top, making sure all the noodles are covered. Put the casserole in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
For our family, this dish was never complete unless it was accompanied by a green salad and rolls. In the spirit of keeping things easy, prepared bagged salads work best. I like the romaine blend which usually comes with some shredded cabbage and carrots. My mom used to always toss the salad with a mixture of Ranch and Italian dressing. I prefer Hidden Valley Original Ranch and Newman’s Own Olive Oil and Vinegar. For the rolls, we liked to use french rolls. My mom would toast them in the oven until they would just start to crisp. Then she would “doctor” them up with some butter, grated parmesan cheese, garlic salt and parsley flakes. Put the rolls back in the oven for a few more minutes until the cheese is just melted.
When it comes to comfort food, I can’t think of a better meal. And this dish makes killer leftovers. The lasagna actually tastes even better the second day. It may not be the fanciest or the healthiest (in terms of calories) but it is homemade and filled with lots of love. The entire meal is ready in less than 30 minutes. And with minimal prep and very little clean up, this dish is definitely family friendly.