Lasagna Rolls

lazrolls2This is one of my absolute go-to recipes, I can’t believe I’ve never posted about it. It’s in our regular rotation, and a perfect winter comfort meal. I love that it’s made in easy single-dish servings, making it easy to pack and go. Plus, have you ever tried to reheat lasagna and did it too quickly or on too high of heat? The outside it’s crazy hot, and the inside…ice cold. How to you reheat something that burnt your mouth, then cooled it in the same go? Ya, I have no idea either- that’s why I like these, they make me look less…stupid.

No one makes better lasagna than my Mom. I don’t know what she does that’s different, I’ve never even tried to learn, but it’s- just – different. I can only think of one reasonable excuse for my lack of attempt… and that’s because I’m not trying to feed an army of people, and I don’t want to have leftovers for an entire week, of the same meal. To avoid overkill on one of my memories of her recipe,  I’ll be proactive and just keep letting her make it when I come home 🙂

We use cottage cheese in my family instead of ricotta, but feel free to swap out whatever you prefer. I think store-bought ricotta is absolutely disgusting, so if you’re feeling adventurous… try my Homemade Ricotta. I really like putting left-over ricotta in my oatmeal. Is that legal? It’s a cheese technically, but somehow it just works. A dash of cinnamon won’t hurt your feelings either. Promise.

Just a heads up, the first time you make these, you’re going to burn your fingers on the noodles, and make an absolute mess of your noodle space. Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out 🙂 Here are some tips for the above mentioned.

**When cooking the noodles, take them out about 2-3 minutes before they’re cooking time. You want them a little firmer, this helps the noodles not break apart, and avoids overcooking them in the oven.
Strain the noodles, then use tongs to lay them on a large cutting board, or where ever your placing them…or “you’ll burn your fingers”.
**Anti-mess tips- sauce, meat, cheese mixture. Roll firm, but not too tight, and don’t over-fill, or you’ll have all kinds of stuff fall out. Also known as lasagna splooge.

**Cottage Cheese Haters- Have someone in your family that doesn’t like cottage cheese? No problem, put the egg/cottage cheese mixture in a food processor. Hides the texture and traditional taste. Also, it gives it a similar ricotta fluffy texture.lazrolls1

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–Also a great recipe to cut in half!

Lasagna Rolls

8 Lasagna Noodles
1 Large can/jar of sauce (I used Hunt’s brand because the large can’s are just too hard to beat, and they’re under a dollar)
1/2-3/4 lb of hamburger or sausage, browned
1 1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 Egg
4 handfuls of shredded mozzarella, this is about 2 cups
1/4 tsp of s&p
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp ground or flaked oregano
1/2 tsp dried parsley

Directions
1. Start to brown your hamburger or sausage in a saute pan.
2. While meat is cooking, boil the noodles in a large, wide, sauce pan. Cut their cook time short by 2-3 minutes. You want them al-dente if not 1 minute less.
3. Drain the pasta after its done cooking, I lay them out on a large cutting board. If you don’t have one try parchment paper, so that it saves you the mess, and the noodles don’t stick.
4. Prepare a 9 x 13 dish (I used glass) and spread about 1/4 cup of sauce on the bottom.
5. While the noodles cool a bit, mix your cottage cheese mix either with a fork or in the food processor. Mix together the cottage cheese, egg, mozzarella, s/p, red pepper, paprika, basil, oregano, and parsley.
6. Two tablespoons or so of each in order, sauce, meat, cheese mixture. Leave an inch at the end of each noodle for rolling up.
7. Place noodles seam side down, cover with remainder of the sauce, and two more handfuls of cheese.
8. Bake at 350 covered for 30-35 minutes.

Ricotta Cheese, Be Fancy!

ricotta6Uh, I feel better. Now that I’ve got all those amazing deals and spring fruit sitting on my counter, we can talk ricotta. I used to make my own all the time…probably twice a month. I used to use buttermilk in my oldschool ricotta but it was very…particular, and you had to watch it like a hawk or it wouldn’t turn out, or if it did, it would sour easily. Pssht, plus, you don’t have to buy buttermilk with this one, you just use lemon. (which if you know anything about  buttermilk substitution, it’s just milk and lemon or distilled vinegar) Bottom line of that rant, this recipe is better and easier.

Making your own ricotta isn’t hard, and it will impress your friends… so you should probably try it at least once. Not to mention, it’s usually cheaper to make your own. But I will WARN you… if you ever make your own, you’ll never conveniently buy store bought again. You just wont, even the fancy brands. So I apologize ahead of time if you are spending more time in the kitchen making things from scratch (I’m not sorry).

To help ease you into this process I’m posting more pictures of the process, that way you can see the transformation of it start to finish.

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Right after the pour into the cheese cloth.

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After 10 minutes

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Final, thick and cloud like!

Need some awesome ricotta meal idea? Fine, you pulled my leg….

Oatmeal, crepes, lasagna, cannelloni, stuffed chicken, danishes, baguettes, mix with granola (chilled), topped over the perfect simple pasta dish- like pomodoro, pancakes, cheesecake, ravioli’s, on pizza, baked eggplant. Need I go on?

If you’re adding it into a more breakfast themed endeavor, here’s a tip… add just a pinch of sugar or sweetener, it will go a long way. In fact, just a sprinkle of sugar you can just mouth the ricotta. Using the entire batch not just a spoonful? Add a 1/2 tsp of vanilla, it perks up the natural flavor but also leaves you with a subtle yet smooth vanilla undertone.

I hope I’ve convinced you once again….to make your own ricotta!

Ricotta 

8 cups of whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp of lemon

You will need a cheese cloth and a strainer (can’t find cheese cloth? Most HyVee’s have them as well as Bed Bath & Beyond, they are a very cheap, no fear.)

1. In a large pan, add your milk, cream and salt. Bring to a SOFT boil. You don’t want to scold your milk, so be patient and set your heat to medium and let it come to a boil slow stirring the pan occasionally. This will also prevent you from scrapping milk off your stovetop because it’s boiled over..

2. After it has come to a boil, turn it to low and add your lemon, this will cause it to curd. Give it 2-3 gentle stirs, and let is just curd for 2-3 minutes.

3. Now you can get your strainer out and line it with your cheese cloth.

4. Once your timer goes off, carefully, and gently pour the your mixture into the strainer. Don’t rush it. I actually have two strainers and split this up, then combine them later. You want to make sure your strainer stays lined, if you over fill it, it will start to cave in on itself.

5. You’re done, kind of! Now you have to just let it wait. It takes 1-2 hours to slowly strain depending on how you divide up your mixture. This is why I have two strainers going, because it goes quicker (about 30 minutes). Once it’s done straining you can dump the whey or use it for cooking bread if you have plans!

Serve it warm, or chill it in a tightly sealed container, it will last a week give or take. This makes an amazing oatmeal addition with fresh fruit, or in lasagna rolls….my favorite!