March 11, 2011

Oodles of Noodles

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Margaret's Morsels | Oodles of Noodles Lasagna

Until I started writing this blog, I had no idea there were so many designated food days.  I posted on National Grits for Breakfast Day, but missed National Peanut Butter Day.  Fortunately, I didn't miss today's designated food day, Eat Your Noodles Day, and am posting a recipe for Oodles of Noodles Lasagna in its honor.

Traditional lasagna is a layered pasta dish made with wide lasagna noodles, sauce and a blend of cottage, Ricotta, Parmesan and Mozzarella cheeses.  Other popular versions include spinach lasagna, eggplant lasagna, vegetarian lasagna and chicken lasagna which has a white sauce.

Lasagna is one of those dishes many people consider comfort food.  This is gratifying to the cook because lasagna takes a lot of time to prepare. You have to cook the noodles, make the sauce, layer the ingredients and then wait for the dish to bake.  Even if you use no cook lasagna noodles, there's still a lot of work involved.

Oodles of Noodles Lasagna is different from regular lasagna in several ways.  One, the recipe uses egg noodles instead of lasagna noodles.  Two, you don't have to make the sauce.  Three, it uses different kinds of cheese. Four, the dish can be prepared and cooked in less than 30 minutes.  Five, it's cooked in the microwave.

If you have a microwave pasta pot, you can cook the entire dish -- start to finish -- in the microwave.  I don't have one so I use a pot of boiling saltwater.  As soon as I put the pot of water on the stove, I start preparing the rest of the ingredients.

I brown ground meat in the microwave when I'm not cooking it with anything else, such as onions or peppers.  You can use any microwave-safe dish.  If you have a microwave-safe colander, you can put the meat in there and set the colander in a large microwave-safe bowl to catch the grease.  I like to use this pan from Pampered Chef.

Margaret's Morsels | Oodles of Noodles Lasagna

It's microwave-safe plus it has drain spouts -- large on one side, small on the other -- which makes draining the grease easy.  If you've never used the microwave to brown meat, you might want to give it a try.  Since you don't have to constantly stir the meat, you can do other things and let the microwave do the work.

A lot of newer microwaves have a cook option for certain foods such as ground beef.  You press the button for the food you want to cook and continue pressing to enter the quantity you want to cook.  The times that are programmed in the microwave are only an estimate so you may need to increase or reduce the cooking time.  Make sure the meat is completely browned and no pink remains.  If your microwave doesn't have this feature, you can still use your microwave to brown the ground beef.

Margaret's Morsels | Oodles of Noodles Lasagna

Crumble the meat in a microwave-safe dish and cook the meat on High, stopping to stir the meat every two minutes.  It takes about six minutes to cook one pound of ground beef in my 1100 watt microwave.  Once the meat is completely cooked, drain the grease.

Margaret's Morsels | Oodles of Noodles Lasagna

After you drain the meat, combine it with a jar of spaghetti sauce.  You can doctor the spaghetti sauce to make it taste homemade by adding garlic salt, garlic powder, oregano leaves, basil or any other seasoning your family likes.  Make sure whatever seasonings you add complement the sauce you're using.

Oodles of Noodles Lasagna uses cottage and Parmesan cheese just like regular lasagna, but it uses cream cheese and sour cream instead of Ricotta and Mozzarella.  The cheeses and sour cream melt and give the dish a wonderful creamy texture.  The cream cheese also gives the finished dish a slightly tangy flavor.  I use Neufchatel cream cheese which has 1/3 less fat and low-fat sour cream, but you can use regular instead.

Once the noodles are cooked, the meat is browned and the cheeses combined, it's time to put the lasagna together.  Like regular lasagna, the ingredients are layered, but a little differently.  The noodles go in the bottom of a greased 2-quart microwave-safe casserole dish.  The cream cheese mixture is spread over the noodles and then the meat sauce is added.  The Parmesan cheese is sprinkled on top and the dish goes in the microwave.  In 8 to 10 minutes, you have lasagna.

Margaret's Morsels | Oodles of Noodles Lasagna
Assembled and ready to go in the microwave.

I like to think of Oodles of Noodles Lasagna as lasagna with a twist.  It's not the same as regular lasagna, but it's a lot easier and just as tasty.  It's certainly a good way to get your noodles on Eat Your Noodles Day!

Margaret's Morsels | Oodles of Noodles Lasagna

Oodles of Noodles Lasagna
6 Servings

4 oz. medium egg noodles
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 lb. ground beef
1 (14 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain.  Place cream cheese in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl; microwave on High for 30 to 50 seconds.  Add cottage cheese and sour cream; stir well.  Brown ground beef; drain grease.  Combine beef and spaghetti sauce.

Put noodles in a greased 2-quart microwave-safe casserole dish.  Spread cream cheese mixture over noodles.  Put beef mixture over the cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese.  Microwave on High 8 to 10 minutes.

© Margaret's Morsels

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