Monday, August 16, 2010

Southern Living's Cream Cheese Lasagna

Paula Deen can keep her butter queen title - I'll be the queen of cream cheese. And this is the recipe that made it so. After all we have a long history together.

Years ago I went to summer horse riding camp with my childhood bff and some other friends. It was the stuff of girlhood dreams - riding all morning and swimming all afternoon. By dinnertime, we were no longer skinny little pre teens - we were ravenous zombies. I look back at the things we ate during camp and wish I could go back in time and bottle that metabolic mojo. But I digress...

One of the highlights of camp was when our riding teacher (who will go unnamed even though I'm pretty damn sure she's never heard of this blog) made us cream cheese lasagna for dinner. I remember eating so much of it I had to go and lie down until my stomach stopped ballooning, like a pregnant woman who'd just hijacked a funnel cake booth at the county fair. I mean I was in pain.

Well, the pain finally subsided and all us girls could do is talk about that lasagna. We praised our teacher for the rest of the week for it. Don't get me wrong - we loved everything we put in our mouths at that camp from Watermelon to candy bars to hamburgers - but not a meal went by after that dinner without us mentioning the lasagna and its excellence. What was the secret, we asked? Some exotic herb? A special cut of ground beef? What?? But our teacher refused to answer us and just tucked her chin in with a stoic look that said 'I'd love to tell you, but I can't...'

Turns out the secret ingredient was my friend's mother - she was the person who made the lasagna. All our teacher had done was heat it up! Years afterwards my sister gave me the Southern Living Cookbook and low and behold - there was the recipe. And it's as good now as it was when I was 12.

No fancy Bechamel sauce, no hours spent simmering tomatoes, no worries at all. Just pure comforting deliciousness.

The point of the story is this. Cream cheese is good. Lying is bad. There's nothing wrong with heating up other people's food as long as you don't pretend it's yours. In fact, some of the best hostesses on earth don't cook a God-D%*n*ed thing themselves. But at least they own up to it.

PS - Don't forget to enter the giveaway if you haven't already!

Southern Living's Cream Cheese Lasagna, with slight adaptations marked as *

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small chopped onion, or about 1/2 cup
salt and pepper, for seasoning
1 pound ground beef
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more for additional heat (not in Sl's version)
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
* 1/4 cup low sodium beef broth (SL says to use bouillon cubes and water)
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, that's sat at room temp for at least 30 minutes (I use reduced fat)
1 cup cottage cheese (I use 2%/lowfat)
1/4 cup sour cream (I swear by Daisy brand either regular or reduced fat)
2 eggs, beaten
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt (not in SL's version)
* hefty grating fresh nutmeg (not in SL's version)
* 1 tablespoon minced flat leaf parsley (SL uses dried)
* 1 tablespoon minced basil (not in SL's version)
* zest of 1 lemon (not in SL's version)
* 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (SL's has 2 but I adjusted due to my above additions)
6 Lasagna noodles, cooked in boiling salted water until al dente and drained and tossed with a splash of olive oil as they cool (use extra in case some break and add a splash of oil to the water to keep them from sticking to one another)
1 (4 oz) package pepperoni or salami slices
2 cups (8 oz) shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Bell Pepper rings for garnish, optional (red and green would be pretty during holiday time!)

Heat the oil in a large nonstick rimmed skillet over medium heat. Add in the onion, season with a nice pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 4 minutes or until beginning to lose their rigid shape and soften a little. Add in the ground beef, breaking up into smaller bits with a wooden spoon. Season with garlic powder and red pepper flakes and cook until brown (about 8-10 minutes) stirring often. Turn off heat and stir in tomato sauce, paste, and broth until the mixture is blended and consistent.

Let sit while you blend the cream cheese mixture in a separate (large) bowl. Add the softened cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream to the bowl and whip with a whisk or fork until well blended. Stir in the eggs until well mixed then add in the salt, nutmeg, parsley, basil, lemon zest, and Italian seasoning. You are now ready to assemble your lasagna.

Spray a large (12x8x2 inch) glass or ceramic baking dish with nonstick spray. Ladle enough of the meat mixture into the bottom so that it coats it well (but isn't swimming) then add a layer of the lasagna noodles (should only take 3 laying side by side - no need to overlap. Spoon over 1/2 the cheese mixture, spreading carefully but evenly to make a solid layer, then 1/2 the pepperoni, then 1/2 the mozzarella. Repeat again with the rest of the meat mixture, lasagna noodles, cheese mixture, pepperoni, mozzarella and finally the shredded Parmesan.

Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and let brown slightly, cooking another 5-10 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving, topping with bell pepper rings for garnish if desired.


La Bella Cooks said...

This would take 3 day to work off but would be so worth it! I loved the story that went along with your lasagna. Glad you finally got the recipe.

Reeni said...

Lasagna is already so sinful! Adding cream cheese and sour cream and cottage cheese is so Grandma might turn over in her grave if I made this. But with that said there is no doubt in my mind how delicious this is - and I might find a way to work in some cream cheese next time I make it. Loved the story!

Amy of Sing For Your Supper said...

Queen of Cream Cheese sounds like a good title to me! :) I love Southern Living! Great looking lasagna!

Julie said...

Lasagna? wow..Full of cheese..So very yummy..I like it very much.

Unknown said...

OMG.. yes, I'll have that please!!! Cream cheese is like chocolate, it makes everything taste better!!! YUM!!! My big fat butt now thanks you for this recipe!! lol

Becky said...

My new favorite recipe. I added spinach to the chicken but otherwise left it as it. DELICIOUS!

sadie said...

Perfect meatless lasagna. Exactly like the lasagna my mum used to make!

Allison Clark said...

Meatless Lasagna. With that said there is no doubt in my mind how delicious this is.