It’s been a cold and snowy winter. As I type, the meteorologist is talking about a new storm tomorrow. There’s a potential of three storms this week. So what does that make me do? Plan my menu! A family’s got to eat right? Winter weather makes me want to braise meat, or cook gooey cheesey casseroles. Yes, casseroles. If you consider yourself a food snob, just stop reading this right now. Right now. Stop. I am going to talk about foods that are touching each other and coated in melted cheese. I have a couple of these recipes but today I am going to share one that I have adapted from the Pioneer Woman. Now that woman knows about feeding a crowd! This casserole is made with cottage cheese and egg noodles. I like to use the wide no-yolk egg noodles. The sauce is simple but I’ve added some more flavor with tomato paste and some seasonings and leeks! There isn’t a lot of sauce, so I find these seasonings give it a little burst of flavor. The last time I made this recipe I forgot to buy the green onions. My husband suggested I use the leeks I had. Just heavenly! Allow me to lead you down this path of yumminess…..
1 ¼ lb. ground hamburger
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 tblsp. tomato paste
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. Lawry’s seasoned salt
½ tsp. garlic POWDER-not salt
pepper to taste
8 oz. egg noodles (about ¾ of a 12 oz. package)
½ cups sour cream
1 ½ small curd cottage cheese
½ cup sliced green onions or 1 large leek
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brown the hamburger in a large skillet on a medium heat. Don’t add oil to the pan. Heat the pan for a few minutes before you put the meat in. You can tell the pan is ready when a few drops of water roll into balls and evaporate. I use this trick all the time. As the meat cooks, the fat will come out. I drain it several times while it’s cooking. I use the pan lid and a heat resistant bowl or even a coffee mug to drain off the fat. I put the lid on with a little opening and tilt the pan, pouring off the fat into the bowl/mug. You don’t want this fat in your meal. Yuck. Once the fat is drained, the meat will brown.
As the meat is browning, pour in the tomato sauce, salt, tomato paste and other seasonings. I love to use tomato paste that is in a tube. I put a squirt into my soups that are tomato based. You store the opened tube in the refrigerator. It’s a wonderful addition! Stir all these ingredients, and lower the heat. Put the lid on and let it simmer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Cook the egg noodles until a la dente. Don’t be tempted to use the whole package. You only need about ¾ of a 12 oz. package. In this instance, too much is NOT a good thing. Drain the noodles and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the sour cream and cottage cheese. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the green onions or leeks into the cheese mixture. When I use the green onions I use about 6 with some of the green part. When I use leeks, I chop them, using some of the green and soak in cold water to remove any sand. The sand drops to the bottom of the bowl, and the leeks float to the top. Add the cooked noodles to the cheese mixture. Stir until noodles are coated.
Here is the fun part: the assembly! Add half the noodle mixture to a baking dish. I use a 9 X 13 pan. Top the noodles with half the meat mixture, and then sprinkle on half the grated cheese. Repeat with noodles, meat, then a final layer of cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Let it sit for about 5 minutes Serve this with crusty bread and a salad. Your family will adore you! Enjoy!