Years ago when I was in college (go figure), I lived in an old, yellow house just off campus. The floor was so slanted that when I walked across the kitchen, my ears would pop due to the change in elevation. My three roommates were also my three close friends and all of them were from Wisconsin. I tried not to hold that against them. We had a blast in that house and tried not to mind the lack of air conditioning or adequate heat.
I did my fair share of cooking and baking in that house and my roommates, none of them slackers in the kitchen, contributed quite a bit as well. My friend Tai used to make this pasta, cottage cheese, and marinara sauce thingy and I loooooooved it. I can actually remember the moment I walked into the kitchen and Tai handed me a hot plate of this pasta. I noticed was that it was made with these curly little lasagna noodles that I had never seen before. But let me tell you. They make all the difference in the world. I swear it doesn’t taste the same if you use a different kind of pasta. It was so easy and so scrumptious that we would all munch it down by the plateful. If I remember correctly, it was just a regular dinner her mom used to make but was easy and economical enough that it was perfectly practical for four, busy college women living under one roof. Mmmmm.
Like all good meals, this has stayed with me. I have tweaked the original a bit and made it more of a full dish, but to me, the essence is the same. The creamy tang from the white sauce on the noodles is incredibly fantastic with the red sauce. My husband and kids agree. And so, I serve this meal to my family and end up telling goofy stories about my college days because that is where it came from. Just like Lemon Bars can spark conversations about my Mother. Or the fact that I make roast beef in my slow cooker because of the recipe I got from a little old lady at the military commissary when we lived in San Diego. It is all a patchwork of our experiences and our personal history.
1 lb, curly, mini lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
1 lb ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 quart store-bought or homemade marinara sauce
2 c cottage cheese
2 c sour cream
1 tsp dried italian seasoning
2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 350.
While the pasta cooks, brown the beef in a sauté pan with the onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. When cooked through, drain fat if needed, and add the marinara sauce. Stir to combine and set aside. When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and dump into a large bowl. Add the sour cream, cottage cheese, and italian seasoning, and stir well. Season with salt and pepper. Lightly spray or butter a large, rectangle baking dish and spread the pasta mixture evenly on the bottom. Pour the meat sauce over top and smooth it out to the edges. Bake in the oven just until hot all the way through, 20-30 minutes. When it is done, top with mozzarella cheese, return it to the oven, and then turn the oven off, allowing the heat to gently melt the top. Scoop and serve!