Cottage Lasagna

This is a labour of love.  No greater gesture than cooking for your family.  Make ahead so you can enjoy your time together.  And they can do the dishes!

This lasagna was my sister-in-law, Amanda’s, mom’s specialty. Mrs. Wendy, as she was known, liked to gather with family and friends and take care of people with good food, drinks, and fun, just like my mom…traits both Amanda and I have inherited. Amanda wins the domestic goddess in our extended family. She usually shows up at the cottage with a few family-sized lasagnas that would have taken her all afternoon to prepare. We love and appreciate her for it. This recipe has been adapted over the years, adding a new béchamel layer. Her instructions were loose and the results would have fed an army. This is now finely tuned to make two lasagnas, so you can freeze one in a deep glass, freezer-proof dish with a lid. This recipe is the best lasagna I have ever had, but it does take a bit of work: a worthwhile labour of love.

Makes two 9- × 12-inch lasagnas serves 12



Meat Sauce:

  • 1 kg/2 lb lean ground beef 

  • 1 cup finely chopped mushrooms

  • 2 (660 ml/22 oz each) jars tomato sauce (I like Raos)

  • Salt + freshly cracked pepper

Cottage Cheese + Spinach Layer:

  • 1 (500 g/18 oz) container cottage cheese

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped (or 2 cups frozen spinach, thawed and drained)

Béchamel Cheese Sauce:

  • ¼ cup butter

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups milk 

  • Salt + freshly cracked pepper

  • 2 cups grated aged cheddar


  • 2 (1 lb each) packages oven-ready lasagna noodles 

  • 2 x 300 g (21 oz) bricks mozzarella, grated or 3 (8½ oz each) packages

  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan


For the meat sauce, in an extra-large sauté pan over medium heat, cook the ground beef until browned. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes until the mixture has reduced, cooked, and thickened. Set aside. 


For the cottage cheese and spinach layer, in a medium bowl, mix the cottage cheese with the egg. Stir in the chopped spinach, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. 


For the béchamel cheese sauce, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and then add the flour. Stirring constantly, let the flour cook for few minutes, be sure not to burn it. Whisk in the milk, and keep whisking until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes. If it’s thickening too fast you can add a bit more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheddar until it has melted. Start assembling the lasagna now so the sauce doesn’t harden.


To assemble the lasagnas, set out two 9 × 12-inch casserole dishes. Layer each casserole dish the same, like an assembly line. First, pour a very small amount of the meat sauce into each dish to just cover the bottom. This prevents the noodles from sticking to it. Then add a layer of noodles. You may need to snap the ends to make them fit. You can use the broken bits to fill in any of the layers as needed. Evenly spread a layer of meat sauce to cover the noodles entirely. Sprinkle a third of mozzarella over top. 

Add another layer of noodles, pressing to push them down. Then spread the cottage cheese and spinach over them, ensuring the entire noodle layer is covered. Add another layer of meat sauce, and sprinkle with more mozzarella.


Add another layer of noodles, pressing to push them down again. Pour half of the béchamel cheese sauce over top of each dish and spread evenly over the noodles. Cover with a final layer of noodles. Add more meat sauce, spreading it evenly across the noodles. Generously top the lasagnas with the rest of the mozzarella and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Wrap and freeze if you’re not baking them right away. 


When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the sauce is bubbling and the top is browned. If baking from frozen, either take them out in the morning to thaw and bake as directed or bake directly from frozen for about 1½ hours. 


Cook’s Note: Get a bunch of boxes of oven-ready lasagna noodles for the pantry in case you make extra lasagna to freeze. If you don’t use them they’ll be there for the next time. Oven-ready means you don’t have to cook them first before assembly, so it’s far less fussy, faster and less messy—be sure to read the box to get the right type.


You could double up on the cottage cheese layer and eliminate the béchamel layer if you are in a pinch, but a fully loaded version is best.


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