Rain + a (Mostly) Traditional Lasagna

Oh hey, guess what, it's been raining. Wanna know the 5 day forecast? Rain. The 10 day? It's rain. Also clouds. Perhaps some "sunbreaks" as the weather people call them, which just means the sun MIGHT peak out of the grey for a few brief, glorious moments. Then it'll rain.

This is truly fall in the Northwest, guys. We got spoiled this year with a hot, dry summer and sunshine through mid-October almost (!). I think we were lulled into a false sense of security by this weather anomaly (I can leave the house without a jacket! Wear open-toe shoes!). Sad, really, considering we all knew this day would come.

I couldn't wait for this lasagna to cool... who has time for that!?

I couldn't wait for this lasagna to cool... who has time for that!?

In a weird way that not many other regions might understand, the return of rain is welcomed by many- myself included. We love our sunny days, cherish them even, but this dreary weather is our comfort zone. We know what to expect in the rain. We can handle this for 9 months.

Which brings me to that lasagna over there, which turns out is the perfect gloomy day food. It's surprisingly easy and quick to put together so you have plenty of time to curl up on the couch and watch random animal documentaries on Netflix all night (or whatever you do).

Thank my husband for this, because he special-requested lasagna this week. Specifically, a "normal" (i.e. traditional) lasagna, that doesn't include all my crazy twists and add-ins and let's-see-how-this-tastes stuff. He knows me too well, that guy.

So I did my take on a traditional lasagna. Ground beef, red sauce, cheesy stuff, real deal lasagna noodles.

I DID add a few little surprises- can't stop won't stop! Spinach in the cheesy layer, cottage cheese not ricotta (trust me it's what you want), and cream cheese melted into the red sauce. YES. You must do it. Thank me later. It just adds... lusciousness. Mmmm.

Good thing I added it too, cuz you know what? I FORGOT THE CHEESE ON TOP. I can't believe it. I had all this mozzarella ready to sprinkle on and make this lovely crusty layer of cheese. Forgot it. Thankfully it still turned out delicious, but hopefully you remember your cheesy topping. I did put some parm, and that was sufficiently yummy. So go make lasagna. Enjoy!

Are you drooling? I'm drooling a little.

Are you drooling? I'm drooling a little.

Mostly Traditional Lasagna

1 pound ground beef (grass-fed if you can swing it)

1 jar favorite pasta sauce

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 block (4 ounces) Neufchatel cream cheese (full fat works too!)

1 large container low-fat cottage cheese

2 eggs

1 cup + handful parmesan

1/2 tablespoon no-salt seasoning

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 box frozen spinach (thawed and excess moisture wrung out with a towel)

1 cup mozzarella (I forgot this part, but it would be delicious!)

1 box no-boil lasagna noodles (I used about 12 noodles)

salt + pepper

splash of water

Preheat oven to 350*. Brown ground beef over medium-high heat. Drain excess fat with paper towels. Add jar of pasta sauce, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar to beef. Add a splash of water to sauce jar, swish around jar, and add to sauce mixture. Allow sauce to begin bubbling, then reduce to low/simmer. Drop cream cheese into sauce in chunks and stir until cream cheese and sauce are combined. Meanwhile, prepare cheesy mixture: combine cottage cheese, eggs, parmesan, spinach, no-salt and Italian seasonings in a bowl and mix well. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish. add a small amount of sauce to pan. Lay down a layer of noodles, then red sauce, cheesy mixture, noodles, sauce, then cheese. Bake for 45-60 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.