Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Lasagna's Cousin ( or Cheesy Sausage Bake or maybe it's a Casserole ) - RECIPE

Are there official guidelines that distinguish a lasagna from a bake from a casserole? I guess it depends on your definition.

This all started with a simple idea to recreate a quick, easy dish my mother used to make - a mac & cheese tuna casserole. I had watched her make it a hundred times growing up, unfortunately, I didn't really pay attention. Not like I really needed to. There was nothing to it. Macaroni and cheese with tuna, throw it in the oven. She didn't include peas though because my brother is a picky eater and would starve himself before he would eat anything that a pea even had touched.

But the issue with recreating my mother's simple classic family fare was that it didn't sound like it'd be any fun to make. A plain boring dish, with minimum fuss for a busy working woman. So with deciding to make it myself, I sought ways to muscle it up a little. Before too long, I had included some ingredients from two other standard recipes and tossed in a few additional changes. Around the house, I kept referring to it as a "bake," but The Boss said it was more like lasagna than anything else, and the inclusion of Ricotta cheese pretty much assured she was right.

This lasagna lacked some of the signature ingredients of regular lasagna, including the type of pasta noodles, so I struggled with a name, until finally just moments before sliding this concoction into the oven, inspiration struck and I named it:

Lasagna's Cousin
- 1 pound Fusilloni (spiral) pasta, or other short pasta like penne
- 7 links of Johnsonville Italian Sausage (it's what I had on hand, use whatever Italian sausage you have on hand)
- 1 jar of Classico Italian Sausage spaghetti sauce (again, just what I had on hand, use your favorite)
- 2 tablespoons of an Italian seasoning mix, mine always has basil, (extra) oregano, rosemary, and thyme.
- 1 container (15 ounces) of Ricotta cheese
- 2 cups (8 ounces) of shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan (grate this yourself, don't use the shake-can variety, i.e., The Great Parmesan Cheese Scandal of 2016)

- preheat oven to 350 degrees
- cook pasta per directions on box, stopping a minute or so early (el dente)
- mix the Ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan in a bowl (set aside)
- peal casing off sausage and cook on medium heat, drain and then return to pan.
- stir in sauce, seasonings, salt, and pasta
- in a large baking tray, layer half of the sausage/pasta mixture
- evenly spoon cheese mixture over the baking dish
- top that withe remaining sausage/pasta mixture and a bit more mozzarella (to taste, but don't over do it)
- bake approximately 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and has that "done" color

Calories per serving
Total 545.5 calories
Fat 253.25; Carbs 159.5; Protein 119; (Sodium 917mg); (Fiber 6.4g)

To say that this recipe was A Hit around here would be an understatement. We ate this for lunch and dinner for the next couple of days until it was completely gone. I'd make it again soon, but I don't want to burn everyone out, and besides, I'm out of spaghetti sauce.

Until Next Time,
Watch the folks at AllRecipes make the most beautiful lasagna I've ever seen. It is truly art.
Lasagnaly Yours,

Calorie Breakdown
Johnsonville Italian Sausage per serving (link)
(7 links used in this recipe)
Total 260 calories per link;
Fat 190; Carbs 12;Protein 56; (Sodium 570 mg)

Lidia's Fusilli Pasta
Total 138 calories;
Fat 6; Carbs 107; Protein 21; (Fiber 5 mg)

Mozzarella cheese per serving
Total 80 calories
Fat 45;Carbs 4; Protein 24

Ricotta cheese per serving
Total 52 calories
Fat 20; Carbs 10; Protein 17; (Sodium 47mg)

Classico Italian Sausage Spaghetti Sauce per serving
Total 48 calories
Fat 16; Carbs 28; Protein 8; (Sodium 300 mg);  (Fiber 1.4 g)