This recipe is mostly hers. I've adapted it only slightly. I don't use onion (as always) but you could certainly add some diced onion when cooking the meat. I also frequently use ground turkey or Italian sausage in place of the ground beef, but today I used beef. The only other thing I changed was the addition of a second egg in the cheese mixture. It helps hold the cheese together because I was having a very difficult time with the layers sliding apart when I served it.
I'd like to make a note that this is not an authentic Italian recipe. I happen to like this recipe. It's the recipe my Nana always used when she made lasagna for our birthday parties when I was little. It may not be authentic but it is tasty and relatively easy to make. Don't be intimidated because it looks complicated. I assure you, it is not complicated.
1 lb ground beef (could substitute ground turkey or Italian sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups (16 oz) mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
16 oz cottage cheese
1 jar spaghetti sauce of your choice
12 lasagna noodles
olive oil spray
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions.
Drain and rinse the noodles and set them aside. (I've found it keeps the noodles from sticking together if you lay them out in a single layer on some wax paper, if you have room I recommend it.)
In a large skillet, brown the meat with the spices and salt and pepper.
Once the meat is cooked through add the garlic, remove from heat and set aside to cool. (I usually use lean ground beef, but tonight all I had available was 80/20. If your beef is less lean like mine I suggest spooning out most of the grease.)
In a medium mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the mozzarella, cottage cheese, eggs, and salt and pepper.
Mix until combined.
Spray a 9x13 baking dish with olive oil spray. Pour about 1/5 of the spaghetti sauce in the dish and spread it over the bottom.
Add a layer of noodles.
Spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the noodles. (The order in which you layer the ingredients is not crucial. I just know from experience that the cheese mixture spreads easier if you put it directly onto the noodles first.)
Sprinkle 1/3 of the meat over the cheese mixture.
Add about 1/5 of the sauce over the meat. (It's not necessary to actually spread the sauce because when you add the next layer of noodles it spreads evenly under the noodle on its own.)
Continue layering for two more layers.
End with a layer of noodles.
Spread the remaining sauce over the noodles as evenly as possible.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, until the cheese is brown and bubbly.
Let it rest about five minutes before serving. (The cheese mixture needs to cool a bit to set up. Otherwise the layers will slide apart as you cut and serve and you won't get pretty layered slices like this.) We like to serve ours with some salad and bread.