Cottage Cheese Is The Nontraditional Key To A Delicious Lasagna

It's hard not to like lasagna. Layers of wide, tender pasta noodles stacked several times over with meat and veggies, an abundance of sauce, and multiple forms of cheese? Which is all baked into bubbly tiers of gooey goodness? That's a winning combination if ever there was one. Lasagna is the queen of casseroles and the ultimate Italian comfort food.

A dish that's been around as long as lasagna – which dates back to at least the Middle Ages, and likely long before that — is bound to inspire different variations over time. Each region in Italy tends to make the iconic dish a certain way, and even the classical versions vary. Whether it's made with dried pasta or fresh egg pasta, meat ragú or spinach, or ricotta or béchamel are particularly common points of divergence. This is one of the great things about this delicious dish: We can easily experiment with its overall makeup, swapping out ingredients and trying new flavors. Today's popular lasagna recipes feature a wide array of additions and substitutions to the classic dish, from zucchini and eggplant to alfredo sauce and pesto. Now it's time to meet your new favorite lasagna ingredient: cottage cheese.

How cottage cheese can level up your lasagna

We know, we know; cottage cheese is polarizing. Some can't get past the texture, or think other soft cheeses are superior. But if you think about what it can do to a lasagna, you'll likely realize it's worth giving the controversial cheese a try.

America's Test Kitchen uses cottage cheese to replace ricotta in their fan-favorite cheese and tomato lasagna recipe, mixing it with heavy cream and Pecorino Romano as a sort of makeshift béchamel sauce. They found that this cottage cheese-based sauce doesn't burn, break, or curdle, delivering a delightful cheesiness — and it's easier to make, too. Cottage cheese will also lighten up the dish. Given how rich and heavy multiply-layered lasagna is, this can be a welcome balance.

Not only does cottage cheese lighten the texture and heaviness of the dish, it also lightens the load of calories and fat. Cottage cheese is a lower-calorie, lower-cholesterol, and lower-fat alternative to ricotta cheese, which tends to have around four to five times the amount of saturated fat. Your lasagna will taste light, creamy, and delicious, all while packing in more nutritional benefits.

Pro tips for using cottage cheese in lasagna

There are a few things to keep in mind when using cottage cheese in lasagna. First, because cottage cheese has more liquid, you'll need to compensate, lest your lasagna become too watery. It's essential to use whole milk or full-fat cottage cheese to achieve the creaminess you want.

If you prefer the texture of ricotta, you can strain your cottage cheese first to remove some of the liquid. You can also blend or whip your cottage cheese so that it's smooth, rather than chunky. Either way, it's good to use a binder with the cheese so everything holds together better in the finished product. This can be done like America's Test Kitchen's creates their béchamel-like replacement, or by mixing the cheese with eggs and other cheeses.

Here's the ultimate pro tip: Try using half cottage cheese and half ricotta for the best of both worlds. Many chefs swear by a mixture of the two as the absolute best cheese for lasagna; this makes the dish light, flavorful, rich, and creamy, all at once — in short, everything lasagna should be.