During the COVID-19 stay-at-home quarantine, I’ve been cooking more than ever before. I’m about over all the cooking and cleaning, too. If you’re looking for something cost effective and that will last a few days, this easy and delicious budget lasagna recipe is one of my favorites.
Years to the Perfect Lasagna Recipe
I’ve been working on my lasagna recipe for about 30 years now. My husband of about that same amount of time likes to joke that the first year we were married he ate Italian almost every day. I would make pizza, order pizza, make spaghetti and lasagna over and over. These are the foods I love and I guess being out on my own for the first time, it made sense to cook them as much as possible. Ha!
Tips for Making Easy and Delicious Budget Lasagna
Best Noodles to Use
Over the years, I experimented with different noodles. I tried the no boil ones that you just layer in and go. Nope. Those were a big yuck. Hard pass.
I also tried boiling the heck out of the traditional style with the wavy sides. I tried doing them more ala dente style.
Honestly, the best noodles are the cheapest ones. Boil them until they are tender but not falling apart and immediately stop the cooking process by running them under cold water.
Cottage Cheese or Ricotta?
I’ve tried making different versions with cottage cheese and with ricotta and with a mixture of the two. My preference is small curd cottage cheese. I like the taste better, it’s cheaper, easy to find anywhere and it helps the recipe hold together.
Ground Beef or Sausage?
I’ve made lasagna with only ground beef, with grass-fed beef, with only sausage and with a mixture. For the best taste and the least greasy option, I settled on 90% lean ground beef mixed 50/50 with mild sausage (not Italian, just regular old sausage in a roll). This is very cost effective and we prefer the taste.
However, your family may be different from mine, so I recommend playing around with the different options and seeing what version you like best. You could even try ground turkey and natural sausage.
What Kind of Pasta Sauce?
The pasta sauce makes or breaks your lasagna. If you have a favorite tomato-based sauce you use for spaghetti or already like, then use that. I personally love Kroger brand traditional pasta sauce or Hunt’s traditional in a can.
There are other varieties I like a bit better, but they are also pricier. With as much as you have to use for the recipe, it’s best to go with the cheaper option. It really doesn’t impact the taste that much.
What Kind of Cheese Do I Use with Lasagna?
I typically use good, old fashioned mozzarella and a dash of grated Parmesan. I’ve tried it with a mixture of mozzarella and Monterey jack, but it detracted from the other flavors. One thing that really gives the recipe some zing if you have a little extra money or leftover fresh mozz is to add chunks of that throughout. Yum!
Spices and Seasonings
I add my seasoning to the cottage cheese, so I don’t get things too garlicky—a tendency I have. So, I add dashes of garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. You can mix things up if you prefer different tastes.
In the past, I’ve done basil, garlic and oregano. The taste is similar. I just find it’s easier to dash in some Italian seasoning instead. You know me and how I like to keep things simplified.
How Many Layers Should Lasagna Have?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Lasagna tends to fall apart as you eat it anyway, so you really can’t go wrong as long as you have at least three layers. If you dish is deeper, like the deep covered baker I often use, then make more layers.
Fill it to the top, but put something under it to catch any sauce that splashes over. You don’t want to clean up that mess later!
Easy and Delicious Budget Lasagna Recipe
Pull together a delicious, home-cooked meal for less than $1.00 per serving. This time-tested lasagna recipe brings a touch of old Italy to your dinner table.
- 1 package Lasagna Noodles
- 2 24 oz. cans Pasta Sauce traditional flavor is best
- 1 24 oz. container Small Curd Cottage Cheese
- 1 pound Ground Beef 90% lean works best
- 1/2 pound Mild Sausage can also use Italian sausage
- 1 32 oz. package Shredded Mozzarella you can shred your own but it takes forever
- 1 tbsp Garlic Power
- 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 container Grated Parmesan can use real cheese, too.
Fill large pot with water. When it reaches a hard boil, add a little salt or oil and noodles.
Brown ground beef and drain.
Empty both cans of pasta sauce into a large bowl.
Add ground beef and mix together.
Add seasonings to cottage cheese and mix together thoroughly.
You should have enough for two big pans of lasagna. I will sometimes freeze one, and then thaw and bake later.
Cover bottom of pan with ground beef/pasta sauce mixture.
Add one layer of cooked noodles, laid out side by side. It's okay if they overlap some.
Add more meat sauce and spread to completely cover the edges of pasta.
Put three dollops (about a heaping tablespoon each) of cottage cheese mixture on top. Swirl the spoon and mix it throughout the meat sauce.
Sprinkle Parmesan on top of entire pan (you can't go wrong here - a little or a lot).
Cover with Mozzarella cheese.
Time for another layer - noodles, sauce, cottage cheese, Parm, and Mozz.
Repeat until you reach the top of the pan.
Oven on 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You don't have to pre-heat, but you can. If you don't pre-heat add 5-10 minutes to cooking time.
Place in oven and bake for 35 minutes.
Let rest 15 minutes before serving.
Some Tips for Getting the Most Savings Out of Dinner
The total cost for making this meal is pretty low when you consider you’ll get three meals out of the mixture. You can probably save even more if you buy when items are on sale.
I priced it at Kroger and came up with this:
- Noodles – $1.39
- Pasta Sauce – $2.00
- Ground Beef – $5.99 (this varies)
- Sausage – $2.29
- Cottage Cheese – $2.00
- Mozzarella Cheese – $6.99
Other ingredients, you should have on hand already. Total: $20.66. You’ll get about 20 servings, depending on how much your family eats.
You can stretch this budget lasagna even more by adding a salad and bread. You can also freeze for a quick meal one day when you don’t feel like cooking (save on carryout).
As always, buy items when they are on sale to save even more. Happy eating!