White Chicken Lasagna with Cheddar-Gruyère Mèlange Cheese

A really good friend of mine had an operation this week.  I did what we tend to do here in our communities, I cooked something they could eat right away or freeze for later, so that she wouldn’t have to worry about cooking for a few days.  This whole casserole tradition is something I remember from growing up.  New baby?  Casserole.  Hospitalization? Casserole.  Someone died?  Casserole.  (If you’re from the mid-west, just replace “casserole” with “hot dish.”)

My husband, who is not from the states as you probably know by now, insisted that this must be a country thing.  Occasionally we’ll find some sort of cultural difference that to me seems like a given, but to him just isn’t.  So he assumed that I cook things for people with major life events because I’m from a more rural area.  That people from cities probably don’t have the time to do this kind of thing.  Growing up he never heard about this in the city, only from people who lived in the country.  But a very exact, carefully administrated facebook survey I posed a few months ago with an n=~500 told me that this is not a country thing.  It’s not even a local Pennsylvanian thing.  A friend commented, “It’s just what we do.”

So I did what we do in our culture.  I wanted to make some comfort food.  Something bubbly and cheesy.  Something that tasted like home.

To save time, for the pasta layers, I used Trader Joe’s no-boil lasagna noodles.  They are smaller and easier to work with than traditional lasagna noodles.  The important thing, when using them, is to have adequate liquid.  This lasagna also needs to be refrigerated overnight, before cooking.  I also decided to use the left overs to make an individual lasagna crock for myself.  If you prefer to do this, you simply break up the sheets to fit into the individual dish.  Unlike traditional lasagna, this recipe forgoes ricotta and uses cottage cheese.  I’m actually not a very big fan of ricotta so I general replace it with cottage cheese whenever possible.  I just find ricotta to be tasteless and hate huge gobs of it in my food.

The next time I make this dish, I will add finely chopped artichoke hearts to the cottage-cheese and basil layer.  The kind of cheese used and the chicken makes it seem like the perfect dish to add artichokes.

White Chicken Lasagna with Cheddar-Gruyère Mèlange Cheese

(Adapted from Betty Crocker)

Note: Lasagna must refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours before baking.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced into small cubes
  • 1 cup onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup celery, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 10 ounces white button mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon safflower oil
  • 5 ounces Trader Joe’s Cheddar-Gruyère Mèlange Cheese, shredded (Gruyère can be substituted)
  • 1 16-ounce container cottage cheese (I recommend 2% or 4% milk fat)
  • 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 10 ounces shredded Italian Quattro Formaggi blend

To make the chicken layer:

  1. Melt butter over medium-high heat in heavy-bottomed sauce pan.  Add chicken, and stir fry for about 5 minutes, until the outside of the chicken turns white but the center is still pink.
  2. Add onions and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes until onions are translucent.
  3. Add celery, red bell pepper and mushrooms.  Cook until celery becomes tender and mushrooms release their liquid.
  4. Add chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.  Keep liquid at a slow boil for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Reduce heat to low.  Add nutmeg, half and half and cream cheese.  Stir until melted and just combined. Remove from heat.  Salt and pepper to taste.

To make the cheese layer:

  1. Combine cottage cheese, chopped basil, chopped artichoke hearts (optional), egg, and shredded cheddar-gruyère mèlange cheese.

To assemble the lasagna:

  1. Grease a 13-inch x 9-inch casserole dish with safflower oil.
  2. Ladle a small amount of liquid into the bottom of the pan.
  3. Place 1 layer of 4 lasagna noodles over liquid.  Noodles should fit across dish horizontally.
  4. Spread 1/3 of cottage cheese mixture across the noodles
  5. Ladle 1/3 of chicken mixture over the cheese.
  6. Top with 1/4 of shredded Quattro Formaggi.
  7. Place another layer of 4 noodles across dish.
  8. Spread 1/3 of cottage cheese mixture across the noodles
  9. Ladle 1/3 of chicken mixture over the cheese.
  10. Top with 1/4 shredded Quattro Formaggi.
  11. Place another layer of 4 noodles across dish.
  12. Spread final 1/3 cottage cheese mixture across the noodles
  13. Ladle final 1/3 of chicken mixture over the cheese.
  14. Top with final layer of noodles.
  15. Top with last 1/4 of Quattro Formaggi Cheese.
  16. Cover tightly with foil.  Allow to rest in refrigerator overnight or for at least 8 hours.

To bake the lasagna:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Bake lasagna for 45 minutes.
  3. Uncover,  bake for another 30 minutes until noodles are tender and cheese is golden and bubbly.
  4. Allow to stand for 15 minutes before serving.
  5. Garnish with chopped basil.

If you are making individual servings in crocks, follow the same instructions for each crock, but break up noodles so that they fit into the container.  Cooking times are the same, but if you are using a ceramic dish, make sure to let it come to room temperature before baking so that it doesn’t crack.

Serves 8-10.  

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