kitewithfish: The Doctor tilts his head. (Default)
[personal profile] kitewithfish posting in [community profile] bakeitup
*Waves* Hello, first time posting here!

I recently tried a new "recipe" for a casserole that was really yummy, but needs a little more work. I'm wondering if people have advice for making a slightly soggy noodle casserole more firm.

Ingredients: (rough)
16 oz 2% cottage cheese
1 box of pasta shells
1 large bunch of fresh raw spinach, washed and chopped
3 eggs (not vegetarian enough for some, I know, but I think the recipe needed them to firm things up.)
sour cream (not sure how much)
shredded Gouda
Salt and black pepper to taste

Feeds 4 of hungry me, perhaps up to six not-so-hungry people.

Roughly, I boiled the shells till al dente, mixed them with the chopped spinach, 16 oz of Cottage cheese, several dollops of sour creams and 3 eggs until everything was well coated with cheese.. I dumped everything into a 9x9" pyrex  casserole dish with a lid, covered the top with shredded Gouda cheese, and baked it for 45-ish minutes at 375* F, lid on.

The resulting dish was delicious and held together enough to be cut in rough squares out of the casserole dish, but it was kind of soggy. The noodles were veering towards mushy and the spinach was a little wet, but perfectly cooked and not at all limp.  Because I didn't want to take the lid off the top, the Gouda coating on top was not crispy, but also a bit... "grilled cheesish" (for lack of a better word). No nice toasty crust on the top.  The pieces at the corners were by far the best parts, and I think I would keep making this dish even if I can't fix it, but I would love to have a really, really good cheap and easy vegetarian recipe

I have some ideas about how to fix it, but I'm wondering if there is anything else I can try.

1) Cook the spinach beforehand and press the water out of it. - I really didn't want to have to do this. I think it would make the spinach overdone in the final result and would make the dish overall less tasty, but it might remove enough water that the pasta does not get mushy.

2) Boil the pasta only until it is very al dente- This seems like it would put the extra water in the spinach to better use in making the finish pasta less mushy. But this does not fix the issues with the top bit of cheese.

3) Remove the lid for the last ten minutes of baking- This would help the cheese on top get nice and crispy, and possibly let out enough of the water in the spinach to save the pasta from sogginess, but it might result in a crunchy layer of shells on top and dry out the spinach at the top (this was already a slight problem for the spinach at the top.)

This dish was very cheap to make, fairly quick, and vegetarian (for certain values of vegetarian)! I would love to be able to make this a really tasty dish, and any advice you can give me on that front would be extremely welcome.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-01 07:25 pm (UTC)
zdashamber: painting - a frog wearing a bandanna (Default)
From: [personal profile] zdashamber
When I make vegetarian lasagna, I don't even cook the noodles at all, just layer them in all stiff. Now, that does involve a jar of red sauce, which is soupy to begin with, but still, maybe there is enough liquid in your casserole that the shell pasta would cook just from being baked, and soak all the liquid up?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-01 07:41 pm (UTC)
zdashamber: painting - a frog wearing a bandanna (Default)
From: [personal profile] zdashamber
Yeah, I hear you. If I was going to do it, I might try adding cup of water or chicken stock or white white or something, just to make sure there was enough liquid to cook the pasta. The lasagna noodles I use are the normal cheap kind that don't say anything about whether or not to precook...

It seems to me that if you opened up the casserole and found it was still crunchy, it wouldn't hurt it to then add some water and bake it another 45 minutes, but I'm no expert, so. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-01 09:17 pm (UTC)
lian: Klavier Gavin, golden boy (Default)
From: [personal profile] lian
No owrries, I never cook my noodles before doing a casserole, it just needs a little longer that way, and it may well solve your moisture problem! My vegetable casseroles are usually very, very firm. Like, cut'em and slice'em solid. But part of that is -- so here's my real tip for reducing the sogginess! -- add a bit of flour or corn flour to your egg/sour cream/cottage cheese mixture. I never do casseroles without adding flour [or equivalents], say 1~2 table spoons?

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