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.

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