I have been cooking and eating this dish for a long time. I have memories of me in my early twenties sitting at my Grandmas dinner table taking scoops of this out of a beautiful handmade pottery casserole dish that had been crafted by one of her friends. I think of it as comfort food. An easy dish to make, something you can add your own spices to...a dish that when I made my few furtive attempts to cook when I was younger, was a hit. Nothing fancy, just good simple comfort food.
I'm giving the basic recipe first and then I'll give you all the variations that were given to me or that I came up with.
GRANDMA W'S HAMBURGER NOODLE BAKE
1 (8-oz) package medium or wide egg noodles
Water, lightly salted
1 tablespoon oil
2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
1 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1 lb lean ground beef
1 (8oz) package cream cheese (at room temperature)
1/3 cup minced green onions
1 tablespoon minced green pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish. Cook noodles in lightly salted water according to package directions, adding oil to water; drain. Brown ground beef in a large frying pan, breaking into small pieces. Drain excess fat. Stir in tomato sauce and remove from heat. Blend cream cheese to smooth. Blend in cottage cheese, sour cream, onion and green pepper. Spread half of noodles over bottom of buttered baking dish. Cover with cheese mixture and then remaining noodles. Top with meat sauce. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Note: I've used both medium and wide noodles, small and medium curd cottage cheese. I use full fat sour cream and good cream cheese (full fat Philly).
Variation: Saute 1 clove of crushed garlic with ground beef. Add 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon basil, 1/2 teaspoon leaf oregano and a pinch of ground clove to tomato sauce. Proceed as above. Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese. (Frankly I've made this version and have thrown in more of the required spices or less, depending on how much attention I was paying at the time).
Variation: Add diced green chilies to the cream cheese mixture.
Variation: Substitute some flavored soft cheese spread for some or all of the cream cheese (like garlic and herb or garden vegetable).
Variation: Make and add more of the cheese mixture because there is no such thing as to much cheese.