Poor Man’s Lasagna Recipe

5 / 5 (1 review) 37 Comments

poor man's meal - easy lasagna recipe

Easy, cheap lasagna recipe the whole family will love!

Poor Man’s Lasagna is my husband’s favorite dinner! Actually, the whole family likes it a lot, so this poor man’s meal makes a fairly regular appearance on the dinner table and as a freezer meal.

You certainly don’t have to be a poor man to enjoy this easy, cheap lasagna recipe though!


easy pasta lasagna recipe with cream cheese and cottage cheese

I usually use penne pasta, but it definitely works with other pasta noodles, like farfalle, fusilli, radiatore and more. In fact, changing up the noodles sometimes makes it feel like a whole new meal to the kids. 😉

poor man's lasagna - easy freezer meal lasagna recipe

Keep it simple and easy by mixing the cream cheese and cottage cheese with the pasta right in the same pot used for boiling the pasta. After you’ve drained the pasta water, of course. (I use a 5-quart pot.)

The warmth of the pot and cooked pasta also helps to melt the cream cheese into the mixture.

penne pasta lasagna casserole recipe

Using a store-bought pasta sauce is a super easy option! Just open the jar and pour it on! Plus, you can often find sales and coupons to help you get the pasta sauce for cheap.

However, if you’d rather use a thick homemade pasta sauce, go for it! Just note that the flavor of your lasagna casserole will be affected by the sauce that you use.

cheap lasagna recipe

Sometimes I split the poor man’s meal between two 8×8 pans, because one 8×8 is plenty for my family. Then I freeze the other 8×8 for later or to give to someone else!

Cooking time may vary depending on the size of the pan and depth of the casserole.

Easy, cheap lasagna recipe - poor man's meal

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Easy and cheap poor man's lasagna recipe

Poor Man’s Lasagna Recipe

5 / 5 (1 review)
Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 30 mins
Yield: 9x13, or two 8x8 | Serves: 12


  • 12 to 14 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 16 ounces cottage cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 jar (24 ounces) red pasta sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Boil the pasta according to instructions on packaging.
  3. Meanwhile, brown the ground beef, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Stir in the Italian seasoning before the meat is done cooking. Drain the grease, if needed. Set aside.
  4. Drain the water from the pasta and return it to the pot. While the pasta is still warm, add the cream cheese and cottage cheese and gently stir until combined.
  5. Layer a 9x13 pan (or two 8x8 pans) with half of the pasta mixture, meat, and pasta sauce. Repeat. Add shredded cheese on top. (See below for freezer instructions.) Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, until warmed through.
  6. Preparing for the Freezer:

  7. Right after topping with cheese (and before baking), cover with few layers of plastic wrap. Then cover with foil. Label and freeze.
  8. Prepare after Freezing:

  9. Thaw for about 24 hours in refrigerator, unwrap and bake as usual. Or keep frozen, unwrap, then re-cover with one layer of foil. Bake covered for about 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 350. Bake for about 30 more minutes, until cheese is melted and filling is bubbling and warmed through.
Ingredients: Beef, Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Cream Cheese, Italian Seasoning, Pasta, Pasta Sauce, Turkey
Meal Type: Main Dish, Fall, Father's Day, Spring, Summer, Winter, Egg Free
Categories: Casserole, Meat and Poultry, Pasta, Make Ahead/Freezer Meal, Oven

Comments & Reviews

  • tina

    Thank you for sharing this. I can’t wait to try this. It looks yummy

  • Pamela Carter

    I cooked this dish last night. It was delicious! My daughter loved this as well! Great recipe. It was very inexpensive (used stockpile supply) and we have leftovers for tonight.

  • Amber

    I just need cottage cheese … but I can splurge for that cheesy goodness up there! Thanks Melanie!

  • MaMaLaLa

    I made this for dinner- packaged half for another time. Hubby loved it! A great pantry fave!

  • Joyce Bettridge

    I’m going to try it with creamy goat cheese (cream cheese is a no-no for me). I may add a few layers of spinach also. Cant wait to try it!

  • Julie B

    Any suggestions on what flavor of pasta sauce and what type of cheese? Thanks!

    • Melanie

      I usually go with the regular flavor red sauce, or a cheesy one, or garlic-y one. You could really use any flavor you like.
      The cheese is pretty flexible too. I usually use cheddar, or mozzarella, or a combination of both, or a shredded Italian blend.

  • Blair

    Do you bake uncovered or covered with foil?

  • Christine

    Do you bake before putting in the freezer?

  • Christine

    Do you bake before freezing? Or after you layer it and top with cheese just cover and put in freezer with baking?

    • Melanie

      Hi, Christine. I freeze it before baking. I updated the recipe wording to try make that part less confusing. (However, the baked leftovers actually freeze fine too.)

  • Christine

    **without baking

  • Stephanie

    Can you substitute ricotta for the cottage cheese? Or some other type of cheese? Hubby can’t stand the taste of cottage cheese..

  • Crystal

    Made this tonight because it’s summer break and I wanted something easy. It was great! My 4 year had two plates of it. I can’t get her to eat anything! Will be making this again.

    • scott olson

      now that’s the seal of approval. if a four year old likes it it must be delicious. can’t wait to try mine.

  • scott olson

    Ok, here goes, lol. I’ll let you know how it turns out. already have ideas for the next time. different things to add.

  • Courtney Herriage

    Do you think it would taste just as good with ricotta cheese instead of cottage cheese?

  • Tammie

    Can u use racotta cheese instead of cottage cheese ? And also cream cheese is on several different “do not freeze” lists.

    • Melanie

      Hi, Tammie. You can definitely try ricotta instead of cottage. It will be a bit different in texture and slightly with flavor, but still delicious! Because the cream cheese is all mixed in with other things, it actually does freeze well in this recipe. 🙂

  • Katie

    Thank you for this recipe, I have made it several times already because my child LOVES it, well…hubby does too. I haven’t told my son that its made with cottage cheese, and no one can tell the difference. I also substitute the beef with Venison (deer meat) no fat very lean meat.
    Awesome dish !!!

  • Jen

    This was delicious – frugal or not. Loved the cheese mixture tossed with the pasta. We used campanelle pasta, Jimmy Dean italian sausage, and Prego sauce. Excellent.

  • Jennifer

    *****Best lasagna recipe! I made this for my extended family with ages ranging from 4 years old to 85 years old and everyone absolutely loved it! I have numerous requests to make it again. Can’t thank you enough for a simple, delicious and now a favorite go to!

    • Melanie

      Awesome!! It is still one of my family’s favorites and I love how easy it is to make. 🙂 So glad it is now a favorite for you too! Thanks!

  • Madison

    What is the serving size that is related to the nutrition facts? I assume that if you make this in two pans then each pan feeds 4-5 so roughly 1/5 or 1/4 of the 8×8 pan is a serving? Thank you!


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