The Great Cottage Cheese Dinner Challenge

In good stories, a character changes. So, for example, if you’re watching a movie about a guy who’s afraid of heights but his girlfriend is being held hostage at the top of Mount Everest, we expect him to get over his fear in order to save her. If he decides to just leave her there and become a knitting teacher, it probably wouldn’t be a very good movie. (Though, on second thought, maybe it would?)

Thinking of me as your main character, then, consider my post last week about cottage cheese. I find the stuff repulsive. 157 of you disagreed with me in the comments. So yesterday I went to Gelson’s and saw Low-Fat Knudsen’s Cottage Cheese, the kind many of you eat, and decided to challenge myself to make dinner with it. If this were a good story, I’d learn to love it at the end.

Opening it up and looking at it, though, my stomach literally lurched. How does that not look like white barf to you 157 cottage cheese lovers? Wet, white, barf?

I was ready to bury it in the yard and order a pizza, but then I thought about this post and how many of you might enjoy it if I pushed myself to cook with it. So for you, I persevered.

Several readers, including hilarious Smash-recapper Rachel Shukert, talked about topping pasta with cottage cheese and black pepper. I decided to travel that route since pasta is my favorite food and I could pretend the cottage cheese was some kind of warped version of ricotta.

Marco Canora, chef at Hearth in New York, told me that if he had to cook with cottage cheese (he, too, is repulsed by the stuff) he would whip it in a Kitchen-Aid first. I took his advice.


But first, I wanted to flavor it, disguise it beyond recognition. Here’s what I bought to aid that process:


That’s parsley, scallions, dill and a lemon. I chopped the parsley and dill rather fine:


And added it to the cottage cheese in the mixer along with a splash of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and crushed Pequin chiles which April Bloomfield likes to use in her cooking because they’re spicy and smoky. Look at how much this all helps the cottage cheese (or at least covers it up):


On went the mixer and splutsplutsplut went the cottage cheese. (It’s a pretty grotesque sound). Behold: flavored cottage cheese.


I’m not sure that mixing it in a mixer really changed the texture, but tasting it here I was happy with my work. The cottage cheese, to its credit, has a nice tang to it; it’s tangier than ricotta. Don’t worry, cottage cheese haters, my character doesn’t change at this point.

But once I boiled the pasta (I chose fusilli) and tossed it with my cottage cheese mixture and chopped scallions, I had a bowl of something that looked rather tasty.


At the end of Annie, Daddy Warbucks learns to love an orphan. At the end of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy learns that all she ever wanted was right there in her backyard. And at the end of this story, I ate a bowl of pasta coated in cottage cheese and, believe it or not, I went back for seconds.

It was good! Tangy, creamy, definitely ricotta-like. Plus: low-fat and high in protein, I imagine it was way better for me than my usual fat-filled, salt-bomb sauces.

Will I make cottage cheese pasta again for dinner? That remains to be seen. But at the end of the story about the boy who hated cottage cheese, he put it on pasta, ate it for dinner, and didn’t hurl. That, in my book, is a happy ending.

43 thoughts on “The Great Cottage Cheese Dinner Challenge”

  1. I’ve made whipped cottage cheese spread before as an alternative to a higher fat boursin-type cheese. The secret to getting your texture to change: you must drain it first. Set it up in your fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth, just like you were making Greek yogurt, and drain it for at least an hour, pressing occasionally. Then just whip it up either with an immersion blender or the food processor with whatever flavorings you select. ALSO: Large curd really, truly, is the way to go. The small curd stuff is nonsense.

  2. Looks like you’ve done well! Though, any cheese smothered in herbs has got to be good. If you give it a second go, I would recommend the 4% fat Daisy brand. The cottage cheese is less liquidy and has more curds, which I think gives it a much more palatable texture.

    1. I second this, but I prefer the Borden brand. I eat it in my green salads all the time.
      No salad dressing, just the cottage cheese and croutons over greens etc..doubled the crunch and flavor!

    2. I agree! I’m a big cottage cheese fan, but I always have 4% cottage cheese (I buy the standard full-fat supermarket cottage cheese in Australia). My mum makes Serbian filo pastry called Burek, stuffed with cottage cheese. I prefer cottage cheese to ricotta because I like the sour tang.

      1. I just made bourekas (bureks) last night!! I mix cottage cheese with spinach or cottage cheese with mashed potatoes for fillings.


    Try mixing it with cinnamon, raisins, broad noodles and baking into a kugel. My grandmother made that for us all the time. I never have made it myself, but it’s really good. I like the stuff on toast, although from now on I’m going to have to get the image of white barf out of my head. Thanks a lot.

    1. Somewhere I have a kosher for Passover kugel recipe made with matzo soaked in milk, 4% cottage cheese, eggs, butter, sugar, cinnamon and crushed pineapple. We made it one year and it was delicious!

  4. Growing up I was always served cottage cheese with chili (yes, that spicy stew of ground beef and beans). *Shrug* … I think it’s good!

  5. you should be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone and at least trying, even if you didn’t love and probably won’t go back. so many people get stuck in a rut and won’t even try something new – sometimes based on childhood hates (tastes change and grow people!!!) and sometimes based on looks. I am definitely a looks person – I struggle with trying new stuff when I don’t like how it looks. I am a cottage cheese lover and I have never considered it on pasta, so I am going to give this a try. Thanks for the post!!

  6. you should be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone and at least trying, even if you didn’t love and probably won’t go back. so many people get stuck in a rut and won’t even try something new – sometimes based on childhood hates (tastes change and grow people!!!) and sometimes based on looks. I am definitely a looks person – I struggle with trying new stuff when I don’t like how it looks. I am a cottage cheese lover and I have never considered it on pasta, so I am going to give this a try. Thanks for the post!!

  7. Gregory Stanton

    High-Protein, Low Fat Cheesecake. Is it as good as the “real thing”? Probably not, but it’s much healthier. You pack on muscle (if you work out) instead of flab:

    1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    3 tablespoons Splenda granular, plus 2 teaspoons
    12 oz. fat-free cottage cheese, softened at room temperature
    1 cup Eggbeaters
    1 reduced-fat graham cracker crust (Ready Crust or Ralphs)
    1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
    1 cup (or more!) fresh sliced strawberries

    1) Preheat the oven to 350°.

    Purée the cottage cheese in a blender or food processor until smooth,
    about a minute. Add the vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons of the Splenda
    and blend for about 15 more seconds.

    3) Add the cream cheese and
    blend 30 seconds more. If you are using a food processor, you don’t
    have to soften the cheese – just add it a bit at a time until it has
    been incorporated into the cottage cheese. Add the Eggbeaters and blend
    for another 45 seconds.

    4) Pour the mixture into the crust. You
    may end up with a little more filling than you need, so don’t over-fill.
    Bake for about 35 minutes.

    5) Remove the cheesecake from the
    oven. It will be a bit puffy, but will level as it cools. Let cool at
    room temperature for 15 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

    6) Whisk together the sour cream and remaining two teaspoons of Splenda together (I use a Magic Bullet).

    If you are taking the cheesecake to a party, spread the sour cream
    across the surface of the cake and arrange the strawberries on top. If
    you are serving the cake after dinner, slice the cake and divide between
    plates, then spoon some strawberries over each portion and garnish with
    a dollop of the sour cream.

    8 servings.

    Adapted from “Eating for Life” by Bill Phillips

  8. Kristina @ truffledogtravels

    Why low-fat? Low-fat is sooo last decade! Go all the way and you will love it!

  9. I’ve seen people suggest using it in place of ricotta when making lasagna. Even people besides Sandra Lee. Sandra’s boyfriend (Andrew Cuomo)’s mom seems to think it’s blasphemy. Being Italian, I tend to agree. But, I saw pointed out – I think it was by Kenji from Serious Eats – some people don’t have access to good ricotta and cottage cheese is better than what they have available. Maybe it’s more the Campbell’s tomato soup that makes Sandra Lee’s lasagna blasphemous…

  10. I think your initial feelings towards cottage cheese make sense based on growing up in a household where cheese was unpopular. It’s probably not the easiest gateway cheese. I grew up watching my parents and grandma eat it, so it seemed normal. If anyone had ever compared it to white barf when I was at a more impressionable age, I’d probably never have touched the stuff.

    Good job trying something new. :) I think that movie idea has promise, but Hilary Swank would need to play the character who ditches love for knitting.

  11. The problem is, you are looking at cottage cheese and thinking about what it looks like (white barf) and not what it is (creamy lowfat curds of cheese). You might check out Eckhart Tolle on Content. Just kidding. I do get the whole texture /visual thing. I don’t eat any meat because of it, which texture-visual food phobia to the extreme. I think your creation with herbs looks great!

  12. I go to school at Berkeley, and since it’s dead week and we don’t want to study, I’ve organized a cottage cheese tasting at my sorority. About 25 of us haven’t tried it, and the rest of my sisters have offered to doctor it up and serve it. Should be interesting…

  13. I just want to caution you. I will never read your blog again, because you use such crude phrases such as “wet, white barf” to describe cottage cheese. I have no idea how you can consider yourself a writer, and be so numb and disgusting. But the again, I’ll never have to experience your adolescent insensitivity again…

  14. Cottage cheese matzo meal pancakes: eggs, matzo meal, a little sugar, a little vanilla, and a blop of cottage cheese. Haven’t had these since I was a kid but I remember loving them.

  15. My mom used to use cottage cheese in lasagna. It’s what lasagna is supposed to be to me, although I use ricotta most of the time, now. Still, sometimes, I make it the way it’s supposed to be.

  16. i love it mixed with cinnamon and sugar, and cinnamon sugar cottage cheese pasta is like a healthier version of noodle kugel. it’s also great with preserves.

  17. For the record, you REALLY don’t have to whip it. The curds melt. It’s like magic. Or cheese. One of the two. :)

  18. I do like cottage cheese, but Daisy brand (you can buy it here in L.A.) is an excellent alternative to the watered down Knudsen variety.

    I actually had to McGuyver something last week where cottage cheese saved the day. I’d purchased a box of gorgeous strawberries and decided to make a strawberry galette. I really wanted a cheesecake layer under the berries but didn’t have cream cheese. I mixed 50/50 cottage cheese (2%, natch) and plain, Greek yogurt (0%!) in my mini food processor, added powdered sugar, lots of lemon zest and an egg yolk. I spread this over the galette dough, put the macerated berries on top, folded over the pastry galette style and baked. To say it was divine was an understatement. Truly tasted like strawberry cheesecake, and it was relatively healthy thanks to the low fat cottage cheese and fat free yogurt. Who knew?

    Glad you’ve crossed over to the lumpy side.

  19. I can’t stand American cottage cheese- but if you ever go to Israel (which I hope you do!) you must must must try their cottage cheese. Its light years different and absolutely delicious. Your pasta looks good though. :-)

  20. My mom always used cottage cheese instead of ricotta in lasagna. I like the stuff, myself, but was blown away by the difference when we stared buying the full fat, large curd version to feed to the kids when they were first eating solids. Completely different, much tastier animal. Circumvents most of the texture issues that people usually have with cottage cheese.

  21. Since I have finished reading through the previous comments, I’d just like to point out (again) that cottage cheese really varies from brand to brand and according to fat content. Since I don’t know how available Cowgirl Creamery products are in LA, and I expect Israeli cottage cheese is even harder (if not impossible) to find there, pick the one that the SF Chronicle picked that is readily available at all Safeway stores, 4% Lucerne. I prefer the large curd. As a cottage cheese lover I’ve compared it against Knudsen’s, Trader Joe’s, Berkeley Farms, Tillamook, Crystal and Daisy and found it superior to all in varying degrees, and far, FAR superior to Knudsen’s bottom of the barrel “white puke,” as you called it.

    Where cottage cheese is concerned, Knudsen’s either needs to reformulate their cottage cheese recipe or quit trying. Mixing whey into the cream or milk that holds the curds together is why it looks so awful, I’m guessing. But it’s only their first of many mistakes.

  22. Maureen, Milwaukee

    Don’t worry if you don’t like cottage cheese. It’s so incredibly high in sodium that lots of people (us baby-boomer types) are now giving it up. See – you were smarter than you knew!

  23. Cottage cheese always grossed me out, too — slimy, salty, weird tang — until I tried Friendship Dairies’s no salt added variety. It reminds me of fresh ricotta. Great with honey, fruit, etc.

  24. Marko, Croatia

    I usually mix it with italian pesto and put on the pasta. Or i mix it with some pressed garlic, chopped scallion and paprika and then use it as spread on some dark bread

  25. Juliana, Brazil

    you made me laugh reading about cottage cheese – which, by the way, i love. i’ll try this recipe tonight! yey! thanks!

  26. Hi Adam, kind of late to the party on this, but I had some cottage cheese left over from a a spinach gratin I made a couple of weeks ago {a riff on a recipe from Deborah Madison — it’s surprisingly good when mixed with eggs and regular cheese and stirred into greens and then baked}. Today I used some of the leftovers to make cottage cheese pancakes, which I think you might like: Combine two eggs, a big dollop of cottage cheese, a little salt, sugar and vanilla, then stir in enough matzo meal to make a thick batter. Drop by tablespoons into hot oil and brown on both sides.

    I used to eat these as a kid and adored them, and I still do.

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