IN TIMES gone by, it was Mother's Day that called for nudging the children into cooking a meal to give the Everyday Cook a day off. Or Dad took over the unfamiliar territory, stumbling around the kitchen to produce his once-a-year dinner. These days, though, men shop and men cook; Dad is likely to be as comfortable in the kitchen as on the tennis court. So for Father's Day the family might consider giving him a vacation from his homely tasks and producing a meal that can be whipped together after a family afternoon out and a quick trip through the express lane (all the better if it is in an Italian market, where the sausage and spaghetti sauce might be homemade). Even if Dad hasn't done his supermarketing for a week, though, he probably has on hand a little salt and pepper, oil or butter.

This meal can serve eight for a party or--in order to give Dad two days off--serve a family of four for Father's Day and again for mid-week leftovers. The casserole reheats well, and a squeeze of lemon or a dash of vinegar turns the cold asparagus into a salad. EXPRESS LANE LIST: ground beef, sausage, noodles, spaghetti sauce, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, asparagus. ITALIAN NOODLE CASSEROLE (8 servings) 1 pound ground hot sausage or 1/2 pound hamburger and 1/2 pound sausage 8 ounces egg noodles 32 ounces spaghetti sauce 12 ounces cottage cheese 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese Salt and pepper to taste

Brown sausage in a skillet. Drain. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain. Stir together the sausage, noodles and spaghetti sauce. Spoon 1/2 of this mixture into a buttered 14-by-22-inch casserole. Spread the cottage cheese over this layer and cover with remaining mixture. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Adapted from "Charlottesville Cooks for Compliments" STIR-FRIED ASPARAGUS (8 servings) 2 pounds asparagus, cleaned 2 tablespoons oil or butter Salt and pepper to taste

Slice asparagus thinly on the diagonal. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok and saute' asparagus over moderately high heat, stirring and tossing constantly, for a few minutes until tender-crisp. If you prefer the asparagus less crisp, cover pan and continue cooking on low heat for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.