Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Recipe and Story: Super Easy Lasagna and Neighborly Love

18 July 2012

Now, normally when I show someone neighborly love in edible form it is through my personal forte: baked goods. However, tonight's culinary project was different as it was the joint project of two chefs: my mother and myself.

My mother's area of expertise is Italian food. She has been trained by my grandmother, whose mother immigrated to America from Italy, so it is more than just dinner to our family. It is tradition and pride. You can tell when my mom makes any Italian dish-- her focus is unshakeable, and her resolute movements around the kitchen speak of her wisdom. These are the things I secretly notice while we cook that make me love the experience.

The occasion for this endeavor? The first family I ever met when we moved here three years ago is in a time of need, so what better idea than to send Rachel with a hearty tray of lasagna to the rescue! You see, the mother of the family is in a wheelchair due to a broken hip after taking a nasty fall, so, needless to say, making dinner is not as easy a task as it was before.

So, here it is: the super-easy lasagna recipe so you can spread the neighborly love too!

Spread the Love Lasagna 
**Note: As this is a family recipe, it has not ever been formally written down before. (Yeah, you're just that special!) So, measurements are approximations-- we tend to just "eyeball it."**

Make in the Morning Sauce: 
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • 1 lb of ground pork
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 large cans of tomato paste
  • 1 large can of tomato sauce
  1. Sautee diced onion in about 2 TBSP olive oil in large sauce pan
  2. Once onions are very lightly browned, cover with water and add the ground meats
  3.  Add the cans of tomato sauce and paste
  4. Rinse the tomato sauce can with water, and add the tomato-ey water to the mixture
  5. Add 1 TBSP of salt, 9 bay leaves, a pinch of cayenne red pepper, and cover the entire pan with garlic powder (mints after this meal are a good idea... we like our garlic!)
  6. Mix well, bring to a boil, and then lower heat and simmer for 8 hours
 The Lasagna Itself:
  • 1 lb box of lasagna noodles
  • 1 tin of part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 bags of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tin of grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Boil the lasagna noodles by following the box instructions. Rinse with cool water, and prepare for lasagna assembly!
  2. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a deep 9x13 pan (it stops the noodles from sticking), and lay three noodles lengthwise to cover the bottom of the pan.
  3. There are two kinds of layers you will use in this lasagna. Alternate them until you run out of noodles (the top layer will be different from the body layers... more on that later!) 
Layer #1 (pictured on top) is ricotta cheese mixture (which is made from the tub of ricotta cheese, 1 egg, and a generous sprinkling of garlic powder), sauce, and Parmesan cheese (in that order).  Layer #2 (pictured on bottom) is sauce, Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese (again, in that order). Use only one package of mozzarella when making the body layers (the other package is for the special top layer).

    So, once you reach the top, you get to make the special top layer, or as I like to call it Layer #2.5 .  In reality, it's not much different than Layer #2, other than the fact that the entire second bag of mozzarella is used on this layer alone (as is shown in the super cheesy masterpiece below).

    Now to bake it! All it takes is 45 minutes to 1 hour (or whenever the cheese on top is melted) in a 350 degree oven, and mama mia! you have yourself a delicious tray of lasagna to share!

    **Chef's notes (or little tid bits my mom adds when I try to make this thing on my own):
    • Be generous with all the ingredients when assembling the lasagna, but the most important ingredient to pile on is sauce. Nobody likes a dry piece of lasagna!!
    • You will have extra sauce to use as you please. We put it on spaghetti squash, which makes a great, healthy alternative to spaghetti. Yum!
    • You can freeze the tray of lasagna, and just pop it in the oven once it's thawed, making this dish especially practical. I can always remember my mom making it in advance before guests came over, then just popping it in the oven once they arrived.

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