A Dish for All Occasions
Ahh . . . lasagna! What tasty memories you bring. I made my first Italian dish (other than spaghetti) in the 60s. At the time, I’d never travelled out of the country any farther than Quebec, so it gave me a feeling of being an culinary adventuress.
The Wisdom of a Well-Worn Cookbook
The recipe came from the red and white-checkered Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I recently looked at its timeworn pages and found the recipe tattered and torn from its three-hole binder. The page was dotted with smears from lasagnas’ past and the red titles on the recipes faded and unreadable.
More Than One Way to Shape a Lasagna
Since that first lasagna, I’ve test driven other recipes. Some added vegetables (thin slices of sautéed zucchini and chopped spinach).
Some had a blend of Italian sausage and ground beef. A recent one allowed for cooking in a skillet. I’ve always used my dedicated lasagna dish, that’s a bit wider than the traditional 9×13″ baking dish. It’s perfect for laying out the noodles.
Ricotta or Cottage Cheese?
No matter what recipe I try, I always return to my first love. Everything’s the same, except I’ve switched the cheese mixture ingredients. It originally called for ricotta or cottage cheese. But in Rolla during the 60s, ricotta was hard to come by and expensive. So, for years I made the cottage cheese version or a blend of the two cheeses.
I mentioned to my Sicilian friend, Nina, what I thought went into a well-fashioned lasagna. She scolded me roundly for using anything but ricotta.
“It’s not lasagna if you use cottage cheese,” she declared with enough authority to convince me to take her advice. I now use ricotta, which is a little harder to spread, but well worth the effort.
Hot, Cold, or Both?
So here’s my time-honored recipe. The one I’ve returned to whenever I’ve strayed. A recipe is unlikely to tell you it can be eaten cold. But this one can. I’ve seen my kids do it many a time with happy expressions while standing in front of an open refrigerator. Truth be know, I’ve, at times, had a small slice for breakfast.
A Lovin’ Dish
When I cook lasagna these days, I make the sauce ahead. Then all I have to do is cook the noodles while I’m assembling the ricotta mixture. (Pre-cooked lasagna noodles are available, but I stick with the old-fashioned ones.)
The recipe comes together quickly and kids love to help.
If you want to put some love on the table, lasagna will do it.
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