Thursday, July 08, 2010

Appetite For Life: Lasagna with love

My first article for the Leander Ledger. The second one is being published in today's paper. :)

Friday, June 25, 2010 | Special to the Ledger

Many families have strong traditions. One that I inherited from both sides of my own family is a love of food and cooking. My childhood memories abound with images of family and food together marking major holidays and small get-togethers.
My grandfather and I baked cakes and made sandwich salads (egg, tuna, etc.). I helped my grandmother make peanut butter fudge. I also remember helping my father make pancakes and scrambled eggs on Sunday mornings. And, with my mother and my aunt, I learned to make many other delights.
One of my favorite things about family recipes is the stories behind them. When I was a child, my father would make from-scratch lasagna on special occasions with its own unique flavor. As I got older, I learned that the unique flavor was because he used cheddar cheese instead of ricotta.
About a year ago, I asked Dad for his recipe. Along with it, he related the story of how the lasagna came to be made with cheddar cheese instead of ricotta.
“I first used cheddar cheese,” he said, “because I did not know what ricotta cheese was and the grocery store did not have it in stock. In other words, the cheddar cheese was an accident. This was when I shared an apartment with a friend right after I got out of the Navy. I was 25 years old. I invited Grandma and Grandpa over to eat some if it and your Grandpa loved it.” He added, “A long time ago.”
Isn’t it funny how great recipes are often created from lack of ingredients or other such circumstances? What was once just a dish I really enjoyed is now a wonderful family story that I can share each time I serve Dad’s lasagna to my friends. It reminds me of my grandparents, it reminds me of my childhood and it reminds me of family traditions.
I hope all of you that love food, and cooking, as much as I do will take the time to ask your parents, grandparents and friends the stories behind their signature recipes. You might be surprised how much that story will add to your enjoyment of the dish the next time you serve it. If it’s your own story, write it down when you pass your favorite recipe on to someone else. Continue the thread of family, food and traditions.

Baked Lasagna Casserole

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion minced
1 clove garlic chopped
1 teaspoon parsley chopped
2 tbs. olive oil
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces Lasagna
2 eggs
3/4 pound ricotta or creamed cottage cheese (my Dad uses cheddar)
3/4 pound sliced Mozzarella
2 cans tomato paste — (6 oz.)
grated Parmesan Cheese

In a large heavy pan, brown ground beef in oil with onion, garlic, and parsley. Add tomato paste, 2 cups water, salt, pepper and simmer for one hour.
Meanwhile, cook lasagna as directed on package. Mix together eggs and ricotta, cottage or cheddar cheese. In a 13” X 9” X 2” baking pan spread about 1/2 cup of sauce, then alternate layers of lasagna, sauce, cheese and egg mixture, and mozzarella until baking pan is filled. Top with sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees about 20 minutes. Makes 8 servings.


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