Friday, March 13, 2009

Tonight Is All About Mom

I spent the better part of today with my feet up in the air. And I'd appreciate if you'd get your mind out of that gutter. I sprained my right ankle yesterday afternoon, and the medical experts (i.e., WebMD) agree that the key to a speedy recovery is elevating my softball-sized ankle above my chest. Ice and ibuprofen are also recommended. Sauvignon blanc probably is, too, but I gave it up for Lent. Next year for Lent, I'm giving up spraining my ankle.

Nevertheless, I'm a mom, and as long as I still have my hands and senses about me, I'm in charge of everything that no one else wants to do. It also means I have the powers of prophecy. I can absolutely foretell that, in the next hour or so, someone's going to be bold enough to ask, "What's for dinner?"

Between you and me, it's lasagna.

For reasons that escape me, my kids aren't fans of lasagna. Sure, they manage when it's on the plate in front of them. I've even heard them choke out "thank you, that was good" when served lasagna at someone else's house. But at home, it's a dish that elicits an overly prolonged, overly vocal sigh. That single exhalation could inflate a small raft.

Too bad. I want lasagna. My ankle hurts, I can't have wine, the dog peed in the dining room and homemade lasagna's in the freezer. If the kids dare ask what we're eating tonight, I'm invoking "don't ask, don't tell."

I love lasagna and consider it a parental failing that the children don't share my enthusiasm. I learned to make it in college and still have an overblown sense of accomplishment when I sprinkle on that final layer of cheese. I bet you know what I'm talking about. Lasagna requires both culinary sensibility and architectural expertise. With 38 years of cooking and 10 years of Lego construction under my belt, I have both.

So lasagna it is. Lasagna -- and an ice pack.

No-Boil Lasagna With Sausage

1 lb. sweet italian sausages, casings removed
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large carrots, grated
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
(1 zucchini, grated, optional)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with puree
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 15-ounce containers of ricotta cheese
3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, beaten slightly
salt, pepper, nutmeg and dried oregano

Sauce (see above)
Filling (see above)
12 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan
4 cups grated mozzarella (or 1 lb, sliced)

Make sauce. Saute onion and sausages in hot oil, using large spoon to break up the sausage. (I sometimes simply grill the sausage and slice them.) Continue browning, adding garlic, carrots, (zucchini, if using) and herbs. When all vegetables are soft, stir in remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer at least 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Make filling. Thoroughly mix all filling ingredients in a large bowl, using hands if necessary.

Preheat oven to 375.

Assemble lasagna. Spray a 13x9 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread 1 cup of sauce in bottom of dish. Arrange layer of 3 uncooked noodles on top. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of filling over noodles, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella and 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Repeat layering two more times. Top with another layer of noodles, and spread remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Spray a large piece of foil with nonstick spray and use it to cover lasagna.

Bake 40 minutes, remove foil, increase oven to 400 and bake another 20 minutes, or until noodles are tender and sauce is very bubbly. Let rest 15-20 minutes before serving.

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