Christmas is a time of sharing and many times; this includes the sharing of food, be it a tray of cookies delivered to a neighbor or a New Year’s luncheon. I did not deliver any goods to the neighbors this year; the atmosphere was damp, and the cookies and caramels I made were a disappointment. I did, however, have success when we hosted friends on the 2nd for a New Year’s luncheon. It had been years since we had entertained in a special way, and I was thrilled to discover that I could still put together a complicated menu and get it on the table in good order.
Lasagne. A recipe that I have been making for about 40 years. When I moved into my first apartment as a sophomore in college, I created a cookbook binder for myself, copying my mother’s recipes. This lasagne recipe was one of them. Years later, when I asked my mother about the recipe, she said she had no memory of ever making the recipe and had no idea where she had found it, suggesting that I had found the recipe on my own.
This past weekend, we were told to brace for a major snowstorm. A major storm here in Rhode Island is around six inches. As seasoned Wisconsinites, we did not panic but looked forward to the possibility of snow, and I thought it would be the perfect time to raid the freezer and get out the container of lasagne meat, grab the pie crust left over from Christmas, and finally get the apples out of the basement fridge where they have been waiting since Thanksgiving. Lasagne and apple pie for dinner.
This dish has become a freezer staple in our family. Baking a pan, cutting it into squares, and freezing the individual squares, ready to pull out as needed. This dish was a favorite of our babysitter, Kimmiebabsit (to differentiate her from Kimmie Cousin), and she was always happy when she saw that I had pulled a few pieces out of the freezer for her dinner.
Wherever the recipe originated, I have made it my own over the years. One of the first things I did was to replace the pork with first, ground veal, then ground turkey. Both are delicious. I use 1% milk-fat cottage cheese and increase the amount of mozzarella. It’s all about balance.
I have resolved that 2024 is the year that I get a handle on my mother’s paper. Her paid bill file and her medical bills were all quickly “filed” in the recycle bin. This past weekend, I started going through her recipe binders. As her vision faded with macular degeneration, she created new binders with the recipes in a larger and larger font. Favorite recipes in more than one place. A treasure was finding the sheets from her very first binder, her handwriting strong and confident, and the cooking splatters clearly marking favorite recipes. Included in this pile was the lasagne recipe. Not covered with splatters – so maybe this was just a recipe that she collected but never made?
In addition to the handwritten recipes, I brought her much-deteriorated 1969 copy of the Betty Crocker Cookbook downstairs to look through. Looking for indications of a recipe that she had tried, liked, and even become a family favorite. And there it was on page 292, “Lasagne.” Turning to my own 1987 copy of the cookbook, a lasagne recipe is found on page 54. Similar, but not the same. Updates do not always make for an improved recipe. I will stick with the 1969 version.
While we did not get a lot of snow, it was enough to feel cozy with a fire in the fireplace, lasagne baking in the oven, and the promise of a slice of apple pie to finish the meal.