December 15, 2007

Cibo di benessere i celebrazione

Holiday foods.

They're the flavors, scents and memories without which it wouldn't much feel like Christmas. Or Chanukah. Or Kwanzaa. Or Solstice. Or whatever it is you celebrate this time of year.

They're a delightful delectable combination of flavors that provide both a sense of comfort and an aura of celebration. They're comfortable and familiar, warm and inviting and yet they never fail to deliver that sense of "this is special". They're the culinary equivalent of coming home.

For some of you the quintessential holiday food is the main course: the turkey, the ham, the roast beast around which you gather your loved ones to celebrate. Others lean toward the sweet side: pumpkin pie, holiday cookies,or a buche de noel. Or perhaps it's the vegetables of the season, whether they appear on your table as latkes, beet salad, roasted brussels sprouts, or green bean casserole.

For me, it's lasagna.

Growing up, I took lasagna for granted; my dad made it all the time. Sometimes he'd add mushrooms, onions, and zucchini for a vegetarian. Others he used the same secret combination of ground beef, veal and pork that made his meatballs magnificent. But always there was ricotta. Always there was marinara. And always there was besciamella.

So when I spied "vegetarian lasagna" on the menu at the dorm early in my freshman year of college, I thought I was in for a real treat and I loaded up my plate.

'What?' I choked down my first bite. 'This isn't lasagna. It's an impostor -- a melange of mushy leftover vegetables, smothered in canned tomato sauce and covered with cardboard disguised as pasta.'

I chucked the rest and disgusted, headed to the salad bar. And when I talked to dad that night, I made him promise me that next to the Thanksgiving turkey there'd be a lasagna with my name on it.

And thus began a holiday tradition. For the next 15 years, if we were celebrating something -- anything -- as a family, there was a lasagna in attendance. Lasagna became food-code for home, for happy, and for love.

Over the last several years, I've reproduced many of my family's traditional dishes in my "adult kitchen."

But not the lasagna.

Until now.

In September I discovered Maryann's Ricotta e Besciamella Lasagna and I knew instantly it was going to be the perfect canvas on which to experiment. So this weekend I took a deep breath, gathered the ingredients and took the dive. I prepared it as published, adding a layer of sauteed Italian sausage tossed with toasted pine nuts and shredded Parmesan. I was surprised at how easy it was to prepare... the hardest part was the waiting.

My dinner guests loved it. And I'll enjoy the leftovers for lunch all week.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mo would have been proud. Thank you Maryann, for giving me the tools, the technique and the confidence to live up to his legend and share his love.

In the archives: A year ago today, I was sniffling & sneezing.

More praise for Maryann's luscious lasagna from Kimberly Ann of Nostalgic Homemaking.

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Peabody said...

My husband would possibly kill for this Dolores...such cheesy goodness!

breadchick said...

Dolores, my family tradition the December 23 is to sit down to a big pan of lasagna, normally Stouffers since no one wants to make it by hand but I may just have to take this recipe with me when I leave and force them to sit down to homemade yummy goodness!

Cheryl said...

I would love lasagna for the holidays. I'm sure I will just be stuck with ham.

Anonymous said...

awww Dolores, your post made me smile. I'm so happy your lasagna came out good and your guests enjoyed it. You gave me a nice feeling. Thank you :)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

My friend Sue & her husband have a Christmas lasagna tradition!
I'm going to save this one it looks divine. Great story about dorm lasagna!

Barbara said...

Lasagna has been our family's traditional Christmas dinner since the mid 70's. It's just not Christmas without it. (Well that and watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation)

Bellini Valli said...

Wouldn't I love to have this lasagna on my table. Tonight though is our traditional Cheese Fondue and Chocolate Fondue. Have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends, eat plenty of lasagna and savour all the love, peace, happiness and contentment.

Molly Loves Paris said...

For over 20 years I've been making lasagna for my family's fancy Christmas Eve dinner, but this is the first time I've heard of other people doing so. I make it from scratch and use uncooked sheets of pasta. Every year I add a secret ingredient that everyone tries to detect. For example, last year I had two layers of chocolate pasta. The hardest part each year is remembering how I layer it. But I never make lasagna at any other time of the year. Maybe I should. I could start with your recipe. Happy New Year!

Katie B. said...

I chose this for my Taste & Create recipe and it was just amazing!! Thanks so much!!