the dinner that started it all

It all started with left-over ricotta. On Saturday night (or maybe it was Friday or Sunday. who knows.), we made twice baked potatoes to go with meatloaf. (By the way, this meatloaf is one of four different meals made with a starter meat mixture. The greek meatballs and handpies are delish.) I’m not going to bother giving you the recipe for the potatoes because they were lame. But they called for ricotta. So we had some extra ricotta in the fridge. We poured over recipes looking for something that called for ricotta. By the way, there is a definite connection between spinach and ricotta in Italian cooking. I’m going to figure out what that is. The winning recipe - a lasagna - was scheduled for Monday night.

Monday night we had shrimp and grits. Tuesday night we went out for Thai food. Wednesday night we went out for Irish food. Just kidding. But we didn’t eat lasagna or ricotta. Thursday night, I finally made the lasagna. The recipe that my husband had picked out was in Marcella Hazen’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Page 215. Baked Green Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style. I cheated a bit. First, I didn’t make the green noodles, even though I love spinach noodles. I picked up some fresh, ready-made noodles at the market. Also, I didn’t make the Bolognese sauce referenced in the recipe (page 203 of the same cookbook). As a sidenote, I have since learned that one of the things Marcella Hazen was known for is that Bolognese. Will be trying that out next time. Anyway, I used some left-over sauce that I had in the freezer. Easy sauce, pretty tasty in a pinch. Great in the lasagna.

I did make the Béchamel sauce as directed on page 39. Note to self. Do not attempt to make Béchamel with two hungry three year olds clawing at your leg and no other adult present. It may not end well. In this case, however, my husband came home just in time to rescue the rest of the dinner. The Béchamel was amazing.

This recipe is a two-person deal. Unless you are making it in advance and not trying to keep your kids from eating their arms off. The recipe does say that everything can be made in advance. Haven’t tried it, but plan on it. Really, though, with the noodles and sauce pre-made, it only took the two of us 15 minutes to put together plus 15 minutes of cooking. We skipped the double-boiler, keep the béchamel warm thing. If you did this, it would be a one person operation. I just kept stirring while my husband prepared the noodles and the pan. We also did not have enough pasta to make the requisite six layers, but suspect we would have had we followed the actual recipe. We ended up with four layers, and we added fresh spinach between layers to make up for the lack green noodles. We baked it at 450⁰ rather than 400⁰ (we also live at 5,000 feet). It looked kind of pathetic but it was awesome. Go out right now and get this cookbook. We will use it again, I promise.

And when you make it, don’t write to me and ask me when to add the ricotta. There isn’t any in the recipe. I finally had to throw away that left-over ricotta in my fridge.