Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Lasagne

Since childhood Easter has always meant spring dresses (usually with parkas over them), a forsythia branch decorated with egg ornaments, and lasagna. I knew nothing else; my Italian-descended family always made lasagna, and my friends in the strongly-Italian town I grew up in also had the same tradition. When I first got married, Bryan asked what we were doing for our first Easter together. I responded that I thought I'd make the traditional Easter meal. "Great," he responded, "I love ham!" Ham?! What? Who on earth has ham on Easter, I sputtered. "No, lasagna is the traditional Easter dish." Now it was Bryan who was dumbfounded. "Lasagna?" Clearly he had no idea of real traditions. We looked at each other quizzically. We explained our respective holiday menus and activities with amusement and settled on the lasagna. I was cooking, after all. I continued to shake my head; "Ham. That will never catch on," I said.

My Easter lasagna goes something like this:

about 2 pounds of the freshest ricotta cheese you can find
a couple good-sized, fresh balls of mozzarella, chopped
about a cup of freshly grated parmigiano cheese
an egg
salt and pepper
a clove or two of minced garlic
Mix it all together.

about 3-4 cups of marinara sauce (I make my own, of course)
1-2 boxes lasagna pasta (don't even bother with the no-boil variety; I've tried them and they turn to to mush when they bake.)

Cook the lasagna noodles just until they're bendable. Don't cook them to al dente or they'll be mushy after the baking time. Layer marinara sauce, pasta, and cheese, ending with sauce on top of a pasta layer. You can add a layer of ground meat (mixture of sausage and ground beef is best) if you desire, but I usually forgo it on Easter as we serve a meat course. Cover and bake at 400 for about an hour, uncovering about half-way through. Remove from the oven and let set about 15-20 minutes before cutting and serving.

copyright 2006 Valerie Schneider