Father’s Day & Lasagna

2016-05-12 14.58.28My family may not have any Italian roots (I should know, I just got our AncestryDNA results), but nothing describes my dad quite like a big pan of lasagna. It probably wasn’t passed down generation to generation but my dad’s lasagna recipe is carefully written on a stained index card in my dad’s block letters. It’s a hearty but simple meal that takes patience and love to bring together. Lasagna is a dish that gets made once a year or less in our house, so you know when the sheet noodles and Italian sausage come out it’s a special day. These days with fewer people in my parents’ household, one on a diet and two who are lactose intolerant, lasagna is an endangered species.

I wasn’t planning to celebrate Father’s Day with my dad until Monday when the restaurant traffic would die down and we could go enjoy a meal together without anyone stressing over the stove. My dad isn’t the kind of person you can buy a tool or a tie for. The most valuable things you can give him are time together and homemade food. We already had the time part in mind with dinner out but when I woke up this I couldn’t help but feel I was missing something. Still in bed, I browsed Pinterest for inspiration when I remembered my dad’s lasagna. So I quickly texted my mother for the recipe…and continued texting her all day for advice, as I usually do when I’m cooking something new. It turned out great, you can find the recipe below.

A few hours later I ended up with 3 small pans of lasagna to freeze for whenever dad wants it. I also picked up a bag of his favorite local potato chips and this afternoon I received a message from my mother warning me that my dad saw the picture of homemade cupcakes I shared on social media. I can’t wait to see him tomorrow to give him his bag of goodies! I hope you had the chance to make special memories with a father figure in your life this Father’s Day!

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Dad’s Lasagna
Serves 12

1-1.5 lbs Italian sausage
10 oz lasagna noodles (not the “no-boil” variety)
2 cups fresh ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2T dried parsley flakes
2 beaten eggs
2t salt
1/2t ground pepper
1lb sliced mozzarella

For sauce: (or you can buy 40-60 oz your favorite sauce)
1 clove garlic
1T chopped fresh basil
1/2 t salt
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
2 6-oz cans tomato paste

Begin by putting a stock pot of water on to boil. While the water is coming to a boil brown the sausage in a skillet and spoon off the excess fat.

Add either the sauce or the sauce ingredients to the pan to simmer for 30 minutes. Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions while the sauce is simmering.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine 2c ricotta and the next 5 ingredients in a bowl.

Remove the sauce from the heat and allow it to cool. Prepare a 9×13 baking pan for the lasagna. It can help to spray the pan to avoid stray cheese sticking.

Layer the elements in the baking sheet beginning with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom to prevent sticking. Then add a layer of noodles, overlapping slightly and going all the way to the edge of the pan. You can always cut and tear noodles to make everything fit snugly. Next add a layer of 1/2 the ricotta mixture, an offset spatula can really help with this. Then comes  a layer of mozzarella.

Repeat with a second layer of each ingredient. If you have any extra sauce add it before the last layer of mozzarella. You will probably have some lasagna noodles leftover but you should use all the ricotta and sauce.

Bake at 375 for 45-60 minutes. If the top layer of mozzarella begins to brown too much cover the pan with foil until it is finished baking. Another option is to wait and add the last layer of mozzarella in the last 15 minutes of baking. Allow it to stand 10 minutes before serving.

If you plan to freeze the lasagna, freeze it before you bake it. If you can’t eat the whole pan of lasagna within a couple of days then use smaller pans and freeze the rest uncooked.

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