Apologies for the uninspired portrait of this lasagna; it was taken in haste as it came out of the oven and sat for a few minutes while we gathered plates and forks and tore off paper towels in lieu of napkins for everyone around the table who had come to celebrate Mike’s birthday.
W chose lasagna for dinner, and the next day my friend Emily Richards’ beautiful new cookbook arrived in the mail – a book of recipes from the kitchens of her extended Italian family. When I make a lasagna – not that I have for ages – I generally make a big pot of meaty tomato sauce, grate piles of mozzarella and then wing it, starting with tomato sauce spooned over the bottom of the pan, then noodles, more sauce, spoonfuls of ricotta, grated cheese, and so on. I used fresh lasagna sheets this time, which are as inexpensive as dried noodles if not as convenient to keep stashed in your cupboard, but are a dream to work with – there’s no boiling and handling slippery noodles, or crunchy edge from the no-boil kind that didn’t manage to get adequately covered with sauce.
Emily is a fantastic cook and a solid recipe writer, and excels in the realm of Italian home cooking; when she came to visit this summer, she brought me a gnocchi board handmade by her dad, and deftly mixed and shaped a batch for dinner one night as we hung out in the kitchen. If I went out looking for a lasagna recipe, there’s no one I’d trust more.
Fortuitously, I had just simmered a big batch of fresh tomato sauce in the slow cooker, and cooked up a bunch of ground beef and Italian sausage that needed cooking. I followed her direction fairly loosely (I think I added more ricotta), but in the end was layers of meaty sauce, ricotta, grated cheese and fresh pasta sheets, baked as per her instructions, and it came together like a dream.