Reviving Old Traditions
Sundays are for relaxing with the family. I’m always looking for something cozy and comforting to put onto the table and Lasagna with Parmesan Cream Sauce always fits the bill. I love that I can put it together ahead of time and pop it into the oven shortly before everyone arrives.
My grandparents established our tradition of the Sunday supper many years ago. We’d often go to an Italian restaurant where the struggling-actor-turned-waiter greeted us with a hearty bona sera to which my grandfather would reply, at length, in fluent Italian.
The poor sap standing there, tongue-tied with his notepad and pen, struggling to respond to Papa was a hilarious sight. My self-taught multilingual grandfather jumped at any opportunity to engage in some lively conversation in Italian.
These days, we tend to favor eating at home over going out. Mom will treat us to Gormeh Sabzi, a classic herb stew fit for a Persian prince, as my father says. If I’m cooking, I opt for an easy crowd-pleaser that can be made ahead of time, something rustic like lasagna.
Italian nonnas would not be pleased with me as I’ve omitted the compulsory ricotta. In fact, there’s no cheese between the layers in my recipe. Hopefully, the luxurious béchamel topping amped up with grated parmesan will put me back into their good graces.
Lasagna with Parmesan Cream Sauce
Prep: 30 mins
Bake: 45 mins
3 Tb olive oil
1 large white onion
5-6 cloves garlic
2 lb pasture-raised ground beef
1/3 cup dry port or sherry
24 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
1 Tb tomato paste
1/2 cup water
2 bay leaves
4 slices prosciutto
2 Tb fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tb fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried
1 lb lasagna pasta
2 Tb butter
1/3 cup flour
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese + more for topping
pinch freshly ground nutmeg
Heat oil in large frying pan; cook onion, carrot, celery and garlic, stirring, until onion is soft.
Add beef; cook, stirring, until browned.
Add port/sherry and bring to the boil.
Stir tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, the water and bay leaves. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, about 1 hour or until mixture is thick.
Add sliced prosciutto and chopped herbs; cool slightly.
Meanwhile, make the béchamel sauce.
Melt butter in a saucepan.
Add flour and cook, stirring, until mixture bubbles and thickens. Gradually drizzle the milk a bit at a time and mix until it’s absorbed. Then add more.
Cook, stirring, over heat, until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat; add cheese and grate nutmeg over the mixture.
Cool 10 mins.
Preheat oven to 350*F.
Spread some meat sauce evenly on bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
Arrange lasagne sheets to fit dish; place in dish. Spread with half the meat sauce; drizzle with 1 cup of the cheese sauce. Repeat layering; top with remaining pasta sheets then spread with remaining cheese sauce and sprinkle with cheese.
Bake lasagne about 45 mins or until pasta is tender and is browned lightly.
Serve with a simple fresh salad and good chianti. Follow with tiramisu or affogato for a sweet finish with an Italian accent.
This lasagna recipe can be made ahead of time. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months and take it out in time for your dinner party. This is how effortless entertaining is done. Better yet, make two and freeze one for later, like the night before Christmas when you’ll be pulling an all-nighter, wrapping presents before little feet wobble down the stairs.