Lasagna is something of a Christmas tradition in Tim’s family, and meaty tomato sauce is one in mine, so last weekend we combined the two for a meaty, cheesy lasagna good enough for a festive family gathering on Christmas Day. We spent most of the afternoon making it—first the sauce and then assembling the lasagna layers—and probably only 20 to 30 minutes sitting down to eat, but the added blessing the prep process gave us was stories of Tim’s childhood and memories of my grandma, the kinds of things that come up when you smell tomato sauce cooking on the stove. My grandma died in 1999 and Tim’s mom in 2002 but I swear when we are chopping garlic and boiling noodles, there’s this undeniable comfort that comes from the familiar scents and sounds and flavors you once shared with someone who is now gone. Maybe this is the whole point of traditions, holiday or otherwise: we’re creating landmarks for ourselves so that someday, when we’re far away from this place or that person, we can feel a little more anchored and moored because here is something we used to do with them and even though that’s changed, this shared thing has somehow stayed the same.
The ricotta filling in this recipe is a nod to Tim’s Aunt Joyce, whose lasagna he’s always loved.
1 batch Mama’s meat sauce (or your favorite red sauce), warmed on stove
for ricotta filling:
30 ounces ricotta cheese
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup shredded Pecorino cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
for other layers:
1 12-ounce package organic lasagna noodles (we like this brand), boiled
1 12-ounce container fresh mozzarella cheese
Grated Pecorino cheese, enough to cover tray of lasagna
Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium-sized bowl, combine ricotta filling ingredients.
Take a 9 X 13 pan and add a very thin layer of meat sauce to the bottom. Add a layer of boiled lasagna noodles. Add about a third of the ricotta filling, spreading it over the noodles. Add a little bit of mozzarella cheese and then another layer of meat sauce. Repeat twice. Then, on the uppermost layer above noodles, switch up the order by adding sauce, then enough grated Pecorino to top the pan and then mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 45 minutes, until golden and firm on top. Serve with leftover meat sauce.