One of the most powerful food memories I have from growing up was after one of my grandparents passed away. In the days that followed, friends and neighbors would stop by the house to offer their condolences, and many brought food for our family. From pasta to casseroles to cookies, our home was suddenly flooded with one of the most intimate forms of human affection: food sharing.
If you pause to think about it, food sharing is one of the most selfless acts that a human can do, which is why it is the basis of so many parts of our lives. Weddings, birthdays, courtship, and celebrations seem to always be marked by people gathering and breaking bread together. Food sharing has been the focus of many anthropological studies and has raised many evolutionary questions about how this altruistic behavior originated.
So, when I learned of a loved one spending some time in the hospital, I immediately wanted to show how I cared for them and their family. While flowers and cards are nice, I remembered the way I felt opening the fridge as a kid and seeing those gifts of food. Because I knew the family would be spending long days at the hospital, and that grocery shopping and cooking would be a low priority, I decided to make a lasagna.
Despite being Irish, I feel like I cook a mean lasagna. While many Italian purists will likely turn up their nose at some of my ingredient choices, I feel like my finished product will stand toe-to-toe with Nonna’s lasagna. Plus, mine is easier to make.
Easy Lasagna Recipe
1 lb ground beef or sausage (I prefer hot Italian sausage)
1 package No-Bake lasagna noodles (I like Barilla)
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 32 oz jar of sauce (I like Francesco Rinaldi)
1 can of diced tomatoes (preferably in sauce)
2 cups Italian cheese blend (something like Sargento’s 6 Cheese Blend)
2 cups of shredded mozzarella
salt, pepper, garlic power, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper to taste
For assembly, I simply followed the directions on the back of the Barilla box. Brown & drain the meat. Combine eggs, ricotta, and blended cheese. It’s at this point that I’ll add my dried herbs and seasoning. I really like crushed red pepper, so I’ll had a solid teaspoon. I also combine the sauce and tomatoes in a bowl, and I’ll add some olive oil.
Then layer in a pan according to the box directions and bake. Protip: spray the underside of the aluminum foil with non-stick spray; this will keep the cheese from sticking to it and peeling off. I personally like to had another handful of cheese after I remove the foil. I’ll also had parsley to the top for some color.
The cheese on top is gooey, the flavors marry well, and it is one of those dishes that not only holds up well as leftovers, but seems to get better a day later.