When my grandmother was growing up, Sunday was pasta-making day. Box pasta was not allowed in her household, both because of her family’s pride and because it was much more economical to make their own. After church each week, her cousins, aunts and uncles who lived in the area would gather at her house to indulge in homemade pasta—tagliatelle, ravioli, and cavatelli, to name a few.
Lasagna was saved for the holidays, which her entire family of 17 people spent together. It was the most sensible dish for such occasions because it was relatively cheap to make but fed more than enough mouths. Grandma’s memories of lasagna take her back to “love and happiness” and spending time with her relatives in the Bronx. When she moved away from home, she couldn’t bring herself to make it for other people. She finally gave into Gramps’ begging and made it for the first time for him because it was his favorite dish. “Imagine that! An Irishman brought lasagna back into our lives,” she pointed out.
Now that my grandma and her cousins live all over the country, lasagna and memories of those days spent around the family table hold them close to each other. Since my grandma has been making this lasagna for decades, you can probably guess that she doesn’t need to use a recipe, but she recorded it just for you. I hope you enjoy it, whether you choose to make it for your next family gathering or to keep it all to yourself.
Grandma Dolores’ Lasagna Recipe
As you know, everyone has their own special way of making lasagna (also called lasagne) and their own special ingredients. Here’s one of the ways that I make mine—my favorite.
Preheat oven to 350. This is going to cook for at least one hour, then it will rest for at least one-half hour, and then it has to get popped back into the over for 10 to 15 minutes.
2 quarts meat sauce (Italians call it “gravy,” and contrary to what some people say, it truly is gravy because it’s tomato sauce with meat in it). If you don’t make your own, I recommend Ragu 7-herb because it is very flavorful—just thin out with a little bit of water.
12-16 pieces lasagna pasta (I prefer the “no boil” since it’s just as good but much easier)
2/3 lbs. ricotta, either whole or part skim
1 lb. mozzarella, shredded
1/4-1/2 lb. peccorino romano cheese, grated
2-3 eggs, beaten (1 for each lb. ricotta)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped or dried
8 meatballs or 1/2 lb. seasoned and cooked ground meat, cooked and crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
Mix together the ricotta, eggs, ¾ lb. mozzarella, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.
In a lasagna or large baking pan, spread enough sauce to coat the bottom. Lay out lasagna pasta to cover the bottom—no need to overlap. Coat the pasta with sauce, spoon on ½ (if using 2 lbs) or 1/3 (if using 3 lbs.) of ricotta mixture, crumbled meat, and then sprinkle on a little more tomato sauce. Repeat the process. Top with a layer of pasta and cover it with sauce, making sure to cover every inch of the pasta or it will dry out and burn. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and cook for one hour. The final layer of mozzarella is not put on now because it will dry out.
Take the pan out of the oven and leave it on top of the stove for at least 30 minutes to rest. Right before you’re ready to serve, put the lasagna back into the oven for about 10 minutes to heat up, remove from oven, remove aluminum foil, sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the top, and cover loosely with foil so until mozzarella melts. Wait about 10 minutes and it’s ready to serve and enjoy.
Side note: my mom and I made this recipe using gluten-free pasta and it was just as delicious!