Lasagna Time

Papa Joe is an excellent cook! I don’t think I’ve ever had anything he has made I didn’t like. He has been a great teacher as well. Some day I hope to feel as confident as he does in just grabbing some things and whipping it up into a treat of a meal.

When we were planning out what my birthday dinner would be, I wasn’t sure what I wanted. Usually the birthday person in our family chooses the restaurant to which to go for the birthday dinner. Going out wasn’t speaking to me. Then at one of our dinner’s, Papa Joe said he’d like to make lasagne together. I was all for it as I’ve been wanting to learn how to make it, and it also would be the first time the husband would also get to have some.

It was decided Papa Joe would bring the dinner fixings and I would be in charge of the dessert. An apple dessert was on my mind. One of my baking magazines had apples as the featured ingredient for the month. After looking at several potentials, I landed on an apple bread pudding. This was partly inspired by the bread pudding dessert we ate at a gala on Friday evening. Finding challah bread turned out to be a challenge, needing to use brioche as a substitute. I made some vanilla ice cream to go with bread pudding too.

Early afternoon on Sunday Papa Joe arrived with the ingredients for lasagne and anti-pasta salad. He even brought his own pots and pans. I had to make a joke about him doing so. In the end though, the joke was on me, those pots and pans came in handy.

Putting the box full of ingredients on the table, we began to disassemble and assemble for the task ahead. Once every thing lasagne related was in one place, and the anti-pasta items in the fridge, I took a picture. My goal when learning a new dish with Papa Joe is to take several pictures to create the recipe later. All of it is in his head, so I put it all together on “paper” because, as much as I love to cook and bake, I do much better with something written down.

We started by putting the sausages in the oven to bake. While they were in the oven, we started on the hamburger. It was cooked over a medium heat until it was browned. Draining the juices off, a little bit of it was saved in case we needed it later.

Next up was the sauce. The whole tomatoes needed to be broken up, so in went my hands to squish and squash them about. As I was doing the squishing, Papa Joe was adding several cans of tomato purée to some of the meat juice reserves. The whole tomatoes, along with some tomato paste was added to the purée. We went to my spice racks to grab Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and some basil to add to the sauce. As we stirred, Papa Joe remembered we needed to add a little sugar as well. It was then time to wait for the sauce to cook. In the middle of the sauce, the sausages had come out to cool.

A little while later, after a short break, it was time to assemble the lasagna layers by first cooking the pasta noodles. The layers started with a little sauce on the bottom of the pan. Next came the noodles, the hamburger, thinly sliced sausage, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, and a light shake of salt and pepper. The layers went on one-by-one until we had done three, before topping it off with a final layer of noodles. We were actually making two at the same time, one for all of us, and one for a small gathering the two Papa’s were going to have.

As the lasagna baked, it was time to put the anti-pasta together. It took a couple of tries to get the right sized platter. Even then it all didn’t fit. There were all types of olives, peppers, a cucumber from my garden, tomatoes, cheeses, and some cheese wrapped in a variety of meats.

The dinner and celebration went very well. I received several new cooking tools, a beautiful Halloween lantern, a gift certificate to Half Price Books, a towel with a little saying, and a new charcuterie platter.

It was great food, great presents, and great company of family.

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