I’ve loved Italian food since I was little. Considering how filling pasta is, it’s amazing how much I can wolf down in one sitting. Good thing I have high metabolism (so far anyway)! One of my favourite restaurants as a kid was the Mövenpick restaurant that used to be on York Street in Toronto. Though it closed quite awhile ago, I still remember the excitement I would feel whenever my family dined there. I would always order a Shirley Temple, in part because I loved the little plastic monkey that would dangle on the side of the glass with a maraschino cherry in it’s tiny hands. I recall that it was a buffet-style restaurant and that they had a different type of buffet each night of the week.
My favourite buffet was the pasta buffet. I can still picture the overflowing buffet in my head and the delicious smells drifting throughout the restaurant. I loved going up to the buffet and making the difficult decision regarding what type of pasta I wanted (Penne? Spaghetti? Linguine?), what ingredients I wanted (Chicken? Shrimp? Green peppers? Mushrooms?), and what sauce I wanted (Alfredo? Tomato? A mix of both?). It was amazing how much pasta I was able to wolf down. I definitely consumed way more pasta than was probably advisable each time.
So now on to lasagna… For as long as I can remember it has been one of my favourite pasta dishes and a comfort food for me. In particular, I love it on a cold winter day – one of those days when you just want something warm in your belly to ward off the chill. As a kid, one of my aunts made really good homemade lasagna and would occasionally serve it at family gatherings at her house. It was only within the last few years, as I finally started to cook more often, that I started looking online for a good lasagna recipe. It seemed a daunting task to me. I had the impression that lasagna was something very difficult to make. I would now say that it is not that difficult to make but it can be quite time consuming.
The recipe I now always use as a starting point for making lasagna is the one found here: http://mylasagnarecipe.com/
I follow that recipe pretty closely and find that it results in some pretty tasty lasagna. The only changes I usually make are to use only beef instead of a mixture of beef and Italian sausage and I sometimes use a can of diced tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes. Also, I use ready-bake lasagna noodles instead of the ones you have to soak.
The other thing I’ve tried (twice so far and both times successfully) is to modify this recipe in order to make a vegetable lasagna that does not contain any meat. In order to make a vegetable lasagna, I make the sauce in exactly the same way as described in the lasagna recipe but omit the meat. Also, I roast eggplant, red bell peppers, and zucchini (tossed in olive oil first) that I then layer on top of each layer of cheese (except the very top). That leaves me with two layers of vegetables in total.
If you like a lasagna that has both meat and roasted vegetables, I would make the meat sauce and then layer the roasted vegetables as described above for the vegetable lasagna. I think this is what I will do next time!
Lasagna is also a great dish to make when you have guests over for dinner or when you are trying to serve a large number of people. When my husband and I hosted a dinner party for several of my friends, I made two lasagnas – one meat and one vegetable. I did the same a couple weeks ago for a staff potluck lunch. In both cases, I received some very positive feedback!
Mmmmm! I will be making lasagna again soon!