We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Some readers view me as a food snob for disliking Italian-American food. I find it monochromatic, uninteresting, and there is always so much of it that it is unappetizing to look at. OK, for growing kids I guess they need anything in volume.
Sunday Gravy (aka Red Sauce) with meat and meatballs was a traditional Sunday Italian-American feast. I think one of my grandmothers-in-law (who I never knew) made this on Sundays for after Mass. Here's how Rao's makes it:
My mother used to make her Sunday gravy using beef bones and meat. The meat choice depended on what was available, usually sausage. She cooked it from early morning until dinner at 2:00 PM. We weren't Italian but my mother grew up in an Italian community on the North Shore and her neighbors and friends taught her to cook authentic Italian. She taught me how to cook but I've never exceeded her cooking. My trick now it to put Better Than Boullion in the gravy/sauce in lieu of cooking bones for 7 hours. It tastes surprisingly like the real thing. Her weekday go to Italian dish was Lasagna which was different every time she cooked it because again it depended on what ingredients she had.
When I grew up in the 40's and 50's every Italian family had an older generation; grandparents or even great grandparents, at home who spoke almost no English. The parents were all bi-lingual and the children often spoke just enough Italian to get by. But the food they cooked was "real Italian" regardless of what some restaurant in Italy serves. There wasn't any difference in the ingredients or taste from family to family and it was always considered "real Italian" even by the older folks who came over on a boat.
Try this and tell me that Italian-American food is crap:
1. Slather butter all over the bottom and sides of a 9" X 13" lasagna pan (a cheap, disposable aluminum one is fine). Use butter not margarine or olive oil!
2. In a bowl, combine about 1-1/2 pounds of whole milk ricotta, two eggs and a handful of shredded Parmigiana Reggiano (the real stuff from Italy only!). Mix thoroughly.
3. Put an entire package of dry lasagna noodles in boiling water for about 8-9 minutes. Dump in the sink to drain and run cold water over them.
4. Line the bottom of the buttered lasagna pan with lasagna noodles. On top of that, set out a whole package of whole milk mozzarella, cut in 1/4 thick slices. Spread 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over that.
5. Add another layer of lasagna noodles and smear the rest of the ricotta mixture over that, using your hands to assure coverage. Sprinkle diced ham on top (cheap supermarket sliced ham is fine).
6. Add another layer of lasagna noodles. From a 2 pound jar of Prego Flavored with Meat tomato sauce (do not use any other sauce), pour about a third over this lasagna layer, spreading it all over using a spoon. Add about a pound of hamburger rolled into little balls and cooked (draining the grease from that before using -- I usually dump the cooked meat balls on a paper towel).
7. Add another layer of lasagna noodles and another 1/3 of the 2 pound jar of Prego sauce (obviously, you will have some left over). On top of that, sprinkle a generous amount of shredded Parmigiana Reggiano.
8. Bake at about 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and turning brown at the corners. Let sit for 10 minutes of so, then eat.
Excellent on the second or third day warmed up, too.
The cheap Prego brand sauce is one key ingredient. (Fancy sauces taste worse.) So is the cheese, which must be Italian and real, bought in a block and then shredded. The rest of the ingredients can be whatever is least expensive. That said, if you can find lasagna noodles made in Italy, they taste better and do not cost more.
Just attended a cooking class. Northern Italian. Enjoyed it so much, I bought the cookbook. Has amazing recipes - including making your own ricotta and broth. Have the broth simmering right now ...for the next 8 hours.
Good looking dish there. It has plenty of tasty meat products. Since I have spent my entire life in Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Utah, my exposure to Italian immigrants and their cooking is pretty much nonexistent . Mostly I get it in restaurants with varying quality and authenticity. But I like what I eat and don't worry or care a lot about how it compares to what they serve in the Old Country.
Oh, and you do come across as a bit of a snob when you talk about Italian food, but I still enjoy Maggie's Farm and your posts.