Step one to figuring out how to gather my family back to the table: choose an evening. I confess, this almost ended Family Table Night before it ever got started. I thought about it for days (days, people!) before I had a profound revelation. Family Table Night does not have to be on the same day of the week each and every week. The organized part of me that likes routine and predictability got a little panicky at this thought, but I realized there just wasn’t a night of the week that was open week after week. And so, in our house, Family Table Night is a moveable feast.
In order to get everyone excited about this whole family table idea, I decided I had to make a really stellar inaugural dinner. I chose lasagna. I never make lasagna, because it’s one of the things I miss eating the most with all of my diet restrictions. And it’s really hard to sit at a tableful of people eating lasagna, and to stare at (yet another) turkey burger on my own plate. But I knew that my family would be really excited about lasagna.
And then I had to choose which lasagna to make. There’s the vegetarian lasagna that I made when the Sweetie Pie and I were dating. And the butternut squash lasagna from my Martha Stewart Living subscription days. But in this case, I knew exactly which recipe to make. I flipped through a few files, and pulled out…
Grandma Laura’s Lasagna recipe.
That’s my grandma, making some meat sauce for her lasagna. In the 80’s she was featured in her town newspaper’s cooking section, along with a few of her classic recipes. And I just have to point out that cookie jar on her kitchen counter. It sat in the same place for decades. And Grandma always kept her cookie jar generously stocked.
Okay, back to lasagna.
Grandma’s recipe calls for a few ingredients that you might be tempted to “upgrade”. You might think that fresh mushrooms would taste better than canned. Or that kalamata olives would be tastier than canned black olives. But you’d be wrong. These are exactly the things that make Grandma’s lasagna so comforting.
Some of her ingredient quantities are a little vague. For example, exactly how large is a “large jar”? How small is a “small can”? Grandma wrote her recipe in a day when grocery stores had fewer options on the shelves, and when just about every woman knew how to cook a basic lasagna, and so didn’t need such specifics. In general, you can add as much or as little of something as you prefer. It’s lasagna. Not a souffle.
To round out the meal, I threw together a quick salad. And for an extra special touch, I allowed the Sweet Pea to roam through the garden with her flower snips. She brought in a lovely bouquet for the centerpiece.
The popular game at the dinner table was Grandma Laura Trivia. What was Grandma’s favorite flower? Favorite song? What things did she collect? What did she win playing BINGO? This was a fun way to keep my kiddos connected to their great-grandmother. Some of the answers they knew, and they had fun taking guesses at the ones they didn’t.
Just in case your grandmother didn’t share her lasagna recipe with you, I’m giving you Grandma Laura’s recipe. You can say it came from your own grandmother. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.
This was Grandma Laura’s recipe, as printed in the newspaper that featured her cooking. Don’t try to update it by using fresh mushrooms or fancy olives. The canned ingredients make it the real deal.
Grandma says that adding sugar to meat sauce “brings out the flavor”.
Source: Grandma Laura
Course: Main (Beef)
- 2 pounds ground beef
- green pepper chopped (to taste)
- onion chopped (to taste)
- 1 large jar home-style spaghetti sauce
- 2 15 oz cans tomato sauce
- 1 small can black olives finely chopped
- 1 small can mushroom pieces
- garlic salt parsley flakes, Italian seasoning, to taste
- lasagna noodles
- 3 eggs
- 1 large carton ricotta cheese
- mozzarella cheese slices
- Parmesan cheese
- Brown beef, peppers, onion in pan. Add next four ingredients. Season with garlic salt, parsley flakes, Italian seasoning, sugar. Simmer until flavors blend.
- Cook noodles, drain.
- Combine ricotta cheese and eggs.
- Put a layer of sauce in a 9×13 in deep casserole pan. Add a layer of noodles, top with all of the ricotta mixture. Add another layer of sauce, then noodles, mozzarella cheese slices, then sauce. Sprinkle top with Parmesan cheese.
- Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.