Monday, January 5, 2009

It's Still Christmas in Italy and Make One/Freeze One Lasagna

Happy New Year; but don't finish celebrating quite yet....

If you're an Italian, then you are still celebrating the Christmas season. If you are an American than you are already on a diet and your full trash can is by the curb. But what do you do when you're both????
In Italy, the festivities begin on Christmas Eve with a family fast, solemn gathering around the nativity set, an evening at church, and fast breaking feast. In the morning, families return to church, and continue to attend for the next twelve days, stretching the holiday well into January. On January 6, the Epiphany, a good witch comes bringing gifts. It is said that "La Befana" lost her way when trying to visit the Christ Child, so instead delivers gifts to well-behaved little children on the very day of the Three Kings. My two little charges are always happy to receive a last little Christmas present from the kind Italian witch, and I'm always happy that I could buy that little Christmas present at an After Christmas Sale.
In our house, we eat Italian food through the holiday season. It looks so festive on the plate to be eating tomato sauces with fresh basil and oregano, deep red and lively green. For Christmas Eve dinner, as I mentioned, we feasted on bruschetta, lasagna, fettucini alfredo, salad and Italian bread. I'm dismayed to realize that I didn't take a single picture. Sometimes as the hostess, all of your time and attention are needed to make the party a success. And sometimes you are a forgetful little twit. What happens when you are both???( I have so many New Year's Resolutions to make this year. I should have saved my last year's list. I'm still working on the same things. )
Thank goodness that I had these lasagna photos in my archives. This is not my grand "Christmas Eve Sausage and Four Cheese" version of lasagna, but my weeknight version of lasagna, a kinder, gentler recipe for January. Let it be known that not many Italians would really be having lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner. Traditional meals center around eel and panettone, but my Italian family-like most Italians I know-have their own ideas about how things should be done. Why let tradition stand in the way? Since there are only four for January weeknight dinners at my house, I make a quickie version of lasagna in a loaf pan. The no cook noodles from Barilla fit perfectly. And while I'm at it, I make another loaf pan to freeze.
Buon Natale and may your holiday season last throughout 2009!
Money Saving Tips: If you have leftover cooked pasta, skip the lasagna noodles and follow the recipe to make a layered pasta dish instead. If you are short on loaf pans, line the pan with tinfoil with a large overhang. Freeze the lasagna, remove it from the pan and wrap it tightly in foil. Make a big batch of your own marinara from the big economical cans of tomatoes and freeze it in zip top bags for future dinners.
Make one Freeze One Lower-Fat Weeknight Lasagna
Estimated Cost for 2 loaf pans: $7.50
Tips: Add cooked, crumbled sausage to the top of ricotta layers, if desired, for a heartier dish.
2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon each dried basil and pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 and 1/2 cups part skim mozzarella, divided
4 cups Tomato and Basil Marinara Sauce, from a jar or your favorite recipe
6 no boil lasagna noodles, (I use Barilla)
In a small bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan, egg, basil, salt and pepper. Coat a loaf pan with no stick cooking spray. Spread bottom with 1/2 cup marinara sauce. Top with one noodle. Spread thinly with heaping 1/2 cup ricotta mixture. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella. Top with 1/2 cup marinara sauce, another noodles, 1/2 cup ricotta mixture and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Top with 1/2 cup marinara sauce, another noodle and 1/2 cup more marinara sauce. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella. Coat a sheet of tin foil with no stick cooking spray. Place on top of pan. Repeat process for another lasagna. Bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove foil and bake an additional ten minutes. (Thaw frozen lasagna completely before baking.)
Coming Tomorrow:
Tuesdays with Dorie FANTASTIC Pear and Almond Cream Tart

26 comments:

Aggie said...

I love this story Erin! My family is Italian and we keep everything going until the 6th...I was tempted to put things away this weekend but just couldn't do it! I never knew the story of the witch, I'll have to ask my grandparents about it! Love it!!

gigi said...

I've stretched Christmas card sending into the New Year and have just started my cards. Just keeping it real. Maybe there is a little Italian in me too :)

Jeannette said...

HI there! I'm a fairly new reader and really enjoying your blog! This story just brought back a memory I had long forgotten. I'm a new mom to a 5 month old and I now find myself constantly trying to remember all the traditions my mom and grandmother incorporated into our lives. Both wonderful women have passed on so it's more important than ever now that I'm a mom. In our hispanic home we always left our shoes in the hallway so that the three wise men could leave us a gift in our shoe. It was such a treat to have one more present after Christmas. Thanks for jogging my memory!

Patsyk said...

I love your tip to use any type of leftover pasta to create a layered pasta dish. We don't usually have any leftover, but I might make more just to try it sometime.

Michal said...

yummy!

i just took a little recess break on our first day back to school after the holiday. it was just what we needed (to start back in again) but just what i wished we could put off for a few more days!:) it would help if i'd worked on my lesson plans during the break.

anyway, i couldn't resist popping over to prudy's to see what you'd cooked up for us. and you never disappoint.

by the way, the russians also believe in a witch/old woman, "babushka", who missed going with the three wise men. she wanders around the world, giving gifts to children as she seeks the christ child (on january 5, i think). sounds very similar to the italian version!

Catherine said...

I loved loved loved your Christmas Eve Lasagna. It was so delicious and just plain perfect. But now that I'm home and it's January and I've hit the scale, I'm thrilled to have a lighter version (not that it's your lasagna's fault. I could blame it anything from all the See's candy, to the delicious dips, or my utter lack of self control - take your pick) to assist me in my new endeavors. Oh yes and we can't wait for La Befana either. Although at our house Annabelle has decreed that La Befana is a fairy. I think we're waiting for Sunday to celebrate it though. I'm excited for La Befana to bring all of her European gifts with her!

VeggieGirl said...

Loooove Italian cuisine!! And I enjoyed reading the tale of "La Befana" - your posts are always a real treat!!

Mary Ann said...

How fun for Italians! The party just keeps going. This lasagna looks perfect and what is better than make one, freeze one?
Love it Prudy!

Amber said...

Hi! I just discovered your blog. I was telling my husband that I wish Christmas was celebrated longer than just 1 day, 2 if you count Christmas Eve Celebrations. We spend so much time preparing for it, and then its just over! I wanted to make quesadillas for dinner, so right now ive got the recipe in the crock pot for your sweet and spicy chicken!

Marjie said...

My grandmother made a wonderful lasagna, but I've never mastered it. OK, I confess, I've barely tried. Don't be too hard on this non-Italian, OK? I can drool over your picture, can't I?

Welcome back, and Happy New Year.

Maria said...

I love freezing things! We have an extra freezer so I do a lot of it! The lasagna looks great!

jenjen said...

Your lasagna looks tasty! I love to make two of things and freeze one. Thanks for the recipe!

Jen

Cathy said...

My grandparents are from Italy, and when I was little, my grandmother actually made eels on Christmas Eve (I wouldn't go anywhere near them, of course!) But thankfully, there was also lots of lasagna, so I was good to go! Also, I have a little collection of Byers' Carolers, and my mother gave me the Old Befana caroler this year (she said, "this way you'll think of me, the Italian Witch!" How do you respond to that?) Needless to say, I love this post! I think the Italians have it right -- starting the Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve and going on through to the Epiphany. In our neighborhood, people start decorating in November (some even BEFORE Thanksgiving) and then the decorations are gone by 12/26. Depressing! Thanks for the great post and the yummy-looking lasagna recipe!

The Blonde Duck said...

Oh hooray! I love lasagna and this will fit nicely into the Let's-Keep-Ben-From-Having-A-Heart-Attack-Like-Every-Other-Male-In-His-Family-Plan. Hooray for you!

The Cat's Pajamas said...

You're not the only twit. I had a huge New Years Eve party... took lots of photos of the prep but not a single one was snapped (of food) when the first guests arrived so I don't have anything to share. Ah, well.

~Cat

Allie said...

I love to make extra and freeze them for when I'm short on time. Glad to know I'm not the only one!

anudivya said...

Never frozen one before, we tend to finish them very quickly! I love Italian food.

Sharon said...

Mmm...we happen to have some extra ricotta from a grocery sale. Definitely have to think about making this. I'd love to have spare lasagna as well!

Kristina R. said...

I am trying make double batches of things like this to help with menu planning. Thanks for the great recipe.

MorenaTejana said...

Do you all call the dish "lasagna" or "lasagne"? I thought it was the latter. I just made some lasagne the other day, and it was delicious. I eat too much of the stuff, so I won't be making more again.

Prudy said...

Mi Amiga Morena:
You are good! I don't have a definitive answer, but I went through my cookbooks and found it spelled both ways. Hmmm... I'm going to have to get to the cheesy yummy bottom of this lasagna/e issue.

Anette said...

Greetings from Norway! I like your blog and I'll come visiting again!

Jamie said...

Erin, lasagna is one of my favorite meals...yours looks great!

wileyfamilyof5 said...

Do you ba freeze or freeze after assembling?

Also my secret ingrediant for a fantastic red sauce is the hot italian sausage spice. You ask your butcher for some that he puts in his italian sausage. It realy gives your sauce a little somthing.

n.o.e said...

Prudy, I'm so glad to have this somewhat simplified lasagna. My normal recipe is fairly complicated, so I don't gear up to make the stuff very often. This one will be perfect and I have so many loaf pans they don't all fit in the drawer. Solution: store some in the freezer! Filled with delish lasagna of course!
Nancy

Marie said...

Great post and wonderful looking lasagna! I have really enjoyed your Christmas Journey around the world!!