Monday, December 14, 2009

Italian Lasagna...Mary's style.

Mary is, for lack of a better term, my adopted grandma. She's known my dad since his family moved next door to her, when my dad was 1 year old. Her and her husband never had kids, so my dad and his sisters became like her own - she always baby-sat for my grandparents. When my grandma got sick with cancer, Mary essentially cooked all of the meals for the family - my youngest aunt was only 14 at the time. Now, 43 years later, Mary is still  a part of our family. We eat dinner at her house (which is now less than a mile from my parents') every Friday night, along with my dad's 3 sisters, and their own families. She's become "Grandma Mary" to almost everyone - everyone except my brother and I (we were the only ones of the grandkids to actually know our real grandma). But nonetheless, Mary is a part of our family, and we all love her.

While Mary's cooking skills have gone slightly downhill in the last few years (she IS 81), we all remember her food at its peak. And I've been doing my best to collect them, one at a time. Last night, I made her amazing lasagna. Sean's never quite understood why everyone talks about lasagna night at Mary's, but that's because she's not as adept at making it as she once was. Last night, Sean realized what I meant.

The story goes that Mary got the recipe from a lady from Italy, who didn't even speak English. But regardless of where she got it from, it's the most delicious thing in the world.

So here's the recipe, courtesy of Mary. It's broken up into layers, to make it more manageable. All of the layers can be prepped ahead of time though.

Mary's Famous Italian Lasagna

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

6-9 Lasagna noodles, cooked

Layer 1:
1 lb of Italian Sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion (or 1 tbsp of onion powder)
1 clove of garlic, minced (or 1/4 tsp of minced garlic)
16 oz of tomato sauce (save a little for bottom of pan)
12 oz of tomato paste
1/2 cup of hot water
1 tsp basil leaves
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp marjoram leaves

Layer 2:
15-16 oz of Ricotta Cheese
10 oz package of frozen spinach, cooked and drained according to directions
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3 eggs

Layer 3:
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded Muenster cheese

1. Cook sausage, onion, and garlic in a large skillet until sausage is browned. Add in the rest of Layer 1, and simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Combine the ingredients of Layer 2 in a separate bowl
3. Combine the ingredients of Layer 3 in a separate bowl
4. In a large pan (Mine was 9x13), put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan, so the noodles don't stick
5. Layer noodles, Layer 2, Layer 1, and Layer 3.
6. Repeat layers
7. Bake in oven for 40-50 minutes (unless you have a ridiculous oven like me, mine was done in 35 minutes)
8. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, cut, and ENJOY!

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