Mumma wasn’t feeling well. Last night, she didn’t make it out to dinner with sister, Monsieur and me. She stayed home and rested and missed out on a lot of yuck yucks. She was still feeling icky this morning, so, I stayed out of the kitchen, except to chop a cup or thereabouts of parsley to mix into the ricotta. It made for a more authentic familia cooking experience too. She wasn’t the only one, as a little girl, colouring, sitting at a table in G(r)am or Nanny’s kitchen while they prepared the meals. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, just like her in theirs, in our little farmhouse on James Street in Harriman (circa 01975 – 01980) while Mumma would be at her stove cooking dinner.
During college, when I cooked in my first kitchens, remember channeling the scent and flavour of what Mum would have cooking on her stovetop. It worked. Somehow I knew how to prepare ingredients and combine them, and at what temperatures and for how long, and folks enjoyed what they ate. Essentially, basics of our familia’s cooking include: garlic, oil, black pepper, crushed red pepper, salt, onions, oregano, sweet basil (fresh from Monsieur’s garden in summer, dried from a jar in the off seasons), capers, olives, anchovy, lemons. Mum doesn’t use them, but I prefer San Marsano Nina canned whole plum tomatoes. We each use our own preferred variations on these ingredients when we’re making Italian style dishes — fish, eggs, pasta, sopas and the occasional meatball or meatloaf. Otherwise, we may run the cultural gamut. I claim my French side favours butter and shallots. My adopted gringa Mexicana favors chilis, cilantro and limones. But then I’ll use whatever my tastebuds tell me to when I get to cooking. They know what they’re doing. Though I admit, dishes I prepare are pretty simple.
Mumma’s solo lasagna
Feeds six at the holiday table with ample leftovers, no fighting, for two sisters and one new hubby (note mine, lil’sis’)
One box 16 sheets flat, no-boil lasagna noodles (I’ve experimented a bit in the past and found that normal boxed and even fresh noodles can be used without boiling first — the moisture of the system cooks them just fine)
One large can or jar of sauce (Again, I’d use Nina whole plums (likely two cans) and dress them as I like them with piper, CRP, garlic, sel,..)
A lotta ricotta
A big bunch of flat leaf parsley (chop it up and mix into ricotta)
Spinach (saute briefly in olio and mix into ricotta, though I prefer not to saute and add fresh separately between sheets; this is Mumma’s gig)
A pictorial directive for assembling and baking the lasagna. Mumma hasn’t proferred up any words to contribute. Feel free to leave comments if you have questions and I’ll try to get her to cooperate some answers..
. . . Repeat above steps so that you’ll make four layers from 16 leafs of pasta, the ricotta/spinach/flat leaf parsley mix, shaved provolone and sauce. . .
Into an oven, preheated to 425°, for a couple hours
Remove and check, lower guage to 375°, return to the oven and let bake another 45 minutes or thereabouts until it’s dark and crispy. . .
Happy easter from Mumma’s cabin on Lake Cayuga..