My mom loved salad more than anyone I knew. She would mix her spinach, strawberries, slivered almonds and poppy-seed dressing in this big white plastic Rubbermaid bowl — typically used for food storage, but always the bowl of choice for mom’s salads. It was just the right size, she would say.
Some of my favorite memories with my mom in the kitchen happened when she would trade her big bowl of greens for lasagna. Almost all the neighbors and family friends knew my mom’s lasagna. Like most of the best recipes, it had been adapted from an original, refined over time and memorized without official documentation. There was no exact ratio, just a feel for how much cheese and how many dashes of oregano were needed. I vividly remember standing on my step-stool next to my mom learning how to assemble the lasagna. Noodles, sauce, turkey, ricotta.
One of my best friend’s mom, Cece, asked for my mom’s recipe via email in 2004 while they were arranging a play date for their daughters. Cece shared a printed copy of the email with me a few years ago and there are no words to express my gratitude for that little piece of paper. Nothing will ever be the same as eating mom’s lasagna made lovingly by her hands, but I will treasure her “recipe” as one that I can hopefully pass down through my own family in the future.
Today, I share with you the story of my mom’s lasagna because today is one of those days I will be making it in her memory. Eight years ago my mom had suffered a brain aneurysm at the age of 46. This news was shocking because she was incredibly healthy, a marathon runner nonetheless.
When February 29th comes around every four years, my heart aches a little deeper for my mom. As I continue to reach more milestones in my young adulthood, I want nothing more than her to be my side. I want to be able to cheers to an accomplishment over a delicious glass of red wine. I want to be able to call her for relationship advice and tell her about my awesome friends. I want her to help me shop for my apartment furniture and send home leftovers like moms always insist.
I believe that it is only natural to feel the longing and the pain right alongside the most special, cherished memories of someone you have lost. It is important to me to be open about my mom, the woman who gave me life. She is truly the reason I am who I am today. Even though you may not have gotten the chance to meet Betsy, I hope I can give you a little taste of her and carry on her spirit in my everyday life. If nothing else, I hope her special lasagna recipe is something that brings you comfort, joy and nourishment.
- 1 pound of ground turkey
- 1 package of mild Italian sausage
- 1-2 jars of spaghetti sauce
- 1 carton cottage cheese
- 2 bags of shredded cheese (mozzarella and cheddar)
- 1 package lasagna noodles
- Seasonings: oregano, Italian Seasonings, garlic salt/powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown turkey and sausage. Drain any grease.
- Add spaghetti sauce to meat. Mom's notes: "I use traditional, but you could certainly substitute it for another variety. I estimate that I use about 1½ small jars of sauce."
- Season meat with seasonings listed above to taste.
- In a 9x11 pan layer: noodles, meat sauce, cottage cheese, shredded cheese, repeat. Finish with a layer of shredded cheese on top.
- Mom's note: "I use lots of cheese. I usually buy 2 large bags. Sometimes I'll use one Mozzarella and one Colby/Jack, sometimes Cheddar. Use what you like (or like me...what's on sale!)"
- Cover with foil. Bake for an hour. And then take off foil, add a little extra cheese on top bake for 15 minutes more. Take out of the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Feel free to add squash, mushrooms or any veggies to the meat combination or substitute soy crumbles. You really can’t go wrong with this recipe and hopefully it continues to evolve and become a part of your collection of recipes.
Love food. Love self. Love life.