Another wintry weather day in New Jersey! Freezing rain and chilly temperatures. I'm grateful to have the flexibility to work from home. Chris made it to work fine...he always does, I just have a worry gene passed from my Weather Mom who alerts my sister and I of any unsavory conditions and checks in to make sure we're safe. Last week when the news forecasted 6 inches we got 15. Chris was working late and I had an early appointment the following day so I bundled up and started tackling the 4 feet of snow behind my car (thanks plow!). I was scraping the top of the car with the shovel when a Friendly Neighbor suggested that I use a broom to brush the snow off the top instead of risking a scratch with the shovel. He suspected "my man" would suggest the same and went upstairs to lend me his snow broom. When he returned he promptly took over the shoveling! In bare hands, he wasn't done until the remainder of the snow down to blacktop on all sides. He then helped me rock the car out of the parking spot and then back it into the cleared space so I'd have an easier time leaving in the morning. All of this took at least an hour and I couldn't imagine having ever completed it on my own. When Chris got home he was very relieved albeit jokingly suspicious of our Friendly Neighbor's ulterior motives. Yea, I'm sure I looked real cute in my over sized 12 year old ski jacket, 2 pairs of pants, old ratty hat and gloves. This long story is leading to the best way I know how to say Thank You to someone who helps you out of a bind and that is with FOOD!
On Sunday I set up an assembly line to make 3 pasticcios. One for Friendly Neighbor, one for my sister who stold show at a community production of "Rabbit Hole", and one for me and Chris. Of course, you could make one big pasticcio to share, but it's easy to find small aluminum pans to share or freeze for a lazy day. The pans I got were too shallow for more than 2 layers, so go for the deeper 3" ones. By the way, pasticcio is like lasagna, but instead of ricotta we use cheesy bechamel.
1 14oz can whole tomatoes, pureed or
just used crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp evoo
salt and fresh ground pepper
Saute onion with a pinch of salt in butter and oil until translucent. Add garlic and saute another 3 minutes, do not let vegetables brown. Add meat and break up with a wooden spoon, turning and stirring until cooked through. Add tomato paste and tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook, covered for 20 -25 minutes. Taste for seasoning and set aside.
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
salt, white pepper, fresh nutmeg
Melt butter in a small saucepan; warm the milk in the microwave. When butter is melted, add flour and whisk constantly for several minutes. Add milk 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly in between to develop a thicker sauce that coats the back of a spoon. Add salt, pepper and a few grates of fresh nutmeg. Remove from heat and add parmigiano stirring until combined. Taste for seasoning and set aside.
8 slices mozzarella cheese cut into strips
1/4 cup basil, julienned
scissors to cut noodles if necessary
Cook lasagna noodles in abundant salted water. You may need to cook noodles in batches to avoid sticking together in the water. When al dente, remove from water and separate onto a platter or plate, criss crossing so they don't stick. A drizzle of olive oil also helps noodles from sticking. Arrange your ragu, pans and bechamel in an assembly line with basil and mozzarella within reach. Layer a small amount of ragu on the bottom of each pan. Top with noodles, you may need to cut to fit the pan--use scissors! Top noodles with more ragu and bechamel, mozzarella slices and basil. Start another layer of noodles, ragu, bechamel, and basil. Drizzle the top with olive oil.
Let the pans cool before wrapping with aluminum foil and refrigerating or freezing. When you're ready to enjoy, heat the oven to 375 and bake the pasticcio covered for 20-25 minutes (30-40 if frozen) then uncover one end and continue baking until crispy. I don't have any pictures of the finished dish...apparently we ate it too fast.
Our Friendly Neighbor left a note on our door that we found this morning:
"If it snows again & I dig out *both* your cars, does that get me 2 trays of lasagna (which, incidentally, is my favorite)? It was delicious-thank you both! Signed, your neighbor Garfield"