Come find yourself...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Two lasagna recipes, the secret to homemade Crusty Italian-American Bread, silky Béchamel Sauce and the truth behind a full life.

“Old paint on canvas, as it ages, sometimes becomes transparent. And when that happens it is possible in some instances to see the original lines. A tree will show through a woman’s dress; a child makes way for a dog; a boat is no longer on an open sea. That is called pentimento, because the painter repented, changed his mind.”

…the movie ‘Julia’, written by Alvin Sargent (starring Jane Fonda).

For over a week I’ve been laid up with a torn muscle in my calf. I’ve had two MRI’s, over 18 hours of visits with doctors and now need the use of a cane. Many days, I’ve been in a good amount of pain. It’s been nearly impossible for me to walk. It’s only been in the past 24 hours I sense my body healing and the light at the end of the tunnel.

The other day, as I hobbled to the doctor, I spied a small bird at the base of a doorway on the main street in my town. I would never have noticed her/him had I not been forced to use a cane. The bird shook with fear as I bent down. Its wing was broken. Blood pooled at its feet. I told someone who walked past and they said they’d take care of the hurt bird. I wonder if they did.

Cooking has been difficult for me. I cannot go to the grocery store. So I have been forced to use only what I have on hand, which, to my shock, is plenty. I’ve used old stock in the freezer, as well as forgotten canned goods. I’ve defrosted meats and soaked dry beans. I’ve made large, fulfilling and healthy meals only with items from my freezer and pantry. I made due with what I had and it forced me to be creative. Would it have been easier to run to the store? Of course. But then I wouldn’t have realized all I need is right in front of me.

The opening quote of today’s entry is from the 1977 movie “Julia”. It was adapted from Lillian Hellman’s autobiography, “Pentimento”. If you haven’t seen the movie, you must. It’s extraordinary. I’ve always been fascinated by the friendships of women. There is a texture and depth to women I find lacking in male friendships. Women have an instinctual ability to feel and experience life on a very deep and fluid level, both sexually and emotionally. I realize most men will find this insulting and say I’m taking liberties, but they know I’m right.

The other day, I saw a decent documentary on composer Philip Glass. It was curiously vapid, except for one section where Glass said Alan Ginsberg once told him, ‘first intentions are the correct intentions.’ Ginsberg was right. Original impulses are the ones we’re least likely to trust but need to but the most faith in.

Such is the case with the following Sunday Night Recipes – Two Homemade Sausage and Meat Lasagna recipes, either served with made-from-scratch Italian Bread.

In this entry, I’m going to show you how to make either my relatively Fast 45-minute Lasagna OR my All-day Bolognese Simmered Sauce Lasagna. Both are very good recipes, but, of course, the all-day simmering sauce recipe will result in a much more complex sauce.

My injury has reinforced my feeling cooking for myself and my husband is the basis for the rest of my life. Cooking makes me feel alive. My senses are alive, my tastes are alive, and my creativity is alive. I take chances, I take risks. I realize petty concerns are just that – petty concerns. People are having a worse time than me. I am lucky to have the life I have.

Slow down, enjoy the moment. You are lucky to be alive.

But before we make our bread, let’s talk about this whole gluten scare, shall we?

At one time, bread making in America was huge. It wasn’t unusual to bake a loaf a week. In my home, I make bread every Sunday afternoon. We eat off of it for the week and freeze the remains (‘remains’ – I hate that word).

Bread freezes amazingly well, up to six months in most cases. It’s a shame the baking of cookies, cakes and pastries have taken over bread. Bread takes more time to plan, but much less time to cook. Why has bread fallen out of favor? We know the answer.

Two words: Atkins and hysteria.

Hysteria now comes in the form of gluten allergies. Here’s a startling fact: American’s are spending a reported $2 billion a year on gluten-free products. What is gluten? It is a composite of two plant proteins and starch that is found in abundance in wheat and is also present in smaller amounts in grassy grains such as rye and barley.

Gluten’s bad new reputation is based on the fact between 0.5 and 1 percent of the population experiences an inappropriate immune response to the protein that causes diarrhea and other gastrointestinal complaints. Up to 1 percent yet we spend over $2 billion a year on gluten free products.

One of the reasons for this is something called Celiac Disease. Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. It is genetic. People who have Celiac Disease cannot tolerate gluten.

The consensus amongst nutritionist and physicians is there are rising beliefs many people who do not have Celiac disease have a milder condition known as gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity. Why? No one knows.

A lot of people are afraid to say what they feel is the truth – that this is the natural health community running ahead and ignoring mainstream medicine. One blog showed a PubMed search of the term “gluten intolerance” loaded research on Celiac disease. A search on the term “gluten-sensitivity enteropathy” yields scores of studies, but a closer look revealed this term is used synonymously with Celiac disease within the mainstream medical establishment.

If gluten intolerance as a slight version of Celiac disease does exist, then, the mainstream medical establishment not only does not recognize it but is not even able to detect it.

The typical gluten-free dieter is someone who discovered a pattern of suffering from gastrointestinal issues after eating gluten-containing foods and found relief when they switched to a gluten-free diet.Not long ago, one blog detailed how a recent Newsweek article on the gluten-free diet trend talked to Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, who is quoted as saying, “All this gluten intolerance, and using the diet to treat autism…there's no documented scientific reason for that at all. However, patients without Celiac disease often do notice an improvement in a whole spectrum of gastrointestinal or neurological symptoms when they start a gluten-free diet. But it's not defined by any medical diagnosis.”

With the curious current-day rise in food allergies, we have to question why this is happening and not jump on the media bandwagon for the next ‘gluten-free’ cure, unless we have scientific proof.

I’ve had many people tell me during the Swing Flu media frenzy, they would pass crowded emergency rooms where people were certain they were suffering from the Swing Flu, when in fact, after being tested, they were not suffering from it at all.

The real question is this: what emotional need is not being fulfilled within us which makes us turn legitimate yet small heath concerns into outright hysteria?

I don’t know the answer, but I think the question has to be raised. Gluten-free products are putting a larger dent into the feeling bread is ‘bad’ for you. It’s not. Bread is good for you emotionally AND physically.

Let me show you why…


The keys to making good bread at home are two: time and ingredients. You must buy the right flour and the right leveners. Instant yeast you can buy in any supermarket, but when it comes to flour, all are not created equal.

King Arthur Flour, a Vermont-based company, is a superb group of bakers and artists who create a superior product. Buying your flour products from them will complete 50% of the work.

This is a recipe for a yeast-bread. Yeast breads come in many forms. In the coming postings, I’ll show you how to make whole-wheat, dry and pumpernickel bread as well as many other variety of yeast breads.

But wait. I know what you’re thinking. Bread has carbs! It’s bad for you! And gluten!

Run for the hills!

Chill and read: part of the idea of this blog and my upcoming Food for Mood cookbook is to provide evidence of how eating certain foods affects our mood and vice-versa, hence the cookbook title “Food for Mood.”

I’m not talking simply lower or higher blood-sugar levels (we all know how that can make us ready to murder), but scientific evidence which shows the psychological changes which occur in the body when certain foods are eaten.

Most nutrition research nowadays is focused on how to prevent diseases or diabetes, but there is a silent, growing trend of mounting evidence that our daily mood states are influenced by the foods we eat.

We all know the studies which show how our emotional state influences our physical state, so why would we not study how what we eat affect our emotional health?!

Food = Mood, peeps. Food = Mood.

Researchers have shown dieters tend to become depressed about two weeks into a diet, which is directly linked to a drop in serotonin levels due to decreased carbohydrate intake. The key to dieting is to balance the total calories with regular exercise, rather than trying to exclude carbohydrates.

It’s staggering the evidence showing wholegrain foods can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers so, as a nation, we risk developing unhealthy long-term dieting habits if we cut out grain-based foods.

This isn’t brain surgery, people.

If science shows us certain foods, when eaten, because a biological response which makes us feel depressed, why would we continue to eat them? What emotional needs are we getting out of eating foods science has shown are harmful to our emotional health?

What is missing?

Brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine) influence the way we think, feel and behave. They can be affected by what we've eaten. Wouldn’t you like to know how you can help foster more positive emotions by eating certain foods?

Common research has shown when we are stressed; we reach for sugary or sweet food. We do this partly because it’s comforting but also because it increases the amount of the chemical tryptophan entering the brain. This causes the release of the brain chemical serotonin, which improves mood and, in turn, reduces the desire for more sugar-containing food.

High carbohydrate foods affect the ability to positively influence mood and help control appetite. These calming effects help improve the likelihood of sticking with a weight management program.

Even I can follow that logic and I loathe logic.

Bread causes the release of serotonin into our bodies. And this homemade bread recipe has only water, all-natural hard wheat, yeast and a tiny bit of salt. That’s it! So you are eating at the source, resulting in the most pure form of ultimate serotonin entering your system, resulting in a stronger feeling of well-being.

Now there are limits. You get a fat ass when you gorge on the shit. Two to four slices a day and you won’t get fat, okay? More than that and that is where you get a fat ass.

I gained 25 pounds after my mom died two years ago from simple overeating. There is no trick here. Limiting your portion is the kicker. Stop overeating, understand why you eat the foods you eat, respect yourself and put down the shit food, eat foods which feed your body and soul, and get exercise.

In this meal, there are two different lean meats. Hot turkey sausage and 93% fat free organic ground sirloin. We all know tryptophan is one of the building blocks of protein, and it is very important in depression.

By including a source of protein with each of your meals your brain will be continuously supplied with tryptophan and this can help to improve symptoms of low mood. This is why at meals try to eat a portion of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, soy, or other alternative to make sure you’re getting enough.

Depression is at an all time high in our culture. Eating food rich in protein, resulting in tryptophan and also serotonin into our systems, helps to boots the reactions in our bodies and hence, our emotional state.

I am the perfect person to write about food science. I hate numbers and facts. Also, certain left brain people are insufferable because they think they’re always right. They wave their little pieces of paper in your face, citing facts and figures, looking smug. Trust me – if I’m writing about it, it will be readable, usable and fun.

There’s another line in “Julia” you need to remember. Julia (Vanessa Redgrave) is fearless and Lillian (Jane Fonda), is naturally fearful. The pivotal point in the movie is when Julia asked Lillian to smuggle money across the Berlin border in 1939 Germany. Julia says to Lillian, “You are afraid of being afraid. Don’t let this stop you. And don’t let it force you to make foolish choices.”

Remember this as we make bread...



  • 1 cup cold water, approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 2 cups Sir-Lancelot High-Gluten, hard wheat flour (King Arthur)
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • ½ cup cold water, approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 2 ½ cups Sir-Lancelot High-Gluten, hard wheat flour (King Arthur)
  • 2 teaspoons instant wheat
  • 1 ½ - 2 teaspoons low-sodium salt
For the finishing:
  • 1 egg white lightly beaten
  • Sesame seeds, optional
Let’s cook!

Bread is a very unpredictable animal. The temperature of your kitchen, the humidity, the amount of yeast in the air – all of this affects bread. You can do everything right, and it may not be what you were expecting, and that’s okay.

A few things you can control…bread loves crisp, bright days. It is a bit funny when it’s humid. So if you live in a humid environment or are cooking in the summer, make sure you allow your bread to rise in a cool, relatively draft-free environment and try to keep the room relatively cool.

If you are new to bread-making, you’ll wonder what the hell a ‘biga’ is. A ‘biga’ is a starter. All breads need a starter, which is a method to help jump-start the rising of the bread. Starters are the pre-fermentation for the actual fermentation of the bread, which is the key to all super-duper breads. A starter is a combination of water, yeast and flour made prior to the main body of dough.

We are using a ‘biga’ starter here (the Italian name for starter) which is an overnight starter. The longer a combination of flour, water and yeast sits and rises, the more complex the flavor of the bread will be. The longest sitting starters (up to 4 days), result in sourdough.

There are over a dozen different types and styles of starters, but for now, concentrate on this only. I don’t want to overwhelm you. A ‘biga’ uses domestic yeast and is similar to what is called a ‘poolish’. A ‘poolish’ is a wet starter, very thick, like batter for waffles, whereas a ‘biga’ can be wet or dry.

Since we are making an Italian loaf, we will use the Italian starter (duh). Like a ‘poolish’ starter, it is flour, water and a touch of yeast. The key is to let it sit and do it’s work and ferment.

Fermenting is the process of yeast, water and flour meeting and making little yeast babies. In this process, flour, yeast and water make out for a very long time…you can let this sit for up to four days! The longer it sits the more sour it will become, so we only want to do this for 12-16 hours.

Make the ‘biga’, baby!

In a large bowl, mix the 1 cup of cold water, the 2 cups Sir-Lancelot High-Gluten, hard wheat flour (you can use all-purpose, unbleached) and the ¼ teaspoon of instant yeast. Mix until just incorporated, cover with a very clean kitchen towel or Saran Wrap and let sit for 12-16 hours.

I started this @ 11PM on a Saturday night so I could have the final loaf ready by 6PM for Sunday dinner.

You know it’s ready when it’s bubbly with big craters throughout the dough. It will smell like yeast…very nice. Don’t rush this. Just keep looking every hour or so until its right. This is the key to your bread, so don’t rush it.

Ew. Biga is like totally gross.

Make the dough, baby!

Add your ½ cup cold water to the biga. Mix it in until smooth; it will be slimy and gross looking. No need to ultra mix, just get it all together in one slimy mix.

Slowly add the flour, yeast and the salt (don’t scrimp on the salt; it will be very plain if you do) and now comes the fun part; kneading.

James Beard wrote in his sublime book “Beard on Bread” one should use the palm of one hand to kneed bread. Personally, I love getting into kneading dough, so I use both palms, but the principal is the same. Lift the edge of the dough nearest you, fold it OVER the remaining, press down, turn one quarter to the left and do again and again on a well-floured wooden cutting board.

If you do by hand (why wouldn’t you?), kneed for 5 minutes; 3 minutes by mixer (fitted with a dough hook). Don’t over kneed, as the gluten will rise when it sits. Put the dough in lightly buttered bowl and cover for 1 ½ hours. To really make this dough work, ever 30 minutes gently punch down on the dough and ‘deflate’ it, then fold it over itself, leaving it alone in the bowl to rise. So 3 times in 1 ½ hours.

After it’s risen for 1 ½ hours, turn your oven on to 425 degrees. Make sure the oven rack is in the middle of the oven.

Flour a large wooden cutting board. Take out one third of the dough and gently roll it out into a 20 inch roll. Very important you must go to 20 inches. Do this for the other two parts of the dough until you have three separate 20 inch strands.

Now comes the really cool part. Intertwine the dough so it’s all one big braid. How cool, right?! I mean, come on! You’re making braided bread! Give me a break. Lightly oil a clean, jelly rolled baking sheet with one tablespoon vegetable oil then place the braided bread on the wrack.

Cover and let it sit on the baking sheet until it gets puffy and kinda Alien looking, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Again, all depends on how fast it rises. Mine only took 60 minutes.

After it’s risen, brush with egg white (break egg into a small bowl; mix; brush on with a small pastry brush you can buy at any grocery store) and top with sesame seeds if desired (Andy hates sesame seeds, so we don’t use them).

Bake for 25-35minutes. If you want to be uber-anal retentive, stop baking when it reaches 190 degrees in the center (use an instant read gauge), or, use the old-fashioned method of tapping the bottom to see if it feels hollow. This loaf is pretty resilient, so you can do the tap method and be good to go.

Take it out of the oven. Look at this! I mean, LOOK at this.

We just made a loaf of authentic American-Italian bread. How hot are you?! Now, let’s make killer lasagna.

We have two recipes to choose from, kittens.


Let’s cook!


FAST lasagna:

‘Faux’ Bolognese sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onion, minced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ pounds meat – ¾ pound hot turkey sausage; ¾ pound ground chuck (or sirloin; no less than 7% fat)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 14.5 ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 28-ounce no-salt diced tomatoes, drained
Lasagna layers:
  • 1 ¾ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (if you buy pre-grated cheese, I’ll personally come over and kick you till your dead), plus ¼ cup for the topping
  • I large bunch of fresh basil, leaves torn and cut into tiny strips
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 12 no-boil Barilla lasagna noodles from the regular 9 ounce package
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
SLOW AND EASY lasagna:

Authentic Bolognese sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped fine (approximately 1 cup)
  • 2 medium stalks celery, chopped fine (approximately 1 cup)
  • ¾ pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup whole milk, plus 4 tablespoons
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, from whole nutmeg
  • 1 cup dry white wine, from bottle, not cooking wine
  • 1 14.5 ounce can imported, whole Italian plum tomatoes, cut into small pieces in their own juices
Authentic Béchamel Sauce (salsa balsamella)

Béchamel sauce doesn’t seem to be in favor much anymore, which is a shame. It’s easy to make and a very useful, fast sauce for all Italian cooks. I love this sauce. It does the job of all the ricotta and cheese used in the fast version. This is the binder for the lasagna and for many other traditional Italian meals.

I learned this from Marcella Hazan. If you follow her three rules when making this you will never go wrong:

1. Never allow the flour to become colored when cooked with the butter (it will taste burnt).
2. Add the milk to the flour off of the heat and always add it SLOWLY to avoid lumps – this is a good rule of thumb with all recipes calling for liquid added to flour, but particularly so here.
3. Never, ever stop stirring this until you are sure it’s done.

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted, good-quality butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Lasagna layers:
  • 12 no-boil Barilla lasagna noodles from the regular 9 ounce package
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 1 large bunch of fresh basil leaves torn and cut into tiny strips
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan for the topping
In a previous posting, I detailed a faster version of Bolognese. This version is much more traditional and complex. It takes all day to cook, but results in a meat unparalled in tenderness and taste, yet with fewer ingredients.

Everyone wants to make lasagna in a hurry. This isn’t a good thing. Making lasagna is a wonderfully relaxing artful way of cooking. You melt into the cooking and preparation of it…how can that not be good?

The 45 minute lasagna is a very good recipe and will stand the test of time. It is a great consistency and taste. But, for truly authentic and out-of-this-world taste, you cannot beat an all-day Bolognese sauce (which is the foundation of the all-day sauce). Try both and decide for yourself.

No-boil lasagna noodles are the real streamlining trick up here. I remember boiling noodles, waiting, letting them dry, cooking them in the sauce to make sure they weren’t over done…so annoying. I was skeptical about using no-boil noodles but I’ll be dammed if the Barilla brand isn’t fucking brilliant. You can make noodles from scratch, but that’s taking it one step farther even for me. Most do not have the patience to make pasta (which makes no sense – pasta is so easy!).


Let’s cook!

In a large, Dutch oven, heat your 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat until it shimmers, about 4 minutes. Add 2 chopped onions and a dash of salt (extracts the water from the onions); cook until soft, 4 minutes or so.

Add garlic; cook a few minutes until you get a nice garlic smell going; add the meats, breaking up with a wooden spoon until the red, raw color is gone, anywhere from 5-8 minutes.

Now pour in the cream and mix it all up. Let it cook at a nice simmer until the meat absorbs the tasty cream, about 5 minutes or so.

Add the two cans of tomato puree and the diced tomato and mix it all up very well, until the flavors combine, about 10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, careful not to over salt.

Using tomato puree in meat and red sauces is a quick way to give sauce a nice thickness without adding any calories. I like the taste better than tomato paste. Plus, most puree’s on the market have very little sodium, which is a real plus, and give red sauces a true, tomato flavor.

As the sauce is simmering, make the sauce for the layers.

In a large bowl, mix your ricotta, grated Parmesan, basil and eggs. Put in the salt and pepper. Don’t over mix, but keep it nice and fluffy.

Make sure you’re shredded mozzarella is nearby.

Turn your oven onto 375 degrees.

Now, get out a glass Pyrex lasagna pan (13 by 9 does nicely) and here comes the fun part. Put a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the glass pan and swirl it around the bottom of the pan. Put down three noodles.

I really need to stop taking pictures after 3 glasses of wine. They are all looking very Monet like...and my TV show producer is not happy.

Add one heaping tablespoon down the center of each noodle so you have three tablespoons on EACH noodle. Ladle a bit over a cup of the sauce over the noodles (do the best to cover the noodles) and then pour ½ cup of the shredded mozzarella over this.

I mean, PLEASE. How good will THIS be?!

Oh, dear. Another wine-induced Monet-kinda photo.


Do this twice more, following the same little system. On the last (and fourth) layer, lay the noodles, put the rest of the ricotta over the noodles, cover with the remaining sauce, pour the last ½ cup of mozzarella over the top, and then top with the remaining Parmesan.

Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil – make sure to spray the underside with Pam olive oil spray so it doesn’t stick to the cheese. Put into the oven, cook 15 minutes, remove the foil, bake 25-30 minutes, take out and sit on the counter.

You must let it sit for 15 minutes so it settles. Lasagna will not be rushed.

Cut out a slice; serve with our fabulous Italian bread and a side salad of fresh greens, shaved Parmesan, croutons, thinly sliced red onion and balsamic vinegar.


First thing is first…in the morning before you are serving dinner, start your Bolognese sauce.
Let’s cook!

Place the oil, the butter and the chopped onion in the pot (with a dash of salt). Cook over medium heat. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to heat the oil before cooking. Throwing them in together is the traditional method and results in a much more moist onion.

After 3 minutes (onions should now be translucent), throw in the carrots and celery, stirring so all is coated well with the butter and oil. Cook for 4 minutes, no more. Medium heat.

Nice and easy does it.

Now add the ground beef with a nice bit of pepper and a hearty bit of salt…cook, breaking up the meat so it looses it’s raw, red color.

Now you add the milk and let it gently simmer until it is completely absorbed by the meat. Be patient. This may take up to 20 minutes. Grate the nutmeg into the sauce. Be careful – a tiny bit of nutmeg goes a long, long way.

Add the wine and bring it to a gentle simmer until it is all absorbed. Once it has been fully absorbed, add the tomatoes and bring to a bubble. Once it has come to a bubble, you want to turn down the flame so the sauce cook at the slowest of bubble possible. A bit of a bubble burst here and there…that’s it.

Cook the sauce, uncovered, for at least 3 hours. It will dry out, so feel free to add up to ½ cup of water at a time, but in the end, absolutely no liquid must exist.

I have read many times where if you can’t be home for the amount of time it takes to make this sauce, you can start it and then leave, cover it up, and resume when you return, as long as you finish it the same day.

The sauce also freezes very, very well. Up to 3 months in the freezer. Simply defrost in the fridge overnight, adding a bit of water to it if you reheat in the microwave.

As the Bolognese sauce is being made, you want to work on your Béchamel Sauce.

This sauce isn’t hard, but you must take time and concentrate.

Put your milk into a small but wide saucepan. Heat on medium low. Easy does it. You want to get the milk to the point where it’s just about to boil, where you get those divine little bubbles around the edge.

As the milk is heating, in large, very heavy bottomed 6 quart saucepan, put your butter in the center and turn on low. When the butter has melted and has just stopped bubbling, slowly add the flour, stirring it into the butter with a wooden spoon.


Do not let the butter/flour mixture become colored.

Remover the butter/flour pan from the heat and put aside. Now, add the warm milk from the other pan, but do this only 2 tablespoons at a time, very carefully mixing it in. Relax into this process. Only 2 tablespoons at a time so you don’t get lumps and can let it all mix together and relax. Ahhhhh…

When you have mixed in ½ cup, you can now add the remaining milk, ½ cup at a time, stirring until it’s all mixed together.

When it’s smooth as silk and mixed, put it back on the burner over medium heat and heat, adding the salt, until it becomes a thick cream. If you want it thicker, cook a few minutes more. Thin, a bit less. If you find a lump, attack that sucker with a whisk. No lumps!

You did it! You made Béchamel Sauce!

You can now assemble the lasagna just as with the faster version, but in this version this is what you do:

Layer a tiny bit of the Béchamel sauce on the bottom of the Pyrex lasagna pan.

Layer your three no-boil noodles and add 1/3 of the chopped basil, ¼ of the Bolognese and ¼ of the Béchamel sauce.

Continue this process until you get to the top, where on the last, 4th layer of noodles, you add the remaining Bolognese, spreading it along the noodles as you do (it’s a very thick meat sauce, so you may need to make sure it covers all noodles), cover with the remaining Béchamel sauce, the last of the mozzarella and then the ¼ cup Parmesan.

Cook the same as with the fast version.

Oh! There's a knock at the door! I wonder who could be interrupting my Italian Feast Making?

Excuse me, please.Oh my God! Alec Baldwin! What? You smelled my lasagna all the way in Manhattan? And you had to come to my house in Queens for a taste?

Alec! I'm flattered but you really must go. I'm married. But thank you so much for the compliment. And for goodness sake, put on a shirt!

The nerve of some Italian men. Geeze!

There you have it. Two sublime version of lasagna and a kick-ass and fool-proof Italian bread recipe.

Cook and remember our original intentions. We cook to feed our soul, to feed those we love, to find beauty in life.

Find your own version of fabulous glamour. You know what it is. Pursue what you want with courage and fearless abandon. Listen to your heart, cook and love.

Je t’aime, kittens...


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