A few weeks ago I gave a talk at the Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn, and during the Q&A period at the end, someone asked the million dollar question: What’s for dinner tonight?
Because I’m a faithful follower of the dinner-in-the-morning religion (for the uninitiated: The practice of taking a few seconds to decide what’s on the menu later and thaw or prep a few things accordingly) nine times out of ten, this is an easy question to answer. On this particular day, it just so happened I had a bunch of freezer meatballs thawing. I had baked them on the weekend, popped them in a Ziplock and into the freezer, then transferred them to the refrigerator earlier that day.
“We’re having meatballs tonight. I’ll probably just heat them up in some jarred tomato sauce or something. With some good bread.”
Later, when I was signing books, the question-asker said to me, “I can’t believe you use jarred tomato sauce. I just assumed that you made yours from scratch.”
“I do make mine from scratch,” I said. “But when I don’t have time to make it from scratch, I have no problem using sauce from a jar.”
I couldn’t tell if this piece of information made my stock skyrocket or plummet in her mind. I hope it was the former, because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, without store-bought assistance, weeknight dinners (and after school snacks, see above, #growthspurt) would be a disaster. And also: When there are sauces as fresh and beloved as Ooma Tesoro’s out there in the world, it hardly feels like cheating. (Note to Grandmas Turano and Catrino: This does not mean I love you any less.) The stuff is so good, so pure and tomato-y, my daughters eat it straight from the jar with a spoon. We use it on pizzas, pastas, spread on mozzarella sandwiches in the lunch box, as a dip for grilled cheese sandwiches, whirled into white bean soups.
And as book owners might have noticed, I’m even completely shameless about using it in my mom’s world-famous (ok, Rosenstrach-famous) lasagna recipe if I don’t have time to make the family marinara. Lucky for us — this got the attention of the nice people at Ooma Tesoro’s, who, as a thank you to me, want to offer a giveaway to you: Three jars of their classic marinara so you can see for yourself what I’m talking about. Just in time for Sunday Dinner, a regular old Tuesday night meatball meal, or a Super Bowl Lasagna, the recipe for which I’ve included below. Leave a comment to be eligible to win; contest ends Sunday 1/29 at noon ET. Good luck! UPDATE: The winner has been chosen. (Congrats Janie!) Thanks to everyone for playing.
Grandma Jody’s Lasagna
My mom has never messed around with the traditional béchamel when making lasagna. Her recipe is a strict assembly job, which can be fun for the kids.
4 cups homemade marinara sauce or good-quality store-bought marinara like Ooma Tesoro’s
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
1 clove garlic, halved
1⁄4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed (or one 9-ounce bag or bunch spinach, trimmed, rinsed, and cooked) and squeezed dry
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (about 1⁄8 teaspoon)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 links (about 8 ounces) good-quality sweet Italian sausage (or to taste, or omit to make this vegetarian), skins removed
1 1⁄4 cups fresh ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
3⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 cups grated fresh mozzarella cheese (from an 8-ounce ball mozzarella)
1 pound no-cook lasagna noodles
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
If you are making your own marinara, do that first. If you’re not, place your Ooma Tesoro’s on the counter. It is the first ingredient in your Lasagna Assembly Line. (No need to heat it up.)
Add the olive oil to a skillet set over medium heat. Cook the garlic halves cut side down to infuse the oil, about 2 minutes. Remove. Add the onions and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach, the nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the spinach is warmed through (or wilted if you’re using fresh). Transfer to a bowl and set on your assembly line. To the same skillet, over medium-high heat, add the sausage, breaking it up into crumbles with a fork, and cook until brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet to a bowl. Add the bowl to your assembly line.
In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, egg, 1⁄2 cup of the Parm, and all but about 1⁄4 cup of the mozzarella. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the bowl to your assembly line.
Now, time for the fun part. Scoop about 1⁄2 cup of the marinara into the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and “paint” the bottom completely with the back of a spoon. Place lasagna noodles on top, trimming the noodles if you have to in order to cover the sauce completely. Add another layer of sauce on top, then top with sausage crumbles and dollops of both the cheese mixture and the spinach mixture, flattening them a bit with your spoon. Repeat with the remaining noodles and toppings, finishing with only a thin layer of sauce, the remaining mozzarella, and the remaining Parm.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes, until everything looks bubbly. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly, which will make it easier to cut.