Let me put this out there – I’m not a great cook. It’s not that I’m a horrible cook, my food is edible and even tasty, I’m just not very inventive. I tend to rotate through a set of 10 or so dinners for my family. Thankfully, they don’t seem to mind.
It’s strange though, in times of joy or sorrow, my inclination is to feed people. Specifically, I want to make them lasagna. Occasionally I’ll make a roast, but it never feels right.
Lasagna is apparently how I say I love you.
Lasagna works in all sorts of situations.
Have a baby? Lasagna.
Death in the family? Lasagna.
Family pet missing? Lasagna.
Promotion? Lasagna and champagne. (I don’t recommend enjoying them together — save the bubbles for another night)
My favorite thing is to bring it by, warm from the oven, in a disposable tray with another tray full of salad and bread. Dessert and wine are sometimes added, depending on the situation. There is nothing to clean or return, the meal practically cleans up after itself.
I think lasagna is my go to because it’s warm and comforting, a familiar favorite. A pan easily feeds a couple for several days or makes a meal for a large family. If homemade isn’t an option because of scheduling conflicts, I can swing by and pick it up from a number of great restaurants in town.
Picking up take-out from a favorite restaurant and delivering that warm meal to a healing friend is not cheating. Sometimes giving our best means leaving the cooking to someone else. In this situation, it really is the thought that counts. Pinky-promise.
Last week, a friend and I tag-teamed dinner for one of our dearest friends. I made lasagna, of course, and she made Texas sheet cake, salad and bread. We made enough for our friend to not have to cook for a few days. When we brought her dinner, she revealed that her entire family would be gathering that night to make selections for her stepmother’s funeral.
We were nearly overcome. Our dinner was put together to help lighten a load. It wound up being the meal over which sacred decisions were made. We were so privileged to be trusted with such a meal. To nourish her family as they honored their loved one was a gift.
When it comes down to it, taking a meal feeds people, yes, but it also offers comfort and warmth and love. It celebrates joy and life and honors grief. It is a physical representation of our affection.
In the end, I find that the words shared as the meal is exchanged (yes, I bring the meal, visit for 20 minutes max, and leave) and the privilege of being allowed to serve my friends is more of a gift for me than it is for them.
Maybe that’s why I keep showing up with lasagna.
Tell me, what’s your favorite meal to bring a friend?
In case you don’t have a favorite, here’s the recipe for mine. It’s adapted from my mother-in-love’s tried and true lasagna recipe.
1 package lasagna noodles
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (I typically use Ragu Super Chunky Mushroom)
1 package shredded mozzarella
1 pound ground beef
1 1 1/2 pound carton cottage cheese (I know, I know)
Pre-heat the oven to 350. Brown the meat and drain excess fat. Add pasta sauce and 1/2 jar hot water to the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Spray 9×13 glass pan (or disposable tray) with Pam. Lightly cover the bottom of the pan with sauce, about 3/4 cup. Add one layer of lasagna noodles (three will fit easily). Spread one heaping spoonful of cottage cheese over each lasagna noodle. Add a layer of sauce to cover (make sure to get the ends of the noodles). Sprinkle 1/3 of the package of mozzarella over top. Continue layering until the pan is 3/4 full. (Three layers works well) Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese.
Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil and put it in the fridge for at least 8 hours. Overnight works too. When ready to bake, remove the lasagna from the fridge and let it sit out for 30 minutes or so. If you are in a pinch for time, skip this step. Put the foil-covered lasagna in a 350-degree oven for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting or packaging up to take to a friend.