For every pound of lean ground beef, take an egg and 1/4-1/3 of dry bread crumbs. Mix together very well, adding finely chopped fresh or dried parsley, basil and/or oregano, salt and pepper. Form balls the size of eggs and brown on all sides in a dry skillet, then drop into simmering tomato sauce. Usually a quart of tomato sauce does for a pound of meat. The Liguori family always used to start the sauce off by browning Italian sausages or a piece of pork in the bottom of the pot, then adding the tomato sauce. Mushrooms, red wine are also nice additions. This is the base from which you proceed to make lasagna. Make meat balls and gravy using at least two pounds of ground beef and a pound of Italian sausage and an extra quart or two of sauce. Prepare a pound of lasagna noodles, putting a spoonful of oil into the boiling water, then when done, running cold water into the pot until the noodles are cool and slippery. This way they do not stick to each other then tear as you try to work with them.
Cut a pound of mozzarella into half inch cubes. Have ready grated parmesan. To a pound of ricotta cheese, add a liberal amount of chopped fresh parsley, grated parmesan, salt and ground pepper. Spread tomato sauce on the bottom of the lasagna pan. Top with noodles, spread with ricotta. Mash two - three meatballs and/or Italian sausage together with some gravy and dot on top of the ricotta. Sprinkle with parmesan, scatter on mozzarella cubes. Top with a layer of noodles and repeat, ending with a layer of noodles, tomato sauce and grated parmesan. In theory, you should use up all the mozzarella and ricotta and have tomato sauce and meatballs left to serve with the finished pasta. Bake the lasagna in a 350 oven until heated through.
To make regular meat sauce for one pound of spaghetti, brown one pound of lean ground beef in a dry pan, sprinkled with salt. Add a minced clove of garlic when the meat is nearly done browning. Drain off all fat and add a quart of home made tomato sauce or an equivalent amount of commercial sauce plus water and basil leaf. You may add some red wine and allow to evaporate before adding the tomato sauce. You may also add half a pound of fresh mushrooms, washed, dried and sliced after draining the fat from the beef (before, they will soak up the fat). Another good addition is a large carrot, peeled and diced very finely.
Now, presuming that you have from one to two cups of such a sauce left over, you have the basis for a sauce similar to one we ate and liked in Florence, which they called "crema". I would not swear that the effect was reached by the same means. Prepare two to three cups of mild cheese sauce:
Finely mince a clove of garlic. Cook briefly in 4-6 Tablespoons of olive oil. Add 4-6 Tablespoons of flour and mix well. Add one cup cold water, 2/3 cup (for 2 cups sauce) to 1 cup (for three cups sauce) of dry milk and 1 - 2 cups of boiling water. Mix well and finish cooking the sauce until smooth and thick either in the microwave or over direct heat. When the sauce is ready stir in grated mild cheese to taste. In Italy, this was often a Swiss or Edam. In the States I have often used Colby or Jack cheese. Combine this cheese sauce with the 1 - 2 cups meat sauce and warm through. This will sauce one pound pasta.
Make a normal meat sauce and half an hour before serving, chop finely one can of black olives and 1/2 - 1 cup of green salad olives. Mix the olives into the meat sauce and simmer. You may do the same for a pot roast cooked in tomato gravy rather than brown gravy, adding the diced olives during the last 20 - 30 minutes of cooking. We had olive sauce at the Vannis, but those were real Tuscan olives.
CAULIFLOWER OR BROCCOLI CHEESE SAUCE
Into the water for the macaroni (Mostacioli, Rotelle, Ziti), put a package or two of frozen cauliflower or broccoli florets or the equivalent amount of fresh vegetable, washed and cut into bite size pieces, with any tough stem peeled and diced. While the pasta is cooking, prepare four cups of cheese sauce with garlic and olive oil as outlined above (i.e., 8 Tablespoons olive oil, 8 Tablespoons flour, one cup cold water, 1 1/3 cup dry milk, 3 cups boiling water. Salt and pepper to taste). When the pasta is done, drain and serve with the cheese sauce.
BAKED MACARONI WITH RICOTTA
For one pound of macaroni such as Ziti or Mostacioli, take one pound of ricotta, a fair amount of grated parmesan and mozzarella and a quart of tomato sauce. While the macaroni is boiling, mix chopped parsley, basil and/or oregano into the ricotta with some parmesan cheese. Drain the pasta and toss it with the ricotta. Put in a baking dish and top with the tomato sauce, more parmesan and the grated mozzarella. Bake at 350 until warmed through.
You may mix one ten ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained or cooked according to package directions and drained, with the ricotta. Another possibility is to add chopped pepperoni sausage to the ricotta.
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