I like to cook. And I like to see my family enjoy a meal that I've made. Sunday dinners are important at our house, but birthday dinners need to be even more so because you want to be sure the one you're celebrating truly loves what you've made especially for them.
Ask a young child what they want for their birthday dinner and they may say pizza or spaghetti and meatballs. Ask a young adult with a more experienced palate and they'll remember a delectable meal you made and ask for a repeat.
So in our house the past few years, Chicken Parmesan was my go-to recipe for birthday dinners. It took some time to make from scratch, but the meat and cheese melted in your mouth and everyone came away thankful that the birthday boy or girl requested that special dinner.
Right before Christmas, we celebrated hubby's birthday. Yes, it's a busy time of year, but we always make his day as special as the rest of the family birthdays we have sprinkled through the year. Before the big day, I asked hubby if he wanted chicken parm or the new lasagna recipe that I made for the first time this past March for my oldest daughter's birthday. Hubby is easygoing and said he'd love either, whatever's easiest for me, so I went with the winning lasagna recipe, which I had a craving for myself.
No big secret, you can find this scrumptious lasagna recipe on the box of Trader Joe's no-boiling, oven-ready lasagna noodles, but I'll save you the trouble by sharing this keeper right here:
Trader Joe's Bolognese Lasagna
1/2 package no-boiling lasagna noodles (I use Trader Joe's but any brand would work)
1 lb. uncooked sweet Italian pork sausage (or any sausage you prefer)
1 jar Trader Joe's Bolognese meat sauce (or any jarred or homemade red gravy you prefer)
12 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup 1% milk
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the casing from all the sausage links; place sausage in a large skillet; break up sausage with a fork or spoon while it pan fries until cooked. Add Bolognese sauce to pan; mix, warm through and set aside.
In a separate bowl cream together mascarpone, milk, and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese; mix in nutmeg. Season with pepper to taste. Spread a thin layer of the mascarpone mixture on the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking dish. Dip lasagna noodles into mascarpone mixture one at a time to cover completely; place in a single layer in the baking dish; top with meat sauce and evenly sprinkle on some of the grated Parmesan cheese.
Keep layering in the same order until all of the meat sauce is used (this should make three layers). For the top layer (4th layer), dip the noodles; make the layer; pour remainder of mascarpone mixture over top and sprinkle on the remainder of the Parmesan.
Rest lasagna for about 30 minutes to allow noodles to absorb liquid. Place in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbly. Rest at least 20 minutes before cutting.
Serves six. (I double the recipe and use a 15 x 10 pan.)
This meat lasagna recipe is one among many in the food universe, but it's the mascarpone cheese that distinguishes this smooth and creamy, but not-too-heavy special birthday dinner that all will enjoy. Second and third helpings, along with contented smiles, attest to this. You may want to double the receipe as I do or you won't have any leftovers for a satisfying meal even better the next day.
Let me know if you try this. Here's to hoping your family will love it as much as mine do.
Until next time, yours in fun and cooking...Therese