Yes. Food. This is not a topic I was originally planning on discussing in any manner whatsoever. But I have recently realized that there is a sort of fanciness about food. For example, compare a burger from McDonald’s to a dish from Olive Garden. Certainly they are of different fanciness, no? So, anyways, today I would like to talk about one of my personal favorite dishes in the world: Pasta. Pasta. Pasta, pasta, and more pasta.
Being Italian, I feel as though the love for pasta is ingrained in my blood and history (even if the Chinese invented it first.) Pasta is an extremely versatile tool in cooking: you can combine it with meat, vegetables, marinara sauce, white sauce, or really just about anything. Being essentially tasteless on its own is what gives pasta this versatility. Let’s see a more specific example.
I recently read a delicious-sounding pasta recipe entitled “World’s Best Lasagna”, from AllRecipes.com.
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
12 lasagna noodles
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
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In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.
This recipe was extremely appealing to me from the get-go. Its title, “World’s Best Lasagna”, obviously implies great taste and culture. After all, apparently the entire world loves this particular lasagna dish! The recipe also contains all the critical spices found in lasagna, such as basil, black pepper, parsley, and fennel seeds, to give it that “authentic” Italian flavor (a quality that one cannot possibly describe in an objective manner). The picture of the lasagna on the website, to use a rather trite expression, makes my mouth water. I mean that literally, as in, saliva is accumulating on my tongue at this very moment. The unfortunate thing about this recipe would be the time it takes to prepare – approximately 3 hours at minimum. I, unfortunately, do not have that sort of time to prepare such a meal. But alas, time spent is just one of the many costs of a fancy dinner.
It is worth noting, while this recipe does have a 5-star review average on AllRecipes.com, the opinion of the recipe is certainly not universal. A reviewer with the username METROWESTJP writes,
“I was so disappointed with this lasagna! I won’t be using this recipe again. With such a high rating, I thought it would taste better.”.
He then goes on to provide suggestions for others as how to change the recipe to make it taste better. The point of this is that even fellow Italians (METROWESTJP also says he is Italian) do not always agree on what creates an “authentic” Italian taste. So, readers, if you were, say, to make this recipe, I would recommend doing whatever sounds tastiest to you. Everyone does have their own tastes of what good “fancy” food is, after all.