Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Pregliascos Make Lasagna


That trip looks insane! Like, ridiculous and not real. Like you were on a movie set actually. So glad you all had such a wonderful time and what looks like terrific weather! Happy Birthday, Mrs. G! 

Still a little upset that you didn't like the first Sherlock Holmes... why do you hate America?

I want to share with you one of my favorite family holiday traditions that I've never actually been a part of...

Here's the jest: On my father's side of the family (The Pregliascos), we have a tradition of gathering on Christmas Eve and eating lasagna and exchanging gifts. This started when my dad's generation were just weeeee little things.

Wait, we're Italian, why don't we eat like 56 kinds of fish on Christmas? 

Well, the only actual Italian in our family was my Great Grandfather and he died when my Grandfather was very young, so although the oh so Italian last name has carried through the generations, real Italian traditions, not so much. SO we've made up our own! (I'll get into Columbus day another time). 

The original lasagna recipe called for Velveeta cheese and cottage cheese. Ick, squared.  Money was tight and with 6 kids running around, you can bet my Grandmother wasn't making Bechamel sauce. It sounds gross, but when it's what you know, it's just as delicious as fancy lasagna, I swear. A few years ago a new and, shall we say, fancier and more updated recipe was introduced, but a dollop of cottage cheese and Velveeta still go in each casserole in honor of my grandparents. 

These days, the whole family gets together at my parents house in Louisville a few weeks before Christmas (I've yet to make this particular pilgrimage) to make the lasagna for Christmas Eve. Each family takes a dish home, freezes it, and then heats it up before coming back to my parents house for the party on the 24th.

The recipe below makes 4 to 5 casseroles and is not exactly scientific.

  • 5 onions, finely chopped
  • 18 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 carrots, shaved or finely chopped
  • 7 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 12 tablespoons of thyme
  • 11 28 oz cans of plum tomatoes, hand crushed
  • 2 cups of butter
  • 8 cups of milk
  • 8 cups of heavy cream
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • Nutmeg
  • 6 boxes of lasagna noodles
  • 5 pounds of ground sirloin, browned
  • 5 pound pot roast, shredded (braised and cooked in red wine)
  • 3 pounds mozzarella or provolone cheese, sliced
  • 4 containers ricotta cheese

  • Heat a heavy sauce pan over medium heat
  • Cover the bottom of the pan with 1/4" of olive oil
  • Add onion and garlic, cook until golden brown (about 8-10 minutes)
  • Add thyme, celery and carrots. Cook until carrots are soft
  • Add tomatoes (with juice)
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Bring to a boil, stirring frequently
  • Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the sauce is the consistency of oatmeal
  • Add the sirloin and roast
  • Add Italian red wine to taste

  • Melt butter in large sauce pan over medium heat
  • Whisk in flour (Mom insists on Wondra)
  • Pour in milk and heavy cream, whisking continuously
  • Season with salt
  • Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes
  • Remove the pan from heat, season with salt and nutmeg to taste 

*If the sauce is too thick, add a little more milk
*If the sauce is too thin, return to heat and add a pat of butter and an equal amount of flour


Layer the casserole dishes in the following order:

  • Tomato/Meat sauce
  • Noodles
  • Tomato/Meat sauce
  • Bechamel sauce
  • Ricotta
  • Noodle
  • Repeat

*The meat and tomato sauce will be a little runny since it didn't cook for hours and hours. So use a  
  strainer spoon to put the sauce into the casserole.
*Last layer is mozzarella or provolone on top
*Be sure to save some thyme to mark your initials on top of the casserole you made, obvi.

Here are some photos of the party this past Sunday. Apologies for the picture quality. They were taken by Lil' Q on her phone and obviously photo quality takes a back seat to stirring the bechamel.

AND... my cousin Anna just had her baby last night! Abigail. I can't wait to squeeze her while we're in Louisville for the holidays! Yay, Anna and Jay! Another lasagna eater!



  1. Love this tradition! I have to share that I consider my Mom a very legit Italian cook (she learned all her recipes from her Dad who was first generation American after his parents moved here from Sicily). She swears by cottage cheese in her lasagna and refuses to use anything else. It tends to be a bit creamier than the ricotta you find in the supermarkets here. :)

  2. Oh my cousins are gonna love this info. Cottage cheese is in fact, legit. Love it!

  3. D, this sounds DELICIOUS! YUM. And I love that you arrive just in time to eat!