published about 9 hours ago
My beginnings in the kitchen were quite humble. In fact, I’m not even sure it can be characterized as cooking. Mostly it involved reheating frozen packaged dinners. Sometimes it was those individual TV dinners, which always tasted so much better reheated in the oven versus the microwave, and other times I’d opt for what became one of my tried-and-true favorites: a family-sized lasagna of Stouffer’s.
While reheating Stouffer’s lasagna doesn’t take much effort, it was an early lesson for me in how much I love to feed others. My older siblings were always especially pleased with me on those nights and it felt good as the baby of the family to feel I had something to contribute. It was in those early kitchen days that I began to understand how food can bring people together.
As I got older and my cooking evolved, I started trying homemade versions of my favorite frozen meals. The first homemade lasagna I tried as a teenager was a complete disaster. The sauce was bitter beyond belief and the noodles I had attempted to open by hand were doughy and unpleasant. It was frustrating, but also extremely motivating. I was determined to master the art of lasagna.
My mom had a stack of random books in the kitchen, and after my bruised ego healed, I flipped through some of them looking for another lasagna recipe to try. I came across a recipe for Lasagne alla Bolognese, which is basically lasagna with bolognese and bechamel sauce – lasagne is the plural of lasagna, which technically means there’s only one sheet of pasta. At the time I didn’t know any for that, but I knew I loved Bolognese, so I decided to give it a try. Luckily for me, my second attempt at homemade lasagna was much more successful.
Not only did the Lasagne alla Bolognese taste absolutely delicious, but knowing this The it was the one that made my teenage self swell with pride. I was so excited to share a piece with everyone I could—family, friends, neighbors—and I remember being surprised by how touched people were. The best part of making that lasagna was the act of sharing it, and that has stayed with me all these years later.
The older I get and the more chaotic the world around us becomes, the more I reflect on the power of food to build and foster community. Lasagna alla Bolognese taught me so much about cooking – like fine poix and why you have to let sauces simmer low and slow to build flavor. It’s one of those recipes that gave me more confidence in the kitchen. However, it is more than that: it is one of the first recipes that helped me understand that food is much more than food itself. It’s about people.
This Lasagne alla Bolognese recipe by Giuliano Hazan is my favorite. The end result is a hearty and delicious lasagna that begs to be shared with a crowd. Hazan offers you a game to make Bolognese, béchamel sauce and pasta from scratch. And, yes, it tastes delicious, but my favorite thing about this recipe is that it’s a labor of love. It is the definition of food that you make for others.
As I was giving this recipe another go last week, a dear friend lost her father unexpectedly. When someone you care about is grieving, I find the hardest part is that there isn’t a perfect combination of words that can ease their pain; there are no consolations that truly encompass the depth of their grief. Mourning is a case where words often fail. But if being a home cook has taught me anything, it’s that when words fail, let the food do the talking.
As I cooked, I thought about my friend and how special she is. I thought about her pain and how much I wished I could keep a piece of it for her. On the drive home, I was thankful that this heavy baking dish full of meaty bolognese, creamy béchamel sauce, and soft pasta would give me a little pep talk. It was not lost on me that here was another example, through the lasagna, that food is about the people we share it with.