I accredit my success of cooking throughout my life to my two aunts Rose and Antoinette. My mother's parents were born in Italy and sailed on that oh so common boat ride to the infamous Ellis Island; a place of relief, freedom and new beginnings.
They set their roots in Astoria, Queens and bought their first American home. My grandfather was a shoe maker and had his business on the first floor, and on the second floor there were two bedrooms where my grandparents and their eight children lived. Imagine that!
Skip to the day my mother had her own children, approximately 60 years later. Every Sunday when I was a child we would have family dinner with my two mother's sisters and grandmother in Astoria. Even though nowadays people fear the beginning of a new week, I was always excited and looked forward to be around family. Each time I walked in the door I always noticed how lovely the table was prepared, garnished with a fancy tablecloth, crystal glasses and flowers. We had a traditional four course Italian dinner, which consisted of a fruit cup, a roast, vegetables and of course pasta! We never left with our bellies grumbling and we shared many memories around the kitchen room table.
As for the various holidays during the year, my aunt's had their own traditions. A couple of days before Easter they would gather in the kitchen and would make their own baskets with handles made out of Italian cookie dough. In each basket they would put jelly beans, chocolate eggs and a chocolate bunny for us when we arrived on Easter. For Easter dinner we would have manicotti, leg of lamb, breaded, fried zucchini and artichokes, and pepperoni pie and Italian cheesecake for dessert. Antoinette would always asked, "Well, how do you like everything?", and before you could answer she would say, "Of course its good, it has the best ingredients!" As we would roll our eyes growing up at the annual comment, I always admired her pride for what she made for all of us. At Christmastime my aunts would start baking cookies on December 1st. They would store them large pickle jars and made 15 varieties to give to each of the families, which looked like works of art as well as being delicious.
In honor of my aunts Rose and Antoinette, even though they might be rolling in their graves, I would like to share with all of you a gluten free twist on their famous Lasagna dish to share with your families.
Amanda's Gluten Free Lasagna
1 big can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes (San Marzano is a good Italian brand)
1 head garlic minced
2 shallots roughly chopped
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
1 unpeeled carrot
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons thyme
oregano, no more than one teaspoon
fresh rosemary, no more than one teaspoon
1 cup fresh basil minced
Directions: Heat extra virgin olive oil then put in garlic & shallots until translucent. Add in dried herbs, cook for one minute, then add red wine and cook until almost reduced all the way. Add in tomatoes and 1/2 of tomato can of water, use immersion blender to make smooth. Add in balsamic vinegar and whole carrot. Take out carrot after 5 minutes of simmering. Bring to a boil, then to low simmer covered for 20 to 40 minutes. Turn of heat. Add salt & pepper to taste. Put in fresh herbs after blending.
Sauce (see above instructions)
1 box of Tinkyada brand brown rice
Pasta lasagna noodles
1 container of organic ricotta cheese
1 Mozzarella ball shredded (save a 1/4 of it for topping)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
To put the Lasagna together: use a Pyrex 9" by 11" pan
1. Cover bottom of pan with sauce.
2. Place uncooked noodles on top to cover pan.
3. Spoon sauce over noodles.
4. Mix all cheeses together in small bowl and drop teaspoon dollops on noodles an inch apart.
5. Place noodles on top of cheese and repeat from step one to six.
6. Place 3 layers of noodles and top with sauce and shredded mozzarella.