Nothing says love like the long process of making a lasagna. The chopping of vegetables, grinding of meats, mixing of herbs, long stewing of sauce, rolling of dough, boiling sheets of pasta, ginger handling of hot boiled sheets of pasta that you pray won't stick, swift and deft arrangement of cheeses to get a little bit of every variety in every bite. Oh yes. To make lasagna is to proclaim your love. Not that there aren't other ways to express love, but lasagna is the exclamation point to "I love you!"
Most nights, I give Mr. Rose the option of having whatever he wants for dinner. As we head home from work on weeknights, or when I wake up on weekends, knowing that I have a few hours for a bigger production, I always ask what he wants. In reality, he doesn't actually get anything he wants, because sometimes the ingredients aren't readily available; sometimes I'm just not in the mood to make it. But I always ask, for conversation sake and to make him at least *feel* like he gets to make that decision.
Several nights in the last few weeks, Mr. Rose requested lasagna. Of the meaty variety. Night after night, I declined, gently nudging him to something less time-consuming or less-fattening. But one can only deny a loved one of lasagna for so long before said loved one has wandered over to the Olive Garden at lunch for a big heap of carb-laden mediocrity.
So I rolled up my sleeves one Wednesday night and got to work. None of it, with the exception of the part where I parboiled pasta, was all that difficult.
Sauce, so long as one has plenty of good ingredients, is forgiving. Because you're going to be stewing it for a couple of hours, you can just keep adjusting the flavor as necessary. I'd been reserving two tins of tomatoes, imported from Italy, for this sort of occasion. Add some chopped onions, carrots, celery, herbs, ground pork, and beef and you've got yourself a party.
Pasta dough has become quite easy, though I still find it to be a bit of a challenge to make perfectly rectangular sheets for the lasagna pan. With linguine, no one has to know that it's coming in random lengths, and probably no one notices that the edge pieces aren't quite rectilinear. But rolling pasta has become therapeutic for me, so it was actually quite nice to work the dough so meticulously. It's amazing that pasta dough, when raw, is so easy to handle, but then becomes so finicky when boiled. You have to handle it gingerly or it tears, but you have to move quickly because it's both (a) burning your hands, and (b) threatening to permanently stick to itself or its neighbors.
Last, but certainly not least, was the cheese. I used three varieties: romano, mozzarella, and ricotta. I managed to spread an even and tidy layer between each layer of pasta and sauce, and reserve some for the top. The lasagna baked with beautifully browned cheesiness. No, I didn't make any of those cheeses from scratch -- it was, after all, a weeknight. I think I got just enough love in there for a Wednesday.
Happy Anniversary, Mr. Rose.