Nonna’s lasagna is not a quick weeknight meal.
My Nonna would wake up while it was still dark to begin making Sunday dinner lasagna. Her paper-thin, melt-in-your-mouth noodles were homemade (of course). She’d hang them on the backs of the kitchen chairs as she pressed the next one.
The sauce would simmer all day on the stove, melding all the flavours of the herbs and cinnamon stick together. After assembling, she’d top it with a rich and creamy bechamel sauce.
Lasagna was always served with mixed greens, olive oil/balsamic and Nonna’s homemade crispy, salty, buttery croutons. When my mom wasn’t looking, my Nonno would pour “just a little” of his wine into my brothers’ and I’s cup of ginger ale.
For post-lasagna night dessert, she’d pull out the panna cotta – which was a limited edition option because she’d bring the powdered mixed back from her trips to Italy. There were only so many panna cotta’s a year at Sunday dinner.
The rule of the table was one sibling cut and the other three picked their slice. Measuring sticks would often be involved. The adults would drink their espresso and grappa while we played Briscola at the kitchen table.
These are memories I now cherish.
I’m celiac and lactose intolerant, but if my Nonna’s lasagna appeared in front of me today – I’d crush the entire thing in one sitting (and definitely not share with my three brothers). I’d suffer the consequences for one last bite.
Over the years, I’ve done my best to recreate it for my family. I still use her pots and wooden spoons to make it for family dinners or special occasions. When my Nonno was still alive, I’d always wait for his head nod with a “very close.” I’m pretty proud of myself for that.
And just because gluten and dairy have been off my menu for quite some time, doesn’t mean I was ready to give up making Nonna’s lasagna. I swapped her homemade noodles for brown rice (I promise I’m working on a “from scratch” noodle) and dairy for cashew sauce. The sauce and creamy topping that was her signature remain the same.
I hope she wouldn’t be too upset with my swaps. I can hear her saying “but it’s only just a little flour” as I tried explaining to an Italian grandmother what Celiac means and why I can’t eat regular pasta. This is my compromise, Nonna.
60 minPrep Time
45 minCook Time
1 hr, 45 Total Time