Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in the Country

We had a wonderful Christmas.
Very small, but wonderful.
On Christmas Eve, we attend the evening church service. Hubs sings in the choir and plays guitar, so he goes to the evening and the Midnight service. The church we attend is 30 miles away. In the past, I've struggled to make the perfect Christmas Eve dinner, trying to set the oven/'s timer to cook a roast or a turkey so that I can rush back and finish dinner. I didn't always have good results....
This year, I made homemade bread with lasagna. I set the oven to turn on 350 at 7:30. While we were chatting with friends after the service, I caught the time on a friend's watch. 
We were still 45 minutes away from home! I rushed home and threw open the door and was greeted with smoke and the smell of burning food. My heart sank.
I ran to the oven and slowly opened it....
What a relief to find the lasagna had spilled over its pan and was dropping sauce on the oven floor. 
Lasagna was fine. 
More than fine, it was wonderful!
I normally just float my way thru the lasagna, but this time, I followed a recipe.
This was the best lasagna I've ever tasted, I promise you. But it was also so darn good looking! Normally, it falls together and slimes its way all over the plate, but this guy stood up straight and tall and proudly showed off the cheesy layers. Yum.
World's Best Lasagna Recipe
adapted from


  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.
I also made homemade French bread, just because there wasn't enough going on!!!
It was wonderful!
French Bread Recipe


  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast and salt. Stir in 2 cups warm water, and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. Shape into a ball. Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled.
  3. Punch dough down, and divide in half. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into large rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side. Moisten edge with water and seal. Taper ends.
  4. Grease a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Place loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water, and brush on. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until nearly doubled, 35 to 40 minutes.
  5. With a very sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across top of each loaf. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until bread tests done. If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent over browning. Remove from baking sheet, and cool on a wire rack.

Our Christmas Eve dinner was better than ever.I would definitely do lasagna again. Although I would set the oven to go on about 8pm, next time! No mad dash home, worried about burning down the house!


  1. Look great Sissy. Worth all your effort. I tend to put all my pots on a cookie sheet with foil on it so if it boils over the foil catches it. :) Makes cleanups so much easier. Glad your holidays were nice.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. Oh, yes, I'm going to try both your recipes! I've never been the best, well, even good at bread-making, but I have high hopes for loaves like yours. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Hi Sissy,
    Your lasagna recipe is one I'll try. So glad that it was the spill over that you smelled and not that lovely pan of lasagna. Enjoy the rest of the holiday season.

  4. YUM! It all looks so good. My SIL always makes lasagna for Christmas dinner. I think it's a popular holiday meal.

  5. Anonymous7:44 PM

    Hmmn... Yes, as I've been hunting around the blogs recently, I am noticing that many households are doing away with the traditional turkey - in favor of lasagna! What gives?

  6. Anonymous10:32 PM

    Sissy, Thank You for your lovely comments about our remarkable Cole Aden...
    FYI: Lord knows WE can't afford a maid or cleaning service!
    search Fly Lady you will see what she offers...a schedule for cleaning your own home..and actually makes the dreaded task not so bad...

  7. Looks like it all turned out perfectly! Hope that the rest of your Christmas break went well. Jx


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