My grandmother didn’t make lasagna.
Perhaps that is why I’ve never felt that bad taking what should be tradition and transforming it into something totally unrecognizable. Omitting key ingredients, adding in a rainbow of vegetables that wasn’t there before, or saying “who needs an hour of baking or a tray of cheesy perfection…just throw it all on the stovetop and call it soup!”.
As it turns out, without a gold standard to compare it to, anything goes.
But how could that be?, you ask. An Italian grandmother without a lasagna to her repertoire? Impossible!
Strange, I know. But true.
But that was my grandmother for you. Nothing she did ever really made sense. Not her undying love of Halloween, the Christmas tree she kept on display in her apartment year-round, or how, even after she had forgotten everything, she still remembered my grandfather’s name. Even in death, she was an enigma, pushing along to the age of 95 and outliving her daughter by 26 years and her son by three weeks, only to die in her sleep this past Wednesday. I mean, really, how can you even begin to comprehend something like that?
The priest reminded us at her funeral that burying three people in eight months is hard. And really. It is, but it isn’t. My grandfather’s death this past January was in some ways expected and understandable. And so would my grandmother’s have been, if only my father had been there.
It was his absence that was the hardest. That hurt the most.
Things were just not supposed to be this way. And that is that.
At times like these, you feel compelled to fill yourself with comfort in whatever way you can. And even though a lasagna recipe was not passed on through generations of Brunos or Garofalos (my grandmother’s maiden name), the combination of pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese is one that will always make me feel a little bit more at peace.
This soup was a breeze to throw together and was so delicious that The.Boy. declared it as his favorite dish that I have ever made for him. I substituted soy crumbles for the sausage that was in the original and he kept insisting that there was ground beef in there somewhere. I consider that a win.
So, yeah. If you’re in need of a bowl of a little something something that feels like a warm hug, this is it. No matter what lasagna recipe your grandmother used to make.
Serves 4, adapted from Closet Cooking
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 package SmartGround original crumbles
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 28 oz canned diced tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 lb whole wheat pasta
- 4 oz ricotta
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 4 oz mozzarella, grated
- 1 handful basil, chopped
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the crumbles and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes, breaking them apart as you go. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the onion to the pan and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and fennel and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the veggie broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, bay leaf, “meat” crumbles, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan cheese, and mozzarella. Serve soup topped with the cheese mixture and basil.