Intern Kylie here!
So my older sister is dating a nice Italian boy. Like for real Italian. Not like how I’m German because my great-great grandpa grew up in Germany. Her boyfriend grew up just outside Milan and is only in the U.S. for his PhD. So for this post we’ll lovingly refer to him as, “The Italian.”
Why is this relevant? Because in the year they have been dating, I have been fed more pasta, gnocchi and lasagna than ever before in my life. I’m not complaining. The only downside is that the majority of the dishes are made with heavy cream. Again, not complaining. He’s making us recipes that were taught to him by his mom and I’m sure have been passed down for generations. And if there is one thing you don’t mess with, it’s family traditions.
The Italian has taught my family that it’s blasphemy to (1) put chicken on pizza and (2) order broccoli and cheese gnocchi at a restaurant. And unless you want to be on the receiving end of a death glare, under no circumstances should you ever suggest dinner at Olive Garden.
But all jokes aside, he’s really taught my family something about truly enjoying and savoring food. At first, it drove me CRAZY that he didn’t eat dinner until around 9 pm. I mean, WHAT?! When we would make dinner reservations with my sister and him we always had to compromise on the time. I’m all for eating dinner at 6 pm…we’d usually end up with reservations at 7:30 pm. Compromise.
It took me awhile to realize it, but even something as simple as waiting to eat dinner a couple hours later really made me slow down and start looking forward to food. I mean, I always look forward to food…hence the food blog and the obnoxious here-is-everything-I-ate instagram. But I feel like in the past year, since The Italian has been in all of our lives, I’ve started to appreciate food more.
When he makes us dinner, it’s not just another lasagna or another bowl of pasta; it’s a way for him to be close to his family when they’re more than 5,000 miles away. We all eat the food…The Italian putting his fork down after every bite (and taking sips of his red wine, which is a dinner essential for him) and he tells us how his mom’s version of the dish is always better (I think that part is true for all cultures).
So in the last year I’ve developed a better understanding of what food is. It’s more than something to fill you up. It’s a way to keep memories alive. It’s a way to feel your mom in the kitchen when she isn’t there. It’s a way to be at home when you can’t be. To me it cares much more meaning than flavor. And in the words of this girl, “nostalgia really is the best flavor.”
Understandably, I’ve recently developed a fondness for all things Italian. Which is why when I was trying to think of something that had layers that I could put in a jar…lasagna immediately came to mind.
In this version of lasagna I left out the heavy cream and went for a lower fat cheese options (part-skim ricotta and low-fat mozzarella). And to cut down on the salt, I made homemade tomato sauce. Well, kind of. I used no-added-salt canned tomatoes for the base instead of fresh tomatoes…so I guess that’s kind of cheating.
Then you just layer all the lasagna ingredients into the jar, bake and you’re good to go. Now, The Italian would probably tell me that it’s blasphemy to eat lasagna out of a jar…but I have to admit, it was pretty fun.