Whether you're hosting a dinner for 6 or a buffet for 20, family-style cooking is the perfect way to fill everyone up with good food and holiday spirit. Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, author of "Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen," shares some of her family favorites for your holiday dinner table. Italian-American Lasagna
Makes 12 servings, plus leftovers
Ingredients2 pounds fresh or packaged whole-milk ricotta cheese Italian-American Meat Sauce (recipe below) Salt 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 pounds lasagna noodles 2 large eggs 2 1/2 cups freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 1 lb mozzarella cheese, preferably fresh, sliced thin
Line a sieve with a double thickness of cheese cloth or a basket-type coffee filter. Place ricotta over the cheese cloth and set the sieve over a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 1 day. Discard the liquid that drains into the bowl. Make the meat sauce (see below).
Bring 6 quarts of salted water and the olive oil to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Stir about one-third of the lasagna noodles into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 8-10 minutes.
While the pasta is cooking, set a large bowl of ice water next to the stove. When the lasagna noodles are al dente, remove them with a wire skimmer and transfer to the ice water. Let them stand until completely chilled. Repeat the cooking and cooling with the remaining two batches of lasagna noodles. When the cooked noodles are chilled, remove them from the ice bath and stack them on a baking sheet, separating each layer with a clean, damp kitchen towel. While the noodles are cooking, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl until foamy. Add the ricotta and stir until thoroughly blended. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
To assemble the lasagna, ladle about 3/4 cup of the meat sauce over the bottom of a 15x10-inch baking dish. Arrange noodles lengthwise and side by side so as to cover the bottom of the baking dish and overhang the short ends of the dish by about 2 inches. (A little "cut and paste" might be necessary. Also the noodles will most likely overlap in the center of the dish. That is fine.) Spoon enough meat sauce, about 2 cups, to cover the noodles in an even layer. Sprinkle the sauce with 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. Arrange a single layer of noodles crosswise over the cheese so they overhang the long sides of the baking dish by about 2 inches, trimming the noodles and overlapping them as necessary. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles. Arrange a single layer of noodles lengthwise over the ricotta, trimming the noodles as necessary. Arrange the sliced mozzarella in an even layer over the noodles. Spread 1 cup of the meat sauce over the cheese and sprinkle 1 cup of grated cheese over the sauce. Cover with a layer of noodles, arranged lengthwise. Spoon enough meat sauce, about 2 cups, to cover the noodles in an even layer, and sprinkle the sauce with 1/2 cup grated cheese. Turn the noodles overhanging the sides and ends of the dish over the lasagna, leaving a rectangular uncovered space in the middle. Spread a thin layer of meat sauce over the top layer of noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake 45 minutes.
Uncover the lasagna and continue baking until the top is crusty around the edges, about 20 minutes. Let rest at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours before cutting and serving. To re-warm a lasagna that has been standing, cover it loosely with foil and place in a 325 degree F oven until heated through, 15 to 45 minutes, depending on how long it has been standing.
Italian-American meat sauceMakes about 8 cups
IngredientsTwo 35-oz cans Italian plum tomatoes 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 medium yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups) 6 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine 5 to 6 meaty pork neck bones (about 3/4 pound) 1 pound ground beef 1 pound ground pork Salt 4 bay leaves 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably the Sicilian or Greek type dried on the branch, crumbled 3/4 cup dry white wine 1/3 cup tomato paste 3 to 4 cups hot water
Pass the tomatoes and their liquid through a food mill fitted with the fine disc. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a heavy 4- to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Make a little room in the center of the pot, dump in the garlic, and cook, stirring, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the pork bones and cook, turning, until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and pork and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring to break up the meat, until the meat changes color and the water it gives off is boiled away, about 10 minutes. Continue cooking until the meat is browned, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves and oregano, then pour in the wine. Bring to a boil and cook, scraping up the brown buts that cling to the pot, until the wine is almost completely evaporated. Pour in the tomatoes, then stir in the tomato paste until it is dissolved. Season lightly with salt. Bring to a boil, adjust the heat to a lively simmer, and cook, uncovered, stirring often, until the sauce takes on a deep, brick-red color, 2 to 3 hours. Add the hot water, about 1/2 cup at a time, as necessary to maintain the level of liquid for the length of time the sauce cooks. When the sauce is finished simmering, you can pull the meat from the bones and stir it into the sauce.
Skim off any fat floating on the top and adjust the seasoning as necessary. The sauce can be prepared entirely in advance and refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to three months.
Recipes excerpted from, "Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen" by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. Copyright © 2003 by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.