My Mother’s Lasagna

by MEREDITH HEIL, contributor,

For the majority of American families, Thanksgiving dinner is the most eagerly anticipated meal of the year, awaited with bated breath and watering mouths for months in advance. In my family, however, it’s Christmas Eve dinner that takes the proverbial cake. That’s when my Italian mother makes her famous lasagna.

My mom’s lasagna — those layers upon layers of warm, gooey, salty, subtly sweet and perfectly cooked pasta — has descended from a family recipe passed down from generation to generation. And over the years, each Capozzalo matriarch managed to add her own subtle influences to the recipe before sharing it with her daughters and daughters-in-law. It’s no secret that Italian mothers love to feed their families, and the Capozzalos are no exception — especially when it comes to pasta.

I recently took my parents out to dinner and asked my mom to walk me through the origins of this tasty family tradition. She began with a story about her grandmother’s Brooklyn kitchen, where steam from the oven would fill the entire house whenever she cooked. She went on to remember her mother — my grandmother — fresh off the boat from Trinidad and eager to please…even if that meant adapting to her new mother-in-law’s peculiar cooking methods. And finally, she remembers her own indoctrination to the lasagna circle, including a rebellious moment of creativity that changed the recipe forever. 

Play the audio track to hear the whole story:

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What’s your favorite Italian recipe and why? Share in the comments below!