3 Generations Cooking a Jersey Italian-American Thanksgiving Dinner

We’re all gathered in northern Jersey for our Italian-American Thanksgiving dinner, 3 generations in the kitchen today. My sister Rose and her daughter Wendy are in charge, I’m just the sous chef. RoRo has been rocking in the kitchen since 7 this morning and barking out orders to us non-stop. There will be about 20 of us at the table at 4 this afternoon, not sure when we’ll be done.

Here’s the menu:

Antipasti

Platters with prosciutto, salami, mortadella, provolone, fresh mozzarella, smoked scamorza, Italian tuna in olive oil, roasted peppers, marinated mushrooms, giardiniera, marinated artichoke hearts, oil-cured and Sicilian green olives

Primo

Lasagna with layers of ricotta and mozzarella, meat sauce and parmigiano (Wendy’s recipe is below)

Secondo

Turkey, 2 different stuffings, roasted mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes with gravy, maple syrup candied sweet potatoes, homemade whole cranberry sauce and just in case there’s not enough a baked ham

Dolce

Desserts will be Italian ricotta cheesecake, strufoli (fried dough balls covered with honey and sprinkles), pumpkin pie, coconut custard pie, lemon merangue and chocolate cream pie, roasted chestnuts and RoRo’s famous fresh fruit pedestal.

My vegan niece is at the table so we’re making sure that we have plenty of vegetables and other sides to accompany her tofurky.

Jersey Lasagna from my Goddaughter Wendy

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds ricotta
  • 1 pound whole milk mozzarella
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino
  • 1 pound dried lasagna noodles
  • Meat Sauce
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 3/4 pound Italian sausage without fennel
  • 1/4 cup onion
  • 1/4 cup carrot
  • 1/4 cup celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 - 28 ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO

Cooking Directions

  1. Put a big pot of well-salted water to boil over high heat and make the meat sauce.
  2. Meat Sauce
  3. Chop the garlic, onion, carrot, celery fine.
  4. Put a pot over medium-high heat and saute the chopped vegetables until the onion is translucent.
  5. Add the chopped beef and the sausage out of the casing and saute until the meat is golden brown.
  6. Drain off the excess fat.
  7. Add the tomatoes and the basil.
  8. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  9. Simmer for 30 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit.
  10. When the pasta water is at a rapid boil add 2 tablespoons of EVOO and put in the lasagna noodles. (I do not put EVOO in pasta water but here it helps keep the lasagna sheets from sticking together.)
  11. Fill a casserole pan that is big enough to hold the lasagna noodles with water and add ice cubes. Set aside. Make the ricotta filling.
  12. Ricotta Filling
  13. Cut the mozzarella into 1 inch cubes.
  14. Roughly chop the parsley.
  15. Beat the eggs in a large bowl.
  16. Add the ricotta, mozzarella, parsley, grated pecorino and mix well.
  17. Take the lasagna sheets out when they are very al dente and put them in the ice water. (They will finish cooking in the oven.)
  18. Assemble the Lasagna
  19. Lightly butter a large baking dish.
  20. Put 4 tablespoons of the meat sauce on the bottom of the dish.
  21. Put a single layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan so that they overhang the sides of the dish.
  22. Add a layer of the ricotta filling.
  23. Add another layer of lasagna noodles just to cover the filling.
  24. Add a layer of the meat filling.
  25. Add another layer of lasagna noodles.
  26. Keep adding alternating layers of meat sauce and ricotta filling until the pan is full.
  27. Cover the top with meat sauce and sprinkle with some grated pecorino.
  28. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until the top lasagna noodles take on a golden color at the edges.
  29. Let the lasagna rest for 15 minutes before serving.
  30. Serve immediately with some meat sauce in a gravy boat for your guests to add to their piece of lasagna.
  31. Serves 8.