Lasagna amnesia

Otto called me over to the couch, a little while ago, and I sat down next to him for a moment or two. Then I went a little slanty and finally figured, what the hell, and lay down with my head on his leg. I’m tired, and his leg is a pretty good pillow.

“Thanks for dinner,” he said, running his fingers through my hair and making me sleepy.

“No problem,” I replied.

And then we both burst out laughing.

Yesterday we had take-out Chinese for dinner, and the night before that we ate leftover pizza. Tonight I wanted to make a nice home-cooked meal. Somehow I’d gotten it into my head last week that I wanted to make lasagna this week, so I picked up the noodles and the ricotta and a package of mozzarella. Today we had to run out for milk and juice and bread, and I bought some MORE mozzarella because I just wasn’t sure I’d bought enough, the first time.

Buying that package of cheese was the last moment wherein I believed I was going to make a lovely lasagna and dinner would be perfect.

It was the middle of the afternoon when I realized that I didn’t have enough sauce. I normally buy the stuff on sale and have jars upon jars in my pantry, so imagine my surprise to discover one lone jar wondering where everyone else went. Otto was headed out to do a few things, so I asked him to pick up another jar for me. No problem.

Then I decided that, hey, lasagna is SUCH a pain in the ass to assemble; I should probably make two and freeze one. There’s a reason I haven’t made it in years, after all. Why not capitalize on the work and the mess? Yes, good, I’ll do that. Hmmm. Ingredient check: I can make do with the sauce by adding canned, I have enough noodles and ricotta and eggs, plenty of parmesan, and… not enough mozzarella. Sonofabitch. Well let’s see here. I have some shredded cheese blend I can probably cheat with. Good. Close enough.

Shortly after the kids got home from school I went to brown the ground beef. Despite having been pulled from the freezer a day ago, it was still a frozen hunk, so I spent some time pushing it around and chiseling pieces off as it skidded around in my pan. That was delightful. Meanwhile, I boiled the noodles. When they were done I moved that pot to a back burner and left it there—water and all—figuring that if I didn’t drain the noodles, they wouldn’t get sticky.

My pot of noodles was sitting there innocently enough while I finished browning the meat, while I added the various sources of sauce, while I mixed up my gigantic bowl of ricotta/egg/spices/parmesan glop. It wasn’t until I decided to start assembling the lasagnas that I realized my fatal error.

I reached into the pot to extract the first noodle, and pulled out…

the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

No problem! I will simply heat up this pot of water and noodles again, and the noodles will magically separate!

HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Hi, my name is Mir, and I am delusional when it comes to the cement-like properties of pasta.

Heating the mess was useful in that now I had justification for the profanities that began issuing forth from my mouth, because in addition to having a nasty ball of congealed starch to contend with, at least now I was burning my fingers every time I tried to handle it. FANFUCKINGTASTIC!

This was where I started slamming things around and Otto started looking sort of concerned. He offered to help and I snarled something at him about how there was NO HELP POSSIBLE and finally when I told him to PLEASE STOP LOOKING AT ME he wisely chose to spot something very interesting in the other room.

I dumped the noodle mass onto a plate and began pulling pieces apart and piecing them together in the pans as best I could. I’d managed to get a reasonably solid layer of pasta on the bottom of each of my pans when I realized I’d forgotten to put down the initial layer of sauce.

And that’s when I started throwing noodles. They stuck to everything, of course. The floors, the walls; I found one inside a clean glass after dinner. Oops.

Otto returned to talk me off the ledge, and after a bit of deep breathing I quickly assembled two of the ugliest lasagnas you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Of course, trauma struck twice while I was doing it.

First, I RAN OUT OF NOODLES. Or, to be more precise: I was down to just the wavy little edges—noodle bones, if you will—and I still needed to complete two top layers. I banged through my pantry and found a few Ronzoni “no precooking needed” noodles (see, I never use the noodles that need to be pre-boiled, hence my confusion with the whole ordeal). “THIS lasagna which we eat tonight,” I announced to no one in particular, “Shall be GOURMET with TWO KINDS of noodles!” I topped the first one with the Ronzoni noodles. “And THIS lasagna,” I continued, “Shall be very ugly!” And I sprinkled it with the wavy noodle bones and topped it with cheese.

Second, Chickadee wandered into the kitchen and began complaining about the food preparation she saw. Of course it fills any mother’s heart with joy when her offspring COMPLAIN about a nice meal which she is going to great lengths to prepare for them, anyway, but she’s my GOOD eater. It was more than I could bear, at that moment, with my singed fingers and my noodle scraps, and I don’t know what I said (other than my standard, “And what did YOU make for dinner?”) but I doubt it was nice.

As I pulled out the aluminum foil, Otto came up behind me and put a hand on my shoulder. “Put that one in the oven and give me that one to put down in the freezer, and then you and I are going to go sit down and you are going to have a little quiet time to decompress,” he said. I followed directions and a minute later we were sitting in my gigantic comfy chair in the living room, in front of the Christmas tree.

“Mom! I—” Chickadee bounded into the living room and hopped up into the chair with us, but Otto interrupted her.

“No talking right now. Your Mom needs some quiet time for a minute.” I began to giggle in spite of myself.

“Why do you need quiet time? What’s so funny?”

“I’m having a time-out,” I managed, before the giggles escalated. Otto began to laugh. Chickadee grinned but wanted in on the joke.

“Why are you having a time-out?”

“I threw noodles. I need a time-out.” More giggles.

“You did not. What did you do, really?”

“Otto, did I throw noodles?”

“Yes, you most certainly did throw noodles. You need a time-out.” Chickadee perched on our legs, looking back and forth between our faces for one of us to give away the truth. Finally content that she’d heard the story, she snuggled down into my lap.

“Mama, you should not throw noodles,” she intoned.

“You’re right. I’m a bad girl.”

Later on, Chickadee felt it necessary to share this with her dad on the phone, so I had to explain to my ex that yes, I threw noodles. Not AT anyone. I’m sure he wrote it down somewhere, and should I ever need to defend my parenting in a court of law, I will have to say: Your Honor, I cannot tell a lie. I threw noodles. But they were VERY NAUGHTY. And then I had a time-out, so I think it was okay.

The lasagna wasn’t much to look at, but it tasted fine. Monkey dipped his sleeve into his, twice, and Chickadee got some in her hair. I spent most of dinner telling them to take their elbows off the table, stop talking and eat, and to please stop acting as if they’d been raised by wolves. Which is to say, it was an utterly typical dinner.

Which is why when Otto said thanks for dinner, I answered, “No problem.”

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37 Responses to “Lasagna amnesia”

  1. 1
    Karen Rani December 19, 2006 at 11:34 pm #

    So did you make the garlic butter from scratch for the garlic bread too?
    *ducks*

  2. 2
    Tug December 19, 2006 at 11:55 pm #

    FUNNY. And so glad you got your “time out”…

  3. 3
    kathy December 19, 2006 at 11:57 pm #

    If you ever decide to head that way again, don’t boil the noodles. Seriously. I never do. I use the normal lasagne noodles and simply layer and it comes out great. Oh, I don’t do meat either. Much simpler that way.

    Maybe we should throw noodles next time…

  4. 4
    Dianne December 20, 2006 at 1:02 am #

    Same here (as Kathy) with the noodles; I don’t boil them. You can stir maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup or so of water (or wine or broth) into the sauce before you put everything together, so things come out about even after the noodles soak up some liquid as they cook. And they do cook just fine in the oven; no need to boil them first. Much much easier.

  5. 5
    Krisco December 20, 2006 at 1:24 am #

    Yep, a definite on the no-boil noodles. They actually make them that way now. It tastes great. Were it not for that, my family would NEVER have lasagna. Ever.

    But kudos for trying. You’re so homey! : )

  6. 6
    Liz December 20, 2006 at 1:26 am #

    One of my most vivid childhood memories is of my mother doing almost the same thing. She was making pie for the holidays and she couldn’t get the dough right although she had made it for years wonderfully. She ended up throwing it across the kitchen, grabbed her purse and keys and headed for the store. She bought ready made pie crusts and NEVER attempted to make her own again.

  7. 7
    Cele December 20, 2006 at 3:18 am #

    Oh, wow it’s lasagna week. Well it would have been if mine had gotten made. But it didn’t we ordered pizza instead. Your time out though, was hysterical.

  8. 8
    Muirnait December 20, 2006 at 4:55 am #

    Mir, I truly adore you. What a great story. And now I want lasagna. Otto is just so good for you and it’s wonderful that you found your partner and buddy and uh, *cough* sex machine. ;-)

  9. 9
    Meritt December 20, 2006 at 7:04 am #

    OMG… LOL.

    OK – next time try this:

    Get out a 9X13 inch pan. Spray it with Pam.
    Microwave your frozen meat to thaw it! :)
    Brown it and add 1 jar of spaghetti sauce.
    Mix a large container of ricotta (or even small curd cottage cheese) into a bowl and crack in an egg. Add some garlic, basil, a little salt and pepper.
    Pour in about 1/4 of the spaghetti sauce.
    Put 3 or 4 noodles *uncooked* into the bottom of the pan on the sauce.
    Now dollop some of the ricotta mix on the noodles.
    Top with some mozarella and some sauce.
    Repeat with the noodles, blah blah again.
    And again.
    Finish with a layer of mozarella.
    Now ‘rinse’ your spaghetti jar with about a cup of water – swirl it around to get the last of the sauce, and pour this all around the edge of your pan of spaghetti.

    Put foil over the top and seal around the edges.

    Bake for 1 hour. Take the top foil off and bake for 15 minutes to make the top golden.

    Let it set for 10 minutes to set up and then serve.

    The end.

  10. 10
    Meritt December 20, 2006 at 7:06 am #

    **** Note ****

    On the 1/4 spaghetti sauce to pour… I meant pour it into the bottom of the 9X13 pan.

    :)

  11. 11
    Sara December 20, 2006 at 7:23 am #

    There’s a restaurant that claims to be the “Home of the Throwed Rolls” where they really, truly throw rolls. You could totally make that your new tagline. “Woulda Coulda Shoulda–Home of the Throwed Noodles.” Okay, maybe not…

  12. 12
    Linda December 20, 2006 at 7:55 am #

    You’re never too old for a time-out.

  13. 13
    Otto December 20, 2006 at 7:55 am #

    I don’t know, the lasagna was pretty darned good. I think throwing the noodles tenderizes them. Or puts terror into the ones who have to watch.

    Either way, I can’t wait for leftovers.

  14. 14
    Katie December 20, 2006 at 8:20 am #

    I love how all your “Oogle” ads are now for lasagna.

  15. 15
    tori December 20, 2006 at 8:32 am #

    I wish someone would put me in a time out. Maybe then I would get to sit down for a minute!

  16. 16
    Niki December 20, 2006 at 8:38 am #

    Funny story! Thanks to a great tip from my (non-cooking) husband, we almost never bother to thaw ground beef that needs browning. We just fill up the pan halfway with water, drop in the chunk’o'beef, and turn it on high on the stove. You still have to pull it apart (I use a potato masher – pulls apart and chops up with one tool), but you can ignore it for several minutes at a time, and it never burns. When you’re done, pour it all in a colander, rinse, and you have browned and degreased beef.

    Lasagna is my nemesis too. I have instead taken to making a “baked spaghetti” – no ricotta, just noodles, sauce, cheese, and beef. I do boil the noodles, but then throw it all in a 9×13 pan, stir it up, and throw it in the oven for about 15 minutes. It all sogs together and tastes so much better than the normal way. My picky eater still doesn’t eat it, but since she doesn’t eat spaghetti or lasagna (but Spaghetti-Os are ok for some reason), I just don’t worry about it! Works great with frozen breaded chicken breasts to make chicken parmesan as well.

  17. 17
    Elleana December 20, 2006 at 9:08 am #

    Oh, that man – he sounds so dreamy *sigh*

    And, I hate to admit it, but I buy my lasagna already made. I love homemade lasagna, but my psyche just can’t take the preparation.

  18. 18
    Carmen December 20, 2006 at 9:23 am #

    I love this line…

    I never use the needles that need to be pre-boiled

    I don’t know, lasagna with needles could be quite, um, tasty. Maybe feed it to your ex?

    (Just kidding, Mir.)

  19. 19
    Susan December 20, 2006 at 9:44 am #

    “Mama, you should not throw noodles” should be on a t-shirt.

  20. 20
    Laurie December 20, 2006 at 10:03 am #

    I needed this story today… made me smile.

    Happy Holidays to you and your family, Mir.

  21. 21
    Christina December 20, 2006 at 10:03 am #

    I had no idea you could make lasagna without boiling the darn noodles first (or needles, if you wish) – I will have to try that next time. Otto, sounds like you ducked just in time :)

  22. 22
    Stephanie December 20, 2006 at 10:27 am #

    You see, this is why I love reading your blog. Funny AND educational. Who knew there was a Flying Spagetti Monster? And apparently there IS a shirt for that. So now I’m studying Russell’s teapot and the invisible pink unicorn. And the OBVIOUS correlation between pirates and global warming. A lesson in humility and theology, all in the same place. My life has been enriched by you.

  23. 23
    Melanie Marie December 20, 2006 at 10:38 am #

    You can MAKE lasagna??? Wow. Who knew?

  24. 24
    Aimee December 20, 2006 at 10:40 am #

    Ya know, I gotta say that throwing noodles sounds *very* therapeutic. Perhaps I shall throw some at my boss today, but they’ll have to be Ramen noodles because that’s all they have at the little convenience store. I think those’ll work just fine.

  25. 25
    Lisa Kessig December 20, 2006 at 11:44 am #

    Too funny. I keep having grandiose ideas to make lasagna, but somehow end up just buying the boxed lasagna. You gave me a good laugh though.

    Lisa

  26. 26
    Jen December 20, 2006 at 12:04 pm #

    I am soooo glad I am not the only one that has a temper tantrum sometimes ! I made Lasagna Sunday night and while it went together fine it was not pretty once I put it on the plates which is when my 7-year old started complaining that it looked like vomit and he wasn’t eating it. (Arrrrgh!)

    I use Frozen Meatballs from a bag – zap them in the microwave and then halve them for my meat layer – I call it “Lasagna Rustico” Heee Heee !

  27. 27
    Lauren December 20, 2006 at 12:04 pm #

    It’s funny how cooking can drive you to utter insanity. We tried making gnocchi from scratch (NEVER AGAIN), which led to several min-breakdowns. I may also have cried over uncooperative tart crust once or twice.
    If you do use noodles that need par-boiling, after draining, rinsing them in cold water keeps them from sticking together.

  28. 28
    InterstellarLass December 20, 2006 at 12:35 pm #

    I only use non-cook noodles in my lasagna to prevent the flying spaghetti monster. Don’t want to deal with it! Something about lasagna is so good though, it doesn’t matter how it looks, it gets all messed up on the plate anway, and tastes just fine!

  29. 29
    Anna December 20, 2006 at 12:51 pm #

    I LOVE the FSM!

    And I probably would have eaten the doughy stuck-together noodles, too. Better luck next time; I’m sure it was yummy.

  30. 30
    Jenn2 December 20, 2006 at 7:06 pm #

    One word. Stouffers.

  31. 31
    ChristieNY December 20, 2006 at 9:04 pm #

    Oh Mir, you and Otto are looking quite pretty today!

  32. 32
    Judy December 20, 2006 at 9:47 pm #

    I’ve always heard you should throw spaghetti against the wall to check if it was done. But.. in a glass? Nah… you deserved the time out for dirtying clean dishes!

  33. 33
    Brigitte December 21, 2006 at 6:46 am #

    I did find that if I threw just-cooked noodles into cold water, they didn’t stick . . . but then they were so slippery I was dropping them and breaking them into pieces as I grabbed at them in desperation.
    I went to n-boil noodles years ago, and have never looked back.

  34. 34
    Katherine December 21, 2006 at 9:31 am #

    Wow, remind me to stay away from you when you’re in the kitchen, ha ha! Sounds fun, though! I like to throw food, too, don’t even have to be mad.

  35. 35
    Jenifer December 21, 2006 at 9:07 pm #

    That’s priceless…. and sounds pretty typical of my cooking ;) Isn’t it FANTASTIC that everything that happens you don’t want shared are the first things your kids talk about? My step kids love to tell tales of horror to their Mom about the things I would rather keep between us….

    AH well…

  36. 36
    chris December 21, 2006 at 9:44 pm #

    I realize you have a gazillio comments already… but No cook noodles?!? I had no idea. Rob is making a lasagna as a side for Xmas dinner. Maybe I should be nice and let him in on this revolutionary thing? Or maybe I should wait to see if he bought me a present first…

  37. 37
    Mom101 December 22, 2006 at 1:59 pm #

    Oh Mir, my heart goes out. I get this crazed making scrambled eggs so I can only imagine. But it was worth it, if only for the sake of our own entertainment.

    Happy holidays to your clan, new and old. xo

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