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Today is my birthday, so in honor of turning a year older, I’m going to share with you the recipe for my very favorite birthday dinner.

Growing up, it was a special treat to be able to select our favorite meal for our birthdays. Mom would prepare it exactly according to specifications, along with our favorite birthday dessert, and we’d eat dinner in the dining room, reserved for major holidays and family birthdays. We’d gather around the oblong table, set with my mom’s wedding china, elegant with candles in carefully polished silver candlesticks, and laid with a crisp white tablecloth (clearly, with five children, my mom was a glutton for punishment.) What I’m trying to say is, I always felt like a princess on my birthday.

The birthday honoree got to sit at the head of the table and was the center of attention when mom or dad paraded in with the piece de resistance – the birthday cake (or in my brother Andy’s case, birthday pie, his choice).

I think most years I had a double chocolate birthday cake – chocolate cake wedged under a heaping mound of chocolate buttercream (all homemade of course, no box in sight). Also most years, I picked lasagna for my birthday dinner.

I doubt my mother ever wrote down a recipe for lasagna, so I’ve had to adapt it ove the years. I’ve finally come up with a version that I love. The recipe calls for Angus ground chuck, on sale this week at Brookshire’s. What perfect timing!

Lasagna
Serves 12

Ingredients:
1 box (16 oz) lasagna noodles
6 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz sliced Provolone cheese
16 oz mozzarella cheese, divided
1 egg
1 lb Angus ground chuck
1 lb Italian sausage

Sauce:
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14 oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 (4 oz) can tomato paste
2 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs dried basil

Directions:
For the sauce: (it’s best if you start this several hours or a day ahead, to let simmer). Heat olive oil over medium high heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes or until it begins to soften. Add garlic. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat. Simmer, stirring frequently, for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

When it’s time to prepare the lasagna, boil noodles in a large pot of water, adding salt AFTER water begins to boil (if not, it was scar your pot). Cook noodles al dente (firm in the middle). Remove noodles from water, drain, lay on clean towels to cool.

Brown ground Angus and sausage. Drain fat. Set aside. Combine ricotta, Parmesan, egg and half the mozzarella.  When noodles are cool, spread each noodle with about 1 Tbs of cream cheese. In a 9×13 casserole dish, spread one cup of sauce. Layer noodles, cream cheese side up.

Spread with about one and half cups of the ricotta mixture. Top with one-third of the meat mixture. Cover with sauce. Repeat three times. Finish with sauce. Top the remaining half of mozzarella cheese.

Preheat oven to 350. Bake, covered with foil, for 45 minutes. Remove foil. Finish baking for 15 more minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Nutritional Information: Calories 907; Calories from Fat 501;Total Fat 55 g; Cholesterol 192mg; Sodium 1744mg; Total Carbohydrates 43 g;Dietary Fiber 4 g; Sugars 9 g Protein 58 g


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