A Iaciofano Christmas Dinner
The Iaciofano clan has recently increased its numbers. What was once a party of 4 has now become a bustling group of 6! Both John and I have gotten married and welcomed Brigitte and Eric to our hearts and holiday tables.
Aunt Emily has passed on. We do miss her constant insistence on a drinkable gin martini, but we can all talk at normal decibels once again…except when we are all shouting at each other.
Italian families are perhaps famous for their boisterous interactions, especially around holiday time. This never held true for my family. We have so few members, it’s a tough job for us to get that loud. Also, that’s just not in our nature as a clan. For whatever reason, the Iaciofano’s have always eschewed aggressive interactions, preferring to numb each other with the sheer number of our words, rather than their volume. Or we fall asleep. It’s one of the two.
How the Iaciofano’s Deal with Controversy
However, the exception would be discourse about food. This is when we get vocal. And loud. And angry. Loyal readers may recall when I tried to change my dad’s diet a number of years ago. There was so much shouting, going to bed angry, and general dirty looks, that one might think we were arguing national politics rather than the health benefits of a bagel.
My brother and I have had extensive and in-depth conversations on the variability of pizzas, while my mom and I hardly disagree on the topic of cuisine, but show a general disdain toward anyone who dare disagree with us. FOR SHAME!
The Lasagna Wars
It was in this competitive and single-minded atmosphere that my mom and I decided to have a lasagna cook-off for Christmas dinner. Lasagna is a very festive and traditional Christmas meal. My dad was thrilled, as there is no meal on this planet, or any other, that delights him more than pasta. And pasta layered with cheese and meats? Santa had finally delivered.
For our #lasagnawars, we decided that both my mom and I would make a Lasagna Bolognese. We would stay close to the original recipe, with various tweaks based on our personal taste allowed. My mom has long been famous for her Lasagna Bolognese.
A traditional Lasagna Bolognese is a meat sauce (usually beef, and perhaps veal), accompanied by a Bechamel sauce, accented with copious amounts of parmesan cheese. However, after hours of research, I found multiple variations. Some used pancetta. Some called for red wine instead of white. Some didn’t use parm! Some didn’t even use crushed tomatoes, but opted for chicken stock flavored with tomato paste. Clearly, liberties could be taken.
And so the rules were established:
- She and I would each make 1 dish (9×13″ baking dish) of Lasagna Bolognese
- We would serve these lasagnas, labeled, to our remaining family members—my dad, John, Brigitte and Eric—as judges
- Each “judge” would receive one square of each lasagna on a plate, labeled “A” and “B”
- No judge was allowed the see the lasagnas being cut or served
- Judges would then take the label of their preferred lasagna and place it in a ballot box that resided in another room
- Ballots would be counted and the winner announced
Practice Makes Almost Perfect
Leading up to the bake-off, I made two test lasagnas, feeding both to my husband and watching him with an eagle eye while he took each bite.
“What do you think?” I would ask.
“It’s good,” he’d say.
Good? No, no. I wasn’t happy. It was a bit bland and watery. Lasagna #2 popped out the next week.
“This one is SO MUCH BETTER!” I announced to him, thrilled with myself.
“I like the first one better,” he said, after tasting. “What’s that?” He questioned, pointing to a bit of orange in the sauce.
“It’s a carrot. You need carrots in the soffritto,” my impatience was mounting, but I took some deep breaths.
It was only after a long walk, a long drink, and a long nap, when I in my apron finally put all the pieces together to make, what John said, “was a lasagna just short of perfection.”
To be clear, after the ballots were counted, it was…. a TIE. But my mom, laying a finger aside of her nose, admitted defeat. In her opinion, my lasagna was the winner.
So, while the results of this contest are not statistically significant, you can at least rest assured that the reigning lasagna champ of the Iaciofano household has passed the torch…to me.
I will be attempting to get closer to that “perfection” that John mentioned. But in the meantime, I’ll be giving Eric a break from taste testing calorie-dense baked pastas, as we will next be having:
THE FOCACCIA WARS! Stay tuned….