If we are fortunate we grow up with a Mother or a Father who appreciates treating you well on your birthday. As in, "you can have whatever you want for dinner." Parents might be a bit more challenged in that area these days because thanks to television children are exposed to many, many things, including Lobster and Filet Mignon.
It's not as if we didn't have a television but in those days it wasn't such a central part of life that it is now. I believe we were allowed a single hour of TV viewing a day. And, of course, TV itself was different in the 1960's and early 70's. There wasn't nearly as much programming. So not much chance of we children broadening our horizons too much. I believe they served big, bright colored squares of replicated food on Star Trek.
No, my Mother could safely expect us to choose our favorite meal from her catalog of well-tried recipes. I ran the gamut of choices. There was one year I was having a Bisquick pancake obsession and that is what we had for my birthday dinner. I had a long love affair with my Mother's spaghetti (you aren't noticing an affection for carbs are you?), and it was my choice for birthday dinner on many occasion.
But in my teen years I settled on a single favorite that I requested every year and that was my Mother's lasagna. It was saucy, delicious and it smelled wonderful cooking in the oven. Over the years I've made lasagna many times but never with my Mother's recipe. I used a McCall's recipe that was detailed and full of original Italian herbs. I actually haven't made lasagna in a long time for a couple of reasons; 1. It takes forever to make from scratch and 2. It makes a lot of pretty fattening food. But as I was talking to my Mom the other day she mentioned that she made her lasagna for visiting family and it was a big hit. I then did what I should have done 25 years ago and asked her to send me the recipe. I made it last night and it was as good as I remembered it. The ingredients are simple but they match wonderfully well together.
MY MOTHER'S SAUCY LASAGNA
1 lb ground beef
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic minced
1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. leaf oregano, 1 tsp. parsley flakes, 1/4 tsp pepper.
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce w/cheese (they no longer make this, just add a healthy sprinkle of Parmesan).
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 5 3/4 oz can mushroom steak sauce
1 2 1/2 jar sliced mushrooms
1 small package of lasagna - cooked and drained
1 pint of cottage cheese
1 egg beaten
1 Tbs. milk
2 4 oz. packages shredded mozzarella cheese
Brown meat, onion and garlic in large skillet; mix in seasonings. Add tomato sauce, paste, mushroom steak sauce and sliced mushrooms; cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool. Cook lasagna noodles according to pckg. instructions, drain. Mix cottage cheese, egg and milk. Layer row of noodles, cottage cheese, meat sauce and mozzarella, then repeat with second layer in 12 x 8 baking pan. (I actually managed 3 full layers and a last layer of noodles, sauce with the remaining mozzarella and some freshly grated Parmesan). Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.
You can play with this recipe with fresh herbs and mushrooms. You can also use no boil noodles but I don't like the results as well. The key ingredient might be the mushroom steak sauce so don't leave that out. You can get it at your grocers. It's Dawn Fresh by Giorgio. I added just a little sugar and balsamic vinegar to the completed lasagna sauce just to taste at the end.