It’s hard to believe an entire Summer has passed since our last La Dolce Vita Club blog.

But as my dear friend (and partner in crime and culture) Lili Marlene would say; ‘Italians move at their own pace.  Sometimes fast, like a sharp-cornered Lamborghini and sometimes slow – like a Roman bank teller who lights his cigarette before serving you.”  Verissimo !

So now as Winter approaches, it seems right to celebrate the warmth and comfort that the colder weather brings.  And in true Italian style, this for me means nurturing and delicious food.

On a recent outing to the new Jamie’s Italian (the brainchild of UK chef Jamie Oliver), it occurred to me that when Italians eat, they bring more than just food “to the table”.

jamie's plank

My night out at Jamie’s Italian – with his famous antipasto “Plank”

Being brought up in an Italian household meant food was a talking point from first thing in the morning.  Not only had we finished breakfast, when Mamma was already asking; “Cosa si mangia a cena?”… What’s for dinner?

Let’s face it,  a meal in Italy is not just about great produce and culinary skills… It’s about family and conversation and bonding.  It’s about being together to celebrate God’s good grace and Mamma’s good minestrone!

My mother, Mercedes, is an extraordinary cook… We have a family saying that when she cooks, she puts love into everything and that’s why it tastes so good. It reminds me of the book “Like Water for Chocolate”, but that’s another story!

Mercedes was born on the Italian, Slovenian border.  And so her cuisine is a blend of so many rich traditions.  

Whether having coffee and her apple strudel (famous with my friends) or her cannelloni or zuppa di pesce, there is always a feeling of happiness and warmth that comes with it.

Christmas Mandurah 2010 038

So, in saying that I would like to share one of her recipes with you.

Mamma is usually a fan of slow-food… Where it takes time, care and consideration to bring a meal to the table.  Mamma often makes her own pasta (I promise I will blog to show you how the expert does it!).

But this particular lasagna recipe was created for me in mind… Fast and furious.  It is also a vegetarian version.  But you can add a mixture of beef and pork mince for a more hearty option.  Also, we have not used bechamel sauce but instead, some cream. In typical Mamma Mercedes style, there’s not an “accurate” quantity for ingredients… Tutto “all’occhio”… Scusate.

LASAGNA DI MAMMA MERCEDES (Speedy and Vegetarian version)

Start by making the tomato salsa: In a saucepan, heat some oil (probably 2-3 tblespoons) and 2 cloves of garlic.

As the garlic browns, add 2 tins of peeled tomatoes (about 900gms).  Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

Bring this to the boil and then allow to simmer for half an hour.

Meantime grate about 500 gms mozzarella cheese.  You can also mix in Parmigiano if you like.

If you are buying your lasagna sheets… Buy one pack of Latina Fresh.

Spray oil into your baking dish, then begin to layer: Start with a little salsa on the bottom, and then a layer of pasta, cream (Pura lite); layer grated cheese and then begin with salsa again.  Remember too only drizzle the sauce.

Cook for 45 minutes.  Easy… Remember to add the love too !