New mom food

New moms need calcium, and iron, and protein, and a bit of fat, and some carbs to keep ‘em going. My absolute favorite thing to eat those first few weeks after Ernie was born was an insanely rich mac-n-cheese a friend made for me, with a side of scrambled eggs. That was my breakfast for a full week, if memory serves correctly.

Last night we ate a spinach lasagna that was constructed from the leftover elements of the spinach lasagnas I made for two friends who are new moms. When did they have these babies, you ask? Well, a few months ago and I just lamed out and never brought either of them food. Midwestern grandmothers are spinning in their graves, and after I post this I fully expect a disappointed phone call from my mother. I don’t know what happened. But the important thing for you, my dear dear internets, is that I finally did make this lasagna and now you can too.

Spinach lasagna holds a special place in my family. It is, perhaps, my mom’s signature dish. We all love it. My sister-in-law requests it for her birthday dinner. And what have I done? I’ve changed it. Between my fancy-pants ideas about food and my half Italian-American husband, I’ve sucked the Midwest right out of this dish. (How it actually happened is: I was living in Paris, called my mom for the recipe, and it was easier to find the more Italian ingredients like ricotta and mozzarella than the more American ingredients like cottage cheese and monterey jack (!), and a revised dish was born.) For those of you who know and love my mom’s spinach lasagna, you’ll have to call her for that recipe. For the rest of us, this will have to suffice.

Spinach Lasagna

Butter an 8×8 baking pan and preheat the oven to 375 if you plan on just making, cooking, and eating the lasagna. Why you would do that, I’m not sure since this puppy can sit for a day or two in the fridge and freezes beautifully…. On that same note, feel free to double this and make two or bake it up in a 9×13 or 10×15–it is an endlessly flexible dish (the one pictured above is a skimpy version baked in a smaller dish and with only two layers of noodles, yet was still delic).

Boil 8 oz. lasagna noodles is salty water until tender. Drain and lay out on clean towels until you’re ready to build the lasagna.

So, meanwhile melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan. Cook 1 fairly finely chopped onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt until the onion is very soft an sort of pasty looking. Add 20 oz. spinach (frozen actually works just dandy, just squeeze the water out of it first; if using fresh, chop it up a bit first) and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid evaporates. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat 2 eggs then stir in 1 lb. ricotta and 1 lb. grated fresh mozzarella. Add about 1 cup freshly grated parmesan and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. A grating or two of nutmeg is in no way inappropriate at this juncture, but it is fully optional. Stir in spinach. If you’re like me and live on the edge, taste it (salmonella be damned!–actually I know where my eggs come from and feel pretty confident that they’re clean) and add salt if you like.

Layer noodles, a bit more than 1/3 cheese mixture, noodles, again a bit more than 1/3 cheese mixture, noodles, a fair bit less that 1/3 cheese mixture, and top with some grated parm. I like to layer in the noodles so the bottom layer extends up the sides and I can fold them over the top at the end creating a crunchy, chewy noodle-crust around the whole thing. Cover with foil, bake 20 minutes, uncover and bake until hot and bubbling and browning, about another 20 minutes.