Aggie's Kitchen

The Perfect Meal…

…at least in my book.
Our Easter lunch (well, late lunch) was at my house this past Sunday. My grandfather was bringing his lasagna, and I was going to make some dessert along with a few other things.

Now, I know my Nonno’s lasagna and we really didn’t need much else to go with the meal. I figured a light salad and a vegetable would be plenty. I decided on a salad I saw in one of Giada De Laurentiis’s cookbooks, her Italian Caesar Salad. I am in love with this salad. I love everything about it…the dressing, the sundried tomatoes, the pine nuts…heaven. I have never made the polenta croutons but I can only imagine what that would add to an already delicious salad.

My family’s lasagna is a classic. I’m really not sure who started making it this way, but it’s the same lasagna we’ve been eating for as far back as I can remember. Now, normally, we eat lasagna on Christmas, well at least for the last several years…but this past year, my family had an unusual holiday, lots of illness – nothing serious – but enough to make it a very quiet holiday with no visiting. I know my grandfather could not wait to make this for Easter since we missed out on it in December.

(you may not be able to tell by the picture, but this lasagna had to be at least 30lbs, maybe more. I’m not kidding…my cute grandpa likes to make sure we are fed well so he used a very large roasting pan to make his lasagna…it took at least 2 hours to cook!! And I have lots of leftovers in the freezer!)

The lasagna is made like most traditional lasagnas…layers of noodles, ricotta, parmesan, ground beef and sauce. But added to the layers in our family lasagna are peas and chopped hard boiled eggs. It may sound unusual, but it is absolutely delicious.

As far as I am concerned, you can’t have pasta and salad without good bread. I finally got the courage to try making my own bread using the famous Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day Master Recipe. Wow, I am not only proud of myself for slowly getting over my fear of working with yeast, but am so shocked at how wonderfully easy this was to make!! If I can do it…anyone can do it.

Here is the complete recipe for the salad, but I’ll tell ya, I made mine simply by tossing chopped romaine, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, and dressing, then topping with the shaved Parmesan cheese.

Italian Caesar Salad with Polenta Croutons
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, Everyday Italian


3 garlic cloves
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Polenta Croutons:

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups Basic Polenta, recipe follows
Vegetable oil, for deep frying


3 small heads (or2 large heads) romaine lettuce, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 1/2 ounces shaved Parmesan

To make the dressing: Finely chop the garlic and anchovies in a food processor. Blend in the lemon juice and mustard. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the dressing, to taste, with salt and pepper.

To make the croutons: Spread the olive oil over a small baking sheet. Transfer the hot polenta to the baking sheet, spreading evenly to form an 8 by 5 by 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Cover and refrigerate until cold and firm, about 2 hours.

Cut the polenta into 3/4-inch cubes. Pat the polenta cubes dry with paper towels. Add enough vegetable oil to a heavy large frying pan to come 1-inch up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil over high heat. Working in batches of 10, carefully add the polenta cubes to the oil 1 at a time and fry until golden brown, stirring to keep the cubes separate, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the polenta croutons to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.

(The dressing and polenta croutons can be prepared 1 day ahead up to this point. Cover the dressing and polenta croutons separately and refrigerate. Rewarm the polenta croutons on a baking sheet in a 350 degrees F oven before serving.)

To make the salad: Prepare the barbecue for high heat. Grill the lettuce until lightly charred, about 2 minutes per side. Cut the lettuce into bite-size pieces.

On a serving platter, mound the grilled chopped lettuce. Decoratively scatter the sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts. Drizzle with enough dressing to evenly coat. Sprinkle Parmesan and scatter the warm polenta croutons over and serve immediately.

Basic Polenta:

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup yellow cornmeal

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 12 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter, and stir until melted.

Lightly oil a half sheet pan. Transfer the hot polenta to the prepared baking dish, spreading evenly to 3/4-inch thick. Refrigerate until cold and firm, about 2 hours.

Enjoy your week!

(my sweet Nonna and Nonno with their great grandkids…)


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30 comments on “The Perfect Meal…”

  1. Great salad and perfect looking bread! Lasagna is one of my favorites and I would love to have a piece of your Nonno’s:)

  2. The lasagna has me drooling, I know it weighs a ton, you can tell a good lasagna when you see one. The salad looks perfect and I know it tasted great. Glad yoEaster with your grandparents!

  3. Oh my gosh- I need to implement holiday lasagna! What a fabulous meal! The salad sounds perfect (love Giada) and I’m glad you made the bread! Homemade bread is so much better than store bought! Great work 🙂

  4. What a lovely meal. Those little guys look awfully happy to be with Grandma and Grandpa. I’m glad you had such a great day.

  5. and here I sit eaitng my cottage cheese and AIR.
    you kill me…

  6. The meal does look perfect! I’ve had my eye on that salad recipe for YEARS, ever since I got her book. I just need to actually make it now 🙂

  7. All of the food looks great. I absolutely love lasagna….the bread looks ready to be dipped in sauce!!!

  8. Looks amazing! I love lasagna, I wish my girlfriend would eat it. Glad you had a good holiday. 🙂

  9. Everything looks amazing and definitely mouthwatering. Suddenly my chicken sounds really lame for dinner now!

  10. Oh my, what a meal. I would have love it.

  11. This looks incredible, Aggie! What a wonderful family tradition. The lasagna is amazing (and wow, I would think you’d burn off some of it just carrying it from the refrigerator to the oven!) And beautiful job on the bread — I am in love with A in 5! Love the picture of your kiddies with their grandparents!

  12. That is the perfect meal! I am so glad you tried the ABin5 bread. It is the best! Glad you had fun with the family!!

  13. What a great Easter meal! The lasagna sounds amazing and how fun that it is a tradition. This salad is calling my name. Yum!

  14. Wow, I am laughing at how enormous that lasagna is! and your bread looks great, I love homemade bread.

  15. Thanks for sharing your family with us. And I don’t think the egg and peas sound that odd. I would love to taste that.

    And you’ve given me hope. Maybe I should try that bread…

  16. Everything looks fantastic! Lasange is one of my favorite meals ever. The bread looks so professional! It’s funny because my family actually decided to forgo the traditional ham and turkey this year and have lasagnes! We used to call my Sicilian great-grandmother and -father Nonni and Nonno 🙂

  17. Family recipes are the best and your lasagna looks fantastic!

  18. Oh, Aggie! Everything looks terrific! That salad sounds simply amazing. I love sundried tomatoes. Cute pic of the kids with your grandparents! That’s what it’s all about, right?

  19. It definitely looks like the perfect meal, I agree! Also, that lasagna DOES look heavy by the big crease in the middle. It looks like someone lifted it from the handles, and it was weighed down from all of those good ingredients!

  20. I love that you put hard boiled eggs in your lasagna. I think they make everything so much better…and I dream about them in the club sandwiches in Paris.

  21. Mmmmmm….I’m totally craving lasagne now! With hard boiled eggs…what a great idea! Grandparents always make such wonderful things 🙂

  22. that looks so delicious!! I like the idea of a holiday lasagna!! I rarely make it since it takes forever and I always have someone attached to my leg, but I am definitely going to have to start! Yours looks delicious!! I will have to try the bread and salad, too!!! 🙂

  23. When are you posting the secret Nonno’s lasagna recipe?

    …I’d be satisfied if you could only work out the “Gravy” for us!

  24. Aww! Love the photo at the end. The lasagna does look amazing, but I can’t wait to try the salad! I’ve made polenta croutons (not from a recipe, just pan sautéing polenta) and they are phenomenal.

  25. What a lovely tradition Aggie. The Lasagna is a PERFECT meal, and homemade bread to boot… So happy to hear you had such a lovely Easter.

  26. This does look like the perfect meal. The peas and eggs make a tasty lasagna even tastier.

  27. Oh, what a lovely lunch with your family! Great photo of the grandparents and kids. This sure beats a honeybaked ham!!!

  28. I have to get that book!! I keep forgetting to buy it! Your bread looks beautiful!

  29. I would have to say that lasagna with salad and garlic bread is one of my favorite meals as well. I like to make lots of lasagna leftovers for quick meals for the rest of the week.

  30. Yummy yummy yummy I want your ceaser salad in my tummy! Sounds fantastic, great twist on a classic. Thanks for sharing!!