Grandma’s lasagna and meatballs

01 Finished lasagna

Well, today was the big day!  Every year for Christmas I dig out my grandmother’s recipes and make her famous lasagna and meatballs, and this year was no exception.  I can’t give away the secret recipes, but I did snap some photos along the way to show you how it all came out.  Above is the assembled lasagna, ready to pop in the oven for a few hours on Sunday.  Mmmm…. doesn’t it look just absolutely delicious?  : )  This lasagna is neither low-fat nor vegetarian – it’s full-fat and full of meat.  A real indulgence for the holidays.  I cannot WAIT to dig into this bad boy!  It’s a lot of work to put together, but the yumminess is totally worth it.

I think I’ve been pretty much nailing the lasagna recipe for the past few years (after several years of sub-par practice lasagnas, haha), but the meatball recipe is still a challenge for me.  I’ve been getting closer and closer to the “perfect meatball” (i.e., how my grandmother used to make them) over the years, but damn it, the perfect meatball has always eluded me!

I put together the meat mixture as usual, adding my little tweaks to try to get it just right, and the resulting mountain of meat is below.  It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this is a HUGE bowl of meatball mix.  It’s about 5 pounds of meat, plus all the other ingredients.  Holy meatballs, Batman.

02 Meatball mix

I slowly and carefully formed little balls of meatball goodness and fried the outsides on the stove.  The insides will finish cooking when I dump them all into the tomato sauce.

03 Meatballs cooking

Here’s the sauce coming together.  I’ve got the cans of tomatoes opened and pureed, and you can see the big tray of meatballs-in-progress in the bottom right.  (Also, isn’t my parents’ kitchen so cheery?  I love the bright colors!)

04 Sauce in progress

Once the tomato sauce is put together (another of grandma’s recipes), I add all the meatballs and a bunch of Italian sausages and let the whole thing simmer for a few hours.  Cooking the meat in the sauce is the key to making a tasty sauce.  Trust me, it makes a huge difference!  Mmmmm… meaty sauce.  Love it.

05 Sauce pot with meat

Hopefully the photo below will give you an idea of just how big my sauce pot is.  I only use it once a year (for this exact purpose) because, really, when else would I ever need such a big pot?  It’s filled almost to the brim with sauce and meat!  Mmmmmmm!!!

06 Huge sauce pot

Once the sauce is all meaty and delicious, I put the meatballs aside and assemble the lasagna.  This is where my nephews usually help me – how cute!  We take turns adding all the various ingredients… and try not to munch on too many of them in the process.  Some of us are better at this than others.  Ahem.  : )

07 Lasagna assembly

Also, I couldn’t help but try out one of the finished meatballs to see if I’ve achieved meatball perfection this year.  The verdict?  They came out pretty tasty, but they’re still not my grandma’s perfect meatballs!  Argh!  I guess I’ll see what my family thinks of them on Sunday, and I’ll certainly be trying again next year.  I’m not giving up on this quest!

Anyway, after all this lasagna assembly and meatball making, I’m absolutely exhausted.  As my reward for slaving away in the kitchen all day today, I get to do it all again tomorrow, haha.  Next up on the agenda: Christmas pies, fried shrimp for my dad, and Christmas Eve dinner (fish with broccoli and rice).  Oh baby, lots of cooking still to do!

Hope your holidays are off to a good start and that all your meatballs come out perfectly.  : )

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