About Dinner

Stouffer’s is running a commercial in heavy rotation for their Let’s Fix Dinner campaign. The point of the campaign is to fix (as in correct) dinner by getting families to fix (as in make) dinner at home and eat together around the table. The spot shows a family setting the table, making a salad and heating a Stouffer’s lasagna. The voice over says the family is having Italian Night, a new tradition they had started. But my question is this: if you have time to put a table cloth, nice place settings, candles and all the accoutrement of a nice restaurant meal, how do you not have time to make lasagna from scratch?

Lasagna is one of the easiest dishes in the world to make. If you just follow the directions on the box of noodles, you will have at least a passable meal. If you want it to be slightly healthier, you can use fat free cottage cheese instead of ricotta. If you don’t want to use all the pots involved in scratch lasagna, you can even find noodles that cook just in the juices they’re baked with. Admittedly, if you want ground beef in the dish, you will have to use a frying pan in addition to the lasagna pan. But, guess what? Fresh lasagna, even a mediocre recipe, tastes better than a frozen meal every time. And the leftovers are even better.

Now maybe not everyone has time to add 15-20 minutes of prep time. But are those people also giving their dinner table the full Martha Stewart treatment?

If you get tired of lasagna on your Italian night, I’m going to break the rules and share a family recipe with you right here on my blog. This is really easy to make (almost impossible to mess up, really), and even gets young kids to eat zucchini.

Grandpa Lou’s Elbows and Zucchini

  • 4 lbs. zucchini (or any squash)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 tbsn. olive oil
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (or strained canned tomatoes if you want it chunky)
  • 1 lb. noodles (we use elbow macaroni, but you can use anything you want)
  • Spices to taste: salt, pepper, basil, oregano

Start the water for the noodles first, and add the noodles whenever the water is ready. Sauté garlic in olive oil until golden. Add the zucchini or squash, onion and green pepper, and season with salt, pepper, basil and oregano to taste. Cook until al dente. Add tomato sauce (use less if you want it less runny). Strain the noodles and combine.

This makes a LOT of food (hey, Grandpa Lou was Italian, what do you expect), so if you are cooking for less people or don’t want tons of leftovers, you can reduce the ingredients. The proportions here are just for example, there is basically no way to screw this up: it’s just zucchini, sauce and noodles. If you under-salt, the zucchini will be fairly bland, so don’t do it.

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