So I Made This Lasagna

Plus: Derry Girls, Normal People, And What’s Making Us Happy

by Linda Holmes
Welcome! It was the week when we learned about the upcoming Community table read. It was the week when maybe there was going to be a Tom Cruise movie filmed in space? And it was the week when we learned there won’t be more Black Mirror on TV until there’s less in real life. Let’s get to it.

Opening Argument: So I Made This Lasagna

I talked on the show this week about the fact that I made Samin Nosrat’s “The Big Lasagna” recipe that she posted over at The New York Times, and I watched her livestream about it on Instagram on Sunday night. I had originally planned to be sitting down to eat at 7:00, when the livestream started, but in fact, I was still over an hour away, because … well, everything takes longer than you think. 

In this case, it was especially difficult to know how long it would take because I made everything myself. That’s right — I went all-out for this lasagna. I made the ricotta filling, and I made the tomato sauce, and I made the bechamel, but I also made the pasta from scratch. When I started the process in the afternoon, I almost gave up immediately, because I couldn’t get the dough right. I had to add quite a bit of water to get it to come together, and while I know that can happen for a variety of reasons (humidity! flour variations! egg variations!), I found it most disheartening. And I admit that part of me thought, “I cannot do this; I cannot do something that’s just going to be frustrating, and I am only five minutes into this.” 

But I didn’t quit. I added enough water, and I rested the dough, and to my shock, it came together. I have a pasta roller attachment for my stand mixer, and I watched as the sheets of pasta took shape, somewhat shocked to watch raggedy dough gradually transform into what it was supposed to look like. (I’ve made pasta before, but only a couple of times.) 

The hits kept on coming in terms of problems and errors: I overcooked the roux for the bechamel (meaning I browned the butter/flour combination that’s supposed to remain very light in color), I didn’t fit all the tomato sauce into the pan, I didn’t trim the noodles enough and ran out of pasta, I burned myself on the sheet pan, I didn’t have the right amount of spinach (a pound of fresh spinach is a lot), and so forth. I wound up putting it into the oven much later than I planned, not achieving anything like the “I will be sitting down with my lasagna just as this livestream starts!” fantasy. 

And who was going to consume this lasagna? Just me. I am quarantining alone, and while I did take some leftovers to a friend the next day when I knew it had turned out well (spoiler alert!), at the time, I planned for it to be just me. Nobody to impress with all my hard work; perhaps the purest possible test of doing something merely for the satisfaction of it. 

It was completely worth it. For one thing, boy was that some good lasagna, if I do say so myself. I was sure the noodles were going to be messed up because I struggled with the dough, but they were great. I was sure it wouldn’t be tomato saucy enough, but it was. I worried about everything, I wasn’t sure it would look right, I thought it might be a big mess — but it wasn’t. It was … it really was great. 

And more to the point, I finished it. One of the things I think I’ve been craving is a sense that something interesting has happened, because so often, days are very similar. But Sunday was the day I made lasagna from scratch, and I resisted the urge to quit. And even though I made a lot of mistakes and had a lot of mishaps and my feet hurt from standing in my kitchen for hours, it turned out fine. A pretty good lesson to take away from a pan of pasta. 

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We Recommend:

I appeared on the podcast The Hilarious World of Depression a couple of years ago, and people still talk to me about it a lot. The host and creator, John Moe, now has a book out that’s based on the work he’s done on the show. (And here’s the episode I did.)

My plan this weekend involves diving into the second season of Dead To Me on Netflix. I thought the first season was great, as I wrote at the time.

They’ve just brought the Fox series Pitch, which unfortunately ran only one season in 2016, to Hulu. It’s about a woman who becomes a major league pitcher, and it’s well worth checking out.  

Also: we’ll be covering Mindy Kaling’s Netflix show Never Have I Ever on the show next week, so this is your chance to catch up!

What We Did This Week:

On our Wednesday show, we took on Derry Girls, which took second place in our listener poll (behind Schitt’s Creek). I liked it the most. 

And on our Friday show, Glen and I were joined by Katie Presley to talk about Normal People, which I reviewed last week

Over at NPR Music, Stephen sat in for New Music Friday

What’s Making Us Happy:

Every week on the show, we talk about some other things out in the world that have been giving us joy lately. Here they are:
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