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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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 seriesPitch, 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.