friday feast: heidi mordhorst’s lasagna factory

#5 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2011.


Chances are very good that if you drop in unexpectedly at Heidi Mordhorst’s house, you won’t go hungry.

After flashing her beautiful smile and serenading you with “Fields of Gold,” she’ll pop open her amply stocked freezer, take out a pan of homemade lasagna and toss it into the oven. 


Then, while you’re waiting for this symphony of tomato sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, crushed tomatoes, roasted eggplant, Italian sausage and spinach to emerge all bubbly-oozy and garlicky from its fiery kiln, she’ll recite the poems she contributed to the just-published Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems (Maryland Writers’ Association, 2011).

Squisito! *kisses fingertips*

Ever ready with poetry and pasta, busy working mom Heidi likes to be prepared for visitors, whether they be two or twenty. Her food is so delicious you’ll probably eat everything in sight.

But don’t worry, she’ll hand you an apron and spatula, so you, too, can be part of her Lasagna Factory, the perfect family food project. After all, you never know who’ll be dropping in next.


Heidi: The efficiency of the bulk-cooking idea has always attracted me, but it hasn’t fit well with my pledge to stop shopping at places like Costco, or with the creative challenge of opening the fridge at 6:00 and having dinner on the table at 6:30. However, on a few occasions I’ve made enough of a thing to put some away in the freezer—and there’s hardly a better feeling than realizing you already have a nice loaf of pumpkin bread just waiting to be delivered to the Teacher Appreciation Breakfast at school. 



So when my partner took a few hours and whipped up four delicious pans of assorted lasagna for a holiday party, it occurred to us that we could do the same on a Sunday afternoon with the kids, and have that domestic-artiste, prepared-as-a-Boy-Scout feeling for a whole month at a time….  

Colleague had the baby early? Lasagna in the freezer!

Youth group dinner at the UU church? Lasagna in the freezer!

Dentist/karate/art class/Poetry Friday collision? Lasagna in the freezer!


Thus was born our monthly Lasagna Factory. Following the poem are my instructions for pulling it off, designed for a family of four; never mind the splotches on your shirt.

by Heidi Mordhost

Look out — the sauce is hot!
Arrange flat noodles like pieces of a puzzle
Spread a blanket of white ricotta
Add sausage, eggplant, steamy spinach
(Grate some nutmeg in that case)
Never mind the splotches on your shirt
Ample shower of mozzarella love

Family factory in full swing now
Again with the noodles, again with the sauce
Clash of spoons and spatulas
Tear the basil, black pepper grind
One last layer of parmesan
Ready for the oven, four big pans
Yep — lasagna in the freezer feels safe and sound

© 2011 Heidi Mordhorst. All rights reserved.


Why I Consume Art/flickr

Time: at least 2 hours
Yield: four 9 x 12 pans (we use recyclable aluminum)

Ingredients for the basic lasagna (bearing in mind that there’s wiggle room with lasagna):

3 boxes lasagna noodles
4 lbs. ricotta (we mix full-fat and skim)
4 eggs
4 lbs. shredded mozzarella
4 c. shredded parmesan
1 large onion
4-8 cloves garlic
(2) 28-oz jars or cans of your favorite red pasta sauce
(2) 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
(1) 6-oz can tomato paste
fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper

Ingredients for the fillings:

1 lb. shredded parmesan
2 large eggplants
(1) 16-oz bag frozen spinach
(1) 16-oz package Italian sausage (we use a vegetarian substitute)Directions:

First, prepare all the fillings:

·        One adult chops and sautes onion and garlic, then adds tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and seasoning to taste to make enough sauce for all four lasagnas.

·        Second adult slices and oils the eggplants and roasts the slices in a single layer in a 400° oven.

·        One child beats the eggs and mixes with ricotta in a large bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper.

·        Second child slices and sautes the sausage and defrosts the spinach in the microwave.

·        Don’t forget to oil the pans with nonstick spray!

Next, decide who’s making which lasagna and arrange everything on the kitchen table:

·        pot of sauce in the middle; variety of ladles, spoons and spatulas

·        one pan and one bag of shredded mozzarella at each station,

·        one filling ingredient at each station: shredded parmesan for plain cheese lasagna, sausage, eggplant slices and spinach.

Rhythmically and hilariously layer ingredients in the pans as follows, with a playlist in the background featuring something for everyone (Crazy Frog, Lady Gaga, Sting and La Roux, for example):

1) a little sauce
2) 3+ noodles, broken if necessary to fit
3) ricotta mixture
4) filling, a nice thick layer
5) sauce; litter with fresh torn basil
6) shredded mozzarella
7) noodles
8) ricotta mixture
9) filling
10) sauce and basil
11) mozzarella
12) noodles
13) sauce
14) shredded parmesan

Bake, covered with oiled foil, at 350 degrees for about one hour. Let cool; close each pan tightly and wrap in a plastic bag; stack in freezer; sleep easy.

Factory chef/general optimist Heidi Mordhost is a teacher, language and literature specialist, poet and mom. She’s especially good at hosting drop-in visitors, since she’s adept at improvisional comedy and might even entertain her guests with a salsa dance or two. With her arsenal of pre-made lasagna, Heidi is ready for just about anything. She’s published two poetry books: Squeeze: Poems from a Juicy Universe (2005) and Pumpkin Butterfly: Poems from the Other Side of Nature (2009), both released by Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. Three of her poems for adults are included in the brand new Maryland Writers’ Association anthology, Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems, edited by Laura Shovan (a Potluck Poet in 2010). Be sure to visit Heidi’s official website and blog, My Juicy Little Universe, “a lemon heaven full of juice to squeeze.”

See what I mean about that smile?
“Every little thing she does is magic!”

♥ Second Serving: Heidi enjoys the poem, “Lasagna, April ’05” by Frank Ledwell. Listen to it here. I love the idea of a “library of food for drop-in visitors.”

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.


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