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Cooks’ Exchange: Sharing Mrs. Fumusa’s lasagna

September 6, 2018

Back in June, during Festa Italia weekend, Italian food served there stirred fond memories for Bill Fass of Middleton, who, in turn, wanted to share them with me. They began in 1951 when his father, Joseph, built a house for the family at 1021 High St. When Mrs. Fumusa moved next door, Bill’s mother, Margaret, sent over some Irish stew to welcome her into the Greenbush neighborhood. To show her appreciation, Mrs. Fumusa shared her lasagna recipe. And the rest is history.

As a youngster, Bill remembers helping Mrs. Fumusa pick tomatoes from a huge garden where the Dean Clinic is located today on Fish Hatchery Road. When they had enough to make sauce for lasagna, they’d head for home. Today, many decades later, Bill makes Mrs. Fumusa’s lasagna for himself about six times a year.

When he contacted me about the recipe, I was excited to know that it could be shared with readers…especially after he mentioned he had recently made it for the nearby VFW to enjoy with everyone claiming it was the best they’ve ever had. And, of course, being German, Fass is still smiling from the compliment and pride he feels by sharing with others.

You’ll notice at the end of the recipe that he uses a 14x11x3-inch pan, but with other instructions, assured me that it could be made in four 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.

Mrs. Fumusa’s lasagna

3 pounds ground beef

½ pound ground Italian sausage

1 onion, finely chopped and sautéed in small amount of olive oil

29-ounce can whole tomatoes or diced tomatoes, undrained

16-ounce can tomato sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried sweet basil

Lasagna noodles, cook ahead of time

2 ½ pounds mozzarella cheese, shredded

26 slices provolone cheese (available sliced for sandwiches)

8 ounces of grated “3-Cheese Blend” of Parmesan, Romano and Asiago

Brown ground meat alone, remove and drain fat from pan. In same pan, brown Italian sausage; remove from pan and drain fat. Combine meat together in pan and add sautéed chopped onion. Add canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste, garlic powder, oregano, sweet basil, and simmer until sauce is done.

If using a 14x11x3-inch pan, layer cooked lasagna noodles, layer meat and sauce, a layer of mozzarella cheese and a layer of provolone. Sprinkle with 8 ounces of the “3 cheese blend” and start over again until pan is full. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees until bubbles appear. Remove foil and allow lasagna to bake until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

If using four 9x5x3-inch loaf pans, buy organic lasagna noodles as they are wider and shorter and fit the pans perfectly after cooking them first.

With football games and tailgating on the mind, requests arrive for hearty casseroles like the baked bean casserole found in “The Best of Ohio Inns and Restaurants” edited and compiled in 1988 by Margret Guthrie who wrote similar books featuring Wisconsin and Minnesota Inns. This recipe, requested by a Murray family member who happens to live in Brunswick, was featured in the Ohio book from The Apple Farm Restaurant in Brunswick, Ohio.

Country bean casserole

½ pound bacon, cooked crisp

½ sausage, browned, crumbled

¼ cup chopped onions

¼ cup chopped celery

10 ounces wax beans, drained

10 ounces green beans, drained

10 ounces pork and beans

10 ounces kidney beans

10 ounces butter beans

½ cup brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon mustard

½ can (6 ounce) tomato soup

Cook bacon, crumble and set aside. Cook sausage, drain, crumble and set aside. Saute onion and celery in some of the reserved fat until tender. Add beans, being sure to drain only the wax and green beans before adding to the onion celery mixture.

Add the other ingredients and the cooked bacon and sausage, stirring to blend well. Cook in a covered pot or casserole for 2 hours on medium high heat. Or cook in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour.

Yield: 8-12 servings.

The other requested recipe from the same book featuring Ohio Inns and Restaurants was for a sauce that makes a perfect gift from your own kitchen shared by The Heritage Restaurant in Cincinnati.

Toffee almond sauce

1 ½ cups light brown sugar

2 cups light corn syrup

½ cup butter

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons vanilla

4 cups toasted, sliced almonds

To toast the almonds, spread out on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven at 375 degrees, watching carefully so they brown without burning. In a large heavy saucepan combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt. Bring to a boil. Boil 3 minutes. Add cream and stir until well blended. Add the vanilla and then the toasted almonds. May be served either at room temperature or warmed. Yield: 6 cups

Because I have a passion for finocchio, also known as fennel, my mouth watered when I discovered a recipe in Guthrie’s similar book featuring recipes from Minnesota’s Inns and Restaurant, this one from The 510 in Minneapolis.

Fennel cream soup

½ medium onion, diced

4 slices bacon, diced

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cu p diced carrot

2 pounds fennel bulb, medium diced

12 whole black pepper corns

3 bay leaves

1 ½ quarts rich chicken stock

1 pint heavy cream

Kosher salt

1 stick unsalted butter

1 garlic clove

3 tablespoons parsley

Saute onion and bacon in 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat. Add carrots and fennel and continue cooking until onions are transparent and carrots slightly soft. Add bay leaves and peppercorns, cook another 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and reduce about half of liquid. Add cream and reduce slightly. While mixture is still warm, place in blender and puree smooth. Strain with fine mesh strainer into large saucepan and season with salt and a little white pepper. To finish, make garlic compound butter.

Garlic compound butter

Place 1 stick of softened, unsalted butter in mixing bowl and whip with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add garlic and parsley. Ladle hot soup into individual soup bowls and spoon a little compound butter on top.

Optional: For a more vibrant green color, add a few raw spinach leaves to the soup mixture as you puree it in the blender. Add until you get the shade of green that you like. This will not change the flavor significantly.

Recent requests: Bean salad in a creamy sauce

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