Tony Bennett is certainly one of the true all-time great vocalists and his late-career resurgance engineered by son/manager Danny Bennett has been nothing if not astonishing (especially considering that Tony’s brand of pop music hasn’t really been mainstream in for about 50 years). I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the man on several occasions and he has always been unfailingly personable and gracious. Why shouldn’t he be? By any estimation his life has been charmed.
By coincidence I also lived for a few cold winter months in the apartment building he grew up in in Astoria (which you can see on the cover of his album Astoria, Portrait of the Artist.)
Perhaps the secret of his success began with his mother’s lasagna. Tony obviously had great affection for her and I have a hunch this recipe is probably pretty delicious.
From a recipe book published in 1995 in which Tony wrote:
“I helped my mother (Anna Benedetto) by staying out of the kitchen. She was a fantastic lady from Calabria, a reion of southern Italy. My favorite recipe was her lasagna. The secret of her cooking: it was light.
Today, I keep in good singing form by eating well, staying healthy, and drinking good water.”
Tony Bennett’s Mother’s Lasagna
1 1/4 pounds ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage
5 ot 6 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes
1 28-ounce can Italian pureé
2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
2 16-ounce containers ricotta cheese
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 pound Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Brown ground beef and onions together; drain fat. Set aside. Remove sausage from casing; crumble and place in large pot with garlic, cook briefly. Add tomatoes, tomato pureé, and tomato paste. Season with basil, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Add ground beef mixture and stir well. Simmer sauce for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Combine ricotta and eggs in bowl.
In 15-inch lasagna pan, place small amount of sauce on bottom; layer with 1/4 noodes, 1/3 ricotta mixture, 1/3 grated cheese; cover with 1/4 sauce. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining noodles, and cover with remaining sauce.
Bake 45 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Buon’ Appetito!
6 to 8 servings