Editor’s note: Steve and Kathy Doocy’s new book, “The Simply Happy Cookbook,” is filled with 100-plus recipes to take the stress out of cooking. Nothing complicated, everything delicious. Here’s one of them — and it starts with a story from Steve himself.
My mom used to say, “Rainy days are for naps.”
She said it so many times that if I woke up and it looked like a damp day ahead, I’d think, “Rainy days are for naps.”
And after lunch I’d take a nap.
Now that I’m a parent, I recognize that my mother was programming me like Pavlov with his dog.
On showery days, she was stuck inside the house with five kids hopped up on A&W root beer, so to minimize the craziness, she’d say, “Rainy day, time for a nap,” and we’d all take a nap.
We’d wake up, and she’d be watching Gene Rayburn on “Match Game.”
My mother was a genius.
By the way, on rainy nap days she’d always make us tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Don’t know why — maybe one element of that combo was sleep inducing.
I fondly remember helping her in the kitchen put a Kraft Single between two slices of Wonder bread, then butter the outside with Fleischmann’s margarine, and she’d grill it until it had a gorgeous golden crust on each side.
I’d dunk mine in the tomato soup and then ketchup, which is a lot of tomato — but I was a kid, and it’s what kids do.
Last year, as I was preparing a batch of our lasagna soup from our “Happy in a Hurry Cookbook,” as I was mashing the Parm and mozzarella with the ricotta for the topping, I tasted it and some neurons misfired, and I thought, “This would be great as the cheese in a lasagna grilled cheese sandwich!
My son-in-law, Ali, said, “It doesn’t sound like it’ll work.”
I made it the next day, with Italian sausage, marinara and that three-cheese mixture inside buttered bread grilled to golden-brown perfection.
“Best darn sandwich of my life!” my daughter Sally said, complimenting the chef — but I knew she also wanted to borrow my car.
“When you said you were making a pasta dish into a sandwich, I thought you’d lost your mind,” Kathy observed. “Like the time you voted for Ross Perot.”
If you love grilled cheese sandwiches and/or lasagna, please try this amazing amalgamation.
We make a single batch and have plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. Best part is, you don’t have to wait for a rainy day.
By the way, now that I’m in my sixties, forget rainy days — every day is for naps!
Makes 6 sandwiches
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1⁄2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1⁄4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1⁄4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound bulk mild or sweet Italian sausage (or links with casings removed)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups jarred marinara (our favorite is Rao’s)
12 bread slices (we use Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Butter Bread)
Butter at room temperature
1. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and salt and mix well. Set aside.
2. In a nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and garlic and cook until browned and thoroughly cooked, about 10 minutes. Drain any excess grease. Reduce the heat to low and stir in 1 cup of the marinara to warm it up.
3. To make one sandwich, spread 2 or 3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture on one slice of bread. Spread about 1⁄2 cup of the marinara-meat mixture on another slice of bread and smooth it out. Close the sandwich, then repeat to assemble the rest.
4. To cook the sandwiches, heat a large nonstick skillet over slightly warmer than medium heat. If it’s too hot, it will toast the outside before the cheese mixture is warmed, so make sure the pan is at the Goldilocks temperature — not too hot, not too cold, just right.
5. Butter the outsides of the sandwiches. Cook on one side until it’s a deep beautiful golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and do the same for the other, about 10 minutes total. Depending on the size of the pan, you can cook more than one sandwich at a time. Just watch them carefully so they don’t burn!
6. Meanwhile, warm the remaining 1 cup marinara in the microwave and divide it among small bowls, one for each sandwich.
7. Slice the sandwiches in half and serve them with the bowls of marinara for dipping.
Wow, that’s good!
Who knew lasagna could be a showstopping sandwich?
Adapted from Steve and Kathy Doocy’s “The Simply Happy Cookbook.” To order your copy, click this link. Used with permission of William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. All rights reserved.