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Profile: Homemaker Mara Roberts

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    Mara Roberts
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    Saucy Eggplant-Mushroom Lasagna
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    Mushrooms, tomato sauce and white sauce
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    Pesto sauce
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    Lasagna noodles
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    Roasted eggplant
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    Spread tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish and add a layer of pasta
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    Layer of white sauce and pesto sauce
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    Layer of eggplant
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    Layer of tomato sauce and pesto sauce
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    Layer of white sauce and mushrooms
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    Sprinkle cheese on top
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    Saucy Eggplant-Mushroom Lasagna
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    Mara's favorite cookbooks
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    Mara's dog Nella

Text, photos and food cooked by Michal Martinek

Jan 30, 2015

Print this recipe

Mara Roberts is a very good cook. We went for a walk near her home in Encinitas. As we stood on a cliff overlooking Swami’s Reef, which was dotted with surfers, we discussed food and family. “I was raised in a multi-ethnic home,” said Mara. “My mom was from Iowa, but of Norwegian origin, and my dad was Italian from Ohio, so I was exposed to two quite different culinary traditions right from the start.” Her mother and grandmother taught her how to bake, and her father showed her pasta basics. “I have the sweetest memories as a teenager, shopping for ingredients with Dad in Little Italy in San Diego, and making ravioli with him at home.”

These days when she cooks for dinner parties, potluck worship nights or for her husband and children—daughters Anna and Avalon and son Boaz, all home-schooled by Mara, and all musicians—she sticks mostly to Italian food with a Californian twist. 

Age 53 — Hometown Del Mar, California — Where do you live? Cardiff by the Sea, California — Occupation Homemaker — Signature dish Saucy Lasagna — Who taught you how to cook? My parents, and self with cookbooks and shared recipes — Favorite kitchen tool A really good knife — Always in your pantry Canned tomatoes, pasta, rice, chicken broth, dried lentils, pinto beans, tuna, and crackers — Go-to snack Piece of fruit or nuts — Favorite cuisine Italian — Do you diet? Not recently — Food addictions Breads and crackers — Food allergies Shellfish — Food fad pet peeve Pretending like raw kale is ever a good idea — Who’s your sous chef? One of my daughters when possible — Drinking while cooking? Water or red wine — What’s for dinner tonight? Well, since we had lasagna last night, I will switch it up and make salmon baked in parchment paper with goat cheese and raisins in an orange sauce, with rice and steamed zucchini, and carrots on the side — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? No. You can always order takeout. — Best meal you ever had One Christmas, at my parents' home, we had homemade ravioli and braciole. We would make the ravioli with my dad ahead of time. For the braciole my dad would stuff the meat, roll it and cook it in a tomato sauce. Ahh, the house would smell so good! My mom made Bouche de Noel, a rolled chocolate cake filled with coffee cream. It was a divine moment of food and family.

Saucy Lasagna

Layered with tricolor sauces—distinctly inspired by the Italian flag—and packed with eggplant, mushrooms and cheese, this luscious lasagna is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

“It is a special dish that I pull out for parties or when my son begs for it,” says Mara.

Because it requires a few different components, making lasagna is a bit laborious. If you’re pressed for time or just want to simplify, go ahead and use a store-bought pesto and tomato sauce. 

O

  1. Serves 6–8
  2. 1 pound no-boil lasagna
  3. 1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
  4. Eggplant
  5. 1 medium eggplant, sliced lengthwise about ¼-inch thick
  6. Olive oil
  7. Salt
  8. Mushrooms
  9. ½ pound white mushrooms, chopped
  10. 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  11. ¼ cup olive oil
  12. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  13. Walnut Pesto
  14. 7 garlic cloves, peeled
  15. 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil, stems removed
  16. ½ cup finely chopped parsley
  17. ½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
  18. ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
  19. 1 cup walnuts
  20. ¾ cup olive oil
  21. Tomato Sauce
  22. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  23. 7 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  24. 2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  25. 1 tablespoon sugar
  26. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  27. White Sauce
  28. 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters
  29. ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  30. 3½ cups chicken stock
  31. ½ cup white wine
  32. ½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated

1

Prepare the eggplant. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle two sheets of paper towel with salt, and layer with the eggplant. Sprinkle salt on top of the eggplant and set aside for 20 minutes. Blot the eggplant with paper towel, brush with olive oil on both sides, and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the slices over, and bake for another 15 minutes.

2

Prepare the mushrooms. Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

3

Prepare the pesto. In a food processor, pulse the garlic a few times until chopped. Then add the basil and parsley and pulse until finely chopped. Add the cheeses and walnuts and pulse until smooth. Add olive oil and process until you have a thick paste.

4

Prepare the tomato sauce Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and sugar, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 20 minutes.

5

Prepare the white sauce. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk constantly with a wire whisk, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and wine, and whisk until thickened. Remove from heat and add the cheese. Stir until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth.

6

Assemble the lasagna. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, and spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom. Add a layer of pasta, and cover with 1 cup of the white sauce. Spoon ¼ cup of the pesto over the white sauce. Add a layer of pasta, and top with 1 cup of the white sauce. Lay down all the eggplant in one layer, and top with ¼ cup of the pesto. Add 1 cup of the tomato sauce, and top with a layer of pasta. Add 1 cup of the white sauce, and top with the mushrooms. Spoon ¼ cup of the pesto over the mushrooms. Add a final layer of pasta, and top with the remaining sauces. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the Pecorino Romano. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more.

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