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Ines (Nona) and me at her home in Italy.


Even thought I am Italian, the way I met my second Italian “Nona” was actually through my Stepmom, Joan. Her name was Ines and I called her my “bonus Italian grandmother”. She lived a portion of the time in Italy, and the rest with us. I happily inherited my nona back in the late 90’s when my Dad and Stepmom married, and it was her that I took to when it came time to make her delicious home made Italian dishes. We would make pasta from scratch, have sauce simmering for hours while we drank red wine and enjoyed being together during the entire process. While she taught me how to make fresh ravioli, spaghetti, and lasagna, she also was a mother with a practical side. She shared a few tips of her own to help me cut corners when it came time to making my own homemade Italian dishes. Her lasagna for example, she told me to try the Barilla no boil lasagna noodles from the grocery store. Now, I know this sounds completely sacrilegious, but she was right! It was this time-saving and easy tip that showed me making lasagna didn’t have to be intimidating. Throughout the years I would make a lasagna for whatever company I was entertaining and I always received a unanimous “this is the best lasagna I’ve ever had.” Twenty years later, now with a big Italian family of my own, it has become a family tradition to serve my nona’s lasagna for every Christmas Eve dinner.

Italian-inspired, always.

In 2003, I had the opportunity to study in Venice, Florence, and much of Provence for a month in the Summer. After I finished my studies, I visited with Ines in Follina, her little Italian village just outside of Venice. For a week we cooked, ate, drank wine, met with family, and explored all of the beautiful surroundings nearby. One memory in particular is when we picnicked in the Dolomites mountains. It was one of the most beautiful scenes you could ever imagine. I had my film camera in tow while we sat and sipped on local Prosecco, snacked on fresh cheese and mortadella. I was in heaven. A few years later, Ines stayed in Italy permanently due to health reasons. I had the pleasure of visiting her again in 2014 with my Dad and Joan, where we created much of the same memories.


A few from our visit with Ines and the family.

On that same trip after our visit with Ines, my Dan, Joan, and I continued to eat and drink our way through the Northwest side of Italy including Bologna, Modena, Lake Garda, Lake Como, and Milan. But it was in Bologna that we took a cooking class at the Culinary Institute of Bologna (CIBO), where we so fittingly learned how to make bolognese of course! You can tell by the smile on my face how much I was in my happy place. It was here that we received our “certificate” from CIBO stating we were officially taught how to make this famous Italian sauce. Every time I make my lasagna, I put on my CIBO apron and reflect on this wonderful memory.



From My Family, to Yours.

After Danny and I married in 2015, it became tradition to host Christmas Eve at our house for our families. This would mean I would need to make A LOT of lasagna, and in perfect Italian culture, I was happy to do so! I love putting the love I shared of my Nona and from my travels in Italy into the food I make for my family. This dish is made on the holidays and for anytime we have a family or a friend in need. It never goes unappreciated and is always said it’s the best they’ve ever had. So, without further ado, here is the recipe from my family to yours!


Christmas Eve Lasagna’s cooking away!




This is my modified version of traditional bolognese sauce. I combined my Nona’s recipe with what I learned from my cooking class in Bologna.


  • 1 large white onion minced

  • 2 cups fresh carrots minced

  • 2 cups fresh celery minced

  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef and sausage, browned

  • 2 cans tomato sauce

  • 2 cans diced tomatoes

  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste

  • 1 large jar of Mid’s tomato sauce w/ Italian Sausage

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • Pinch of sugar (if needed)

  • Salt and black pepper to taste

In large pot, sauté onion, carrots, and celery with olive oil for 1 minute. Add in tomato paste, salt and pepper, stir. Add tomato sauces and diced tomatoes, stir.

In large pan, cook both ground beef and sausage until fully cooked. Drain and add to sauce, stir. Cover with lid and simmer for a minimum of 2 hours. If needed, add a pinch of sugar to cut the tomato acidity.


Ingredients for 12 people

  • 1 Box Barilla® Oven-Ready Lasagne

  • 1 15 oz container ricotta cheese

  • 1 box of frozen spinach cooked and drained well

  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided

  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

  • Salt and black pepper to taste



Pre-heat oven to 375°F.

  • In a bowl, combine ricotta, chopped spinach, and Parmigiano cheese. Stir well.

  • Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Pour one cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish; spread evenly. Place 3 sheets of Barilla’s no boil lasagna noodles side by side (sheets will expand while baking to the ends of the dish).

  • Pour 1 cup of sauce and 3/4 cup of cheese mixture on the first layer. Top with ¼ cup mozzarella and 1/3 cup of the sauce, Repeat for 3 more layers.

  • For the final layer, top with 3 lasagne sheets, add remaining sauce and top with cheese mixture and mozzarella.

  • Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake additional 5 minutes to brown the cheese. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with fresh salad and garlic bread and plenty of good red wine! I hope you and your family enjoy this delicious family recipe. Enjoy!


Comments +

  1. Kristen Rintelmann says:

    Love this so much!! Thank you for sharing this absolutely delicious gem! It truly was the most amazing lasagna I’ve ever had! Can’t wait to make it and hope that I can do it justice in sentiment and in taste!

  2. aritza says:

    love this! I’m going to have to try this recipe ASAP!

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My photography journey began at age 14. Since then, I’ve perfected my craft through decades of experience around the world. My entrepreneurial spirit thrives through supporting other brands and businesses and supporting their dreams through tenacious ideas.

a Central Florida native and creative problem solver with a passion for all things photography.

Hello, I'm Abby Liga DiDomenico

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