Fresh Find: McKee Elementary School Recipe Collection




We in the Food & Flavor section tend to be suckers for community cookbooks. A notable new one is "McKee Cooks: McKee Elementary School PTA 2009 Recipe Collection."

The North Fayette school's project -- edited by Cheryl Brown of Oakdale and Linda Diffendal of North Fayette -- spiral-binds together more than 500 family recipes, cooking tips and color photos, by Ericka Zerbini of Oakdale, of students.

Starting with the cover (featuring the Brown and Zerbini daughters), the book is simply cute, and loaded with regional comfort foods, many of which are made with shortcuts such as bottled salad dressings and boxed stuffing. There also are some fancier, and perhaps healthier: Mother and daughter Amy and Sarah Hollister, who contributed dozens of recipes, offer some more contemporary and gourmet selections such as a Rustic Pork Ragu that I'm much looking forward to making. Ms. Brown describes Amy Hollister as "just a dynamo cook/hostess and recipe freak."

Still, the real charm is in the recipes that come from grandmothers and other relatives ("Slovenian Cookies" from Alex Stofan, in memory of Andrew Stofan). I also smiled at Alex and Mary Catherine Stofan's recipe for open-faced, pepperoni-topped Pizza Burgers, which is subtitled "NA [North Allegheny] Cafeteria Memories 1970s."

The cookbook can be had from the West Allegheny School District for $14.95 (cash or check payable to McKee PTA); order from McKee Elementary School Cookbook, 1501 Oakdale Road, Oakdale, PA 15071 or by calling 724-693-8451. Proceeds go to the Teacher's Wish Fund.

WORLD'S BEST LASAGNA

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This not-humbly-named recipe was contributed by Ericka Zerbini, who shot the photographs for "McKee Cooks," and her daughter Tattyanne.

-- Bob Batz Jr.

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 12-ounce can tomato paste
  • 13-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

In Dutch oven, cook meats, onion and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in tomatoes, paste, sauce and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons parsley.

Simmer, covered, 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Boil large pot of lightly salted water; cook noodles 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce.

Spread with 1/2 of ricotta cheese mixture. Top with 1/3 of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella and sprinkle with 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Repeat layers and top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan.

Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese. Bake 25 minutes.

Remove foil, and bake 25 minutes more. Cool for 15 minutes.

-- "McKee Cooks"

SPINACH WITH CORN AND TOMATOES

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  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 10 ounces frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 4 cups baby spinach, finely sliced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add corn; cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add spinach; cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes; cook 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve warm, cold or at room temperature. (To serve chilled, refrigerate covered up to 4 hours.)

-- Contributed by Amy and Sarah Hollister

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