Cooking for Clara

Birthday Lasagna

By • February 5, 2013 • 28 Comments

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Merrill's baby Clara is finally old enough to eat solid foods. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, Merrill steps into the fray.

Today: Lasagna to celebrate Clara's first birthday!

Clara's birthday lasagna  

Clara had her first taste of lasagna shortly after Christmas, much to her (and our) delight. She mashed hunks of the tomatoey, cheesy pasta into her mouth, getting nearly as much on the floor as she managed to swallow. I've made lasagna several times since, with equal success -- apparently, she's meat/veggie agnostic.

Clara's birthday lasagna

In fact, Clara enjoys lasagna so much I decided to make it for her first birthday party. We invited her grandparents over to celebrate, and they liked it too. Below is my go-to lasagna recipe, the kind I used to have all the time when I lived in Italy for a semester in college: deeply colored, with no ricotta -- just bolognese, pasta (fresh if you can find it), creamy bechamel and a little mozzarella. Kid-friendly, grandparent-approved.

Birthday Lasagna

Birthday Lasagna

Serves 6


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Splash red wine? (optional)
1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes, with their juices
1 cup beef stock or water
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano


3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 package no-boil (or fresh) lasagna sheets
3/4 cup shredded fresh mozzarella

To see the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

And here are some birthday desserts to go with your lasagna:

Lemon Birthday Cake  Chocolate Dump-It Cake  One-Ingredient Ice Cream

Lemon Birthday Cake

Chocolate Dump-It Cake

One-Ingredient Ice Cream

Jump to Comments (28)

Tags: lasagna, baby food, birthday, bolognese, bechamel, everyday cooking

Comments (28)


almost 2 years ago Yessica

I made this and it will forever stay in rotation at our house. My 18 year old son almost ate the entire dish! it makes a mama feel good when that happens.


about 2 years ago fgressette

I made this for a family dinner to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday, and we all loved it. Happy birthdays, all around.


about 2 years ago Charlotte Woodhouse

When do you add the meat back in? You take it out in step 1. then it's mentioned again in step 3.


about 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thank you for catching that! Just made the correction -- you add the meat back to the pot after the tomato paste.


about 2 years ago Elycooks

Teeth! When did teeth happen?...I feel I've missed a chapter. And happy birthday Clara.


about 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thank you! She actually started to get teeth early -- around 7 months. She's got 8 now!


about 2 years ago Veronica S

As one of Clara's grandmothers, I have to say that the STAR of the show ate like a pro! And needless to say we ALL loved the Lasagna, almost as much as we love Clara and her fabulous parents!


about 2 years ago Anna Francese Gass

Anna is a Test Kitchen Assistant and Recipe Tester for Food52

she has gotten SOSOSOSO big!!!! can't believe she is already one year old! miss you guys!


about 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Miss you too!


about 2 years ago healthierkitchen

Happy birthday Clara! Love the bib/apron - is there a clever name for such a thing?


about 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Think they're usually called smocks...Indispensable!


about 2 years ago Yessica

This looks fantastic!! Married to a wonderful Italian man I have been learning how to make his favorites...the authentic way. Because if not authentic and good, why bother? I shall try this recipe this weekend. Yummm... Happy Birthday to the little one!


about 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thank you!


about 2 years ago Muse

What a little cutie Clara is...Happy birthday sweetheart! Love your recipe by the way.


about 2 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

It is such a joy to see her growing into her own little person!


about 2 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

What a sweetie! Happy birthday, Clara!


about 2 years ago Dina Moore-Tzouris

happy birthday to the budding foodie! absolutely delicious--made it today. i usually make a ricotta based lasagna, and this way better--a recipe loved by ages 1-40something!!


about 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

So glad you liked it!


about 2 years ago phyllis

Yikes. Time passes quickly. Happy birthday, Clara!! My go-to lasagna recipe is almost identical to yours. Delicious, easy and loved by all.


about 2 years ago adamnsvetcooking

Happy Birthday Clara!


about 2 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

a year already? What a great take on birthday cake! Happy birthday Clara!


about 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks, all!


about 2 years ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

I fist-pumped when I tasted Merrill's lasagna, too.


about 2 years ago amysarah

Happy 1st to Clara! This especially resonates with me - my gorgeous blonde baby has a related name (Claire) and her traditional b'day dinner has long been the same type of lasagna, which she fell in love with as a child during a summer in Italy. Only difference is she's now a college senior (!!) - and I can't convince her to wear an adorable smock. Congrats, and I hope your girl brings you as much joy as mine has!


about 2 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

My heart is in a puddle on the floor! :) Happy birthday Clara!


about 2 years ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

What a gorgeous lasagna. What a beautiful child!! and how lucky is she to have a great cook for a mom? (I know, because I had one of those myself.)
Happy Birthday Clara.