Cheez Whiz + The 3-ingredient dessert my French guests raved about
What does Journées Portes Ouvertes mean? And How To Succeed in College.

Marianne's Easy Lasagna & favorite French phrase


We returned home last night from our family ski vacation to find poppies blossoming along the railroad tracks in our village. Bonjour Printemps! Are you here to stay?


    "Ça ne mange pas de pain" = it doesn't cost a thing

* literally, "It doesn't eat bread". I heard Jean-Marc say this while we were on our family vacation this week. Since, I've been saying it everyday!, ie:

"Jackie, send your fashion article to France Today or French Provencal magazine"- ça ne mange pas de pain! You've got nothing to lose!

Mas-de-perdrix-rental-provence-franceMAS DE LA PERDRIX
The perfect home to celebrate special occasions with family and friends…
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Learn how to speak French with Exercises in French Phonetics
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word:
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La compassion, la tolerance, le respet pour l'autre... ça ne mange pas de pain.
Compassion, tolerance, respect for others... it doesn't cost a thing.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Home now from a 3-day family getaway to the French Alps, the first thing I want to do--before even unpacking my valise, is to make Marianne's delicious lasagna! I've already been to the store this morning, to get the short list of ingredients for this easy, 6-ingredient recipe!

                      L'Art de vivre en montagne

(Marianne's Easy-Peasy Lasagne)

Twenty-three years ago, sitting at Marianne's convivial dinner table, I would not have thought to ask for the recette. But I've grown up, since, and rearranged my priorities! While I still stare at all the French guests--losing my attention span to daydreaming as my gaze picks up all kinds of inspiration from those seated around the table--I can now punctuate these lapses with pertinent questions, such as, Parle-moi un peu de cet écureuil qui se trouve sur votre mur... or May I have the recipe for this delicious dish? 

Monday night, as I stared at the stuffed squirrel on the chalet's wall, Marianne served up lasagna for thirteen, and Michel, Marianne's husband, explained: "The squirrel came from Alsace...."

I thought to ask Why?, when another, more pressing question came to mind: "Marianne, est-ce que je peux avoir la recette de ce lasagne?" And here, dear readers, is what she answered (my notes and questions are in parenthesis, in case you want to give me any pointers before I go to make this recipe this afternoon!) :

First make an easy bolognaise sauce...
Sauté some onions, add ground beef (around 100 grams or 3.5 ounces per person) and continue to cook, separating the beef with a spatula,  mixing it up with the onions. Add salt and pepper and a can or so of tomatoes (or tomatoe paste). 
Then add cream.... Marianne says she added two cartons of crême fraîche liquide (she held up her hands to give me an idea of the carton size, which I guess is about 8 ounces per carton. This will depend on how much beef you use, so just do it by guesswork, which is my plan! (As for me, I bought 3 small tubs of sour cream. Do you think this will work?) 

Now put down the first layer of lasagna noodles --precooked, directly from package, followed by one layer of the meat/cream sauce and one layer of shredded gruyère cheese. Repeat until you reach the top  of the pan. (Do you line the pan? I think I'll butter it or add sauce first... let me know!) 

Into the oven at 150-180C (300-350F) for 25 minutes... and voilà, fini!


I love the idea of this basic lasagna recipe, which gives me courage to make lasagna for the very first time. With an easy 6-ingredient base, I am free to be creative, adding chopped carrots to sauté along with the onions, or adding nutmeg and a lump of butter to the cream and meat sauce.... I may also add some leftover parmesan along with the shredded cheese. 

What would you add? Let me know this-and any other tips in the comments. I am so excited to finally be making lasagna, as it will be a very practical recipe at harvest time!

Check out these casserole dishes at Amazon.


Everybody had seconds! Thanks, Marianne and Michel! For another easy, quick, and delicious recipe by Marianne, click here.

valise = suitcase
recette = recipe
Parle-moi un peu de cet écureuil qui se trouve sur votre mur... tell me about that (stuffed) squirrel on the wall

SABLET HOME - for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Click here for pictures.

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Vacation is over. This morning Max and Antoine are pulling out large stones from the vineyard floor and piling them at the end of the vine row, where an ancient restanque (Provencal stone wall) hints at a new purpose for these heavy rocks.

P.S. Smokey had a blast in the snow, chased tennis balls and ate plenty of snowballs too!

Thanks and see you next week!

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Kristi - this sounds like a great lasagna recipe! I'm loving the idea of adding cream to the sauce, I've never tried it before. I like adding mushrooms and spinach to my lasagna as its own layer with some cheese. I don't make lasagna often - but my family loves when I make this meal during our ski trips or on especially cold winter days here in Minnesota.

I love your posts!

Kate Dickerson

I love your idea of sour cream - brings it into beef stroganoff territory! YUM!!

Also, just learned a new word - Fastoche. Such a fun word I can't wait to use!!


Bonjour Kristi - I use ricotta cheese when I make lasagna which isn't that often. But, I think I will make it this weekend using your recipe. I will substitute ground turkey for the ground beef.

Glad you had a wonderful getaway and that Smokey was there to enjoy it, too!


Hi Kristi,

I just noticed your intro at the top and noticed you prefer "Kristi".... I am just now noticing this! haha .... I remember years ago thinking that some followers address you as Kristi but I thought they must know you! :-)

The recipe sounds really delicious! I bought some of the Chestnut Cream and will send you a pic when I make it! I am taking a Master Naturalist course and just learned about the American Chestnut Blight which wiped out most of our Chestnuts (4 billion trees) by 1950. I guess that's why the Chestnut Cream is so expensive!

I hope Jackie sends in her fashion article!


This is a lasagna bolognese, not the usual southern Italian lasagna known to most. But as an Italian who has made both versions, I would never use sour cream. If you don't want to use creme fraiche, use half and half. Sour cream has a very specific taste.


Hi, Kristi:

I, too, use ricotta cheese, seasoned with Italian mixed herbs & fresh ground pepper. Also a layer of shredded mozzarella.

I adore mushrooms, and always add those as well (and sometimes sauteed green pepper). Since you live in a land where all types of mushrooms are plentiful and fresh, I surely would add those!

I also saute onions after the ground meat to get up the good bits in the pan and then at the last minute of sauteeing, throw in some fresh chopped garlic, then add the onion/garlic in with the ground beef/tomato mixture.

Have never tried the sour cream in with meat/tomato sauce-- that sounds wonderful!

This coming week is my brother's and sister-in-law's anniversary and he loves my lasagna, so I am making it for them. My mother and another friend attending the dinner eat low-carb!! So I'm making a "paleo" low-carb version for them, substituting a layer of zucchini for the noodles. Hope that turns out well. (Thanks Pinterest!)

I will try your (Marianne's) recipe one day in the future, as it seems very simple, and delicious! And, oh, your lasagna pan is very nice. I like a deep pan for mine, as I tend to get carried away with the layers!

Love the recettes, keep 'em comin'!



p.s. Yes, Parmesan is a great addition! Have often used it as well... can never have too much cheese, in my humble opinion!

And I agree, Jackie should send in her article. ;-)

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

I haven't made in a long time, but don't ever remember adding cream. Always used ricotta, a little mozzarella, and lots of grated romano and parmesan, but would like to try your French cheesy gruyère version.

I make meatless so, I, too, add mushrooms and spinach. I don't remember if I buttered the bottom of the pan. Hmmmm. Been that long! Too long,obviously.

Beautiful poppy photo! I hope we have a late spring here in Florida, unless we actually have spring. Last year we went from winter nights to 90 degree days in April, and except for a couple weeks, all the way through November. One can have too much of a good thing.


I have used cottage cheese instead of ricotta in my lasagna.


Hi Kristi:
I make Lasagna often. I used ground turkey instead of ground beef, stewed tomatoes and tomato paste and three kinds of cheese in between layers:mozerella, parmesan and ricotta. People seems to love it. Vive les differences, Janine


Definitely splash some of the cream or a spoonful of the sauce's liquid (without the chunky bits) on the bottom of the pan before putting in the first layer of noodles, because otherwise they may stick!

I'm uncertain what you mean by "sour cream" in a French context; do you mean the tub creme fraiche or fromage blanc? If so I would guess that would make your sauce a bit stiff. My own guess would be to go with creme fluide entiere — something that is pourable rather than spoonable. (I make a northern Italian lasagna using a sauce of chicken, chicken livers and mushrooms, fontina, and pourable cream here in the US.) You have to be prepared for the noodles, even if they seem cooked, to soak up additional moisture from the sauce as things bake, which means you have to have enough moisture available for them — otherwise the lasagna will be dry.


Kristi! I live vicariously through your posts. That is to say I love hearing about your family, your friends and your life there in the South of France. I'm in awe of your capabilities! because I loved the look of your sorrel soup, I printed out your lasagne recipe (Marianne's, I guess) and then the gratin from a previous post. I'm curious about your slow cooker meals--my son (just out of law school) makes his dinners in a slow cooker and is always looking for recipes that are tasty--can you share any of your slow cooker recipes?
Thank you so much for your postings and photos--they really make my day. XO


Hi Kristi,
that recipie is very similar to the lasagne my boyfriend does and I swear it's the best in the world for me. He also adds carrots, sometimes mushrooms or red pepper. Instead of sour cream he uses creme fraîche and always onions and garlic, sometimes a pinch of chili (not so sure if that is what you call it in english - the very hot red little things). The thing that he always adds and makes it extremly good is a bit of port wine. But since you have a vinyard you might rather add some red wine to the bolognese.
Greetings from cold and rainy Germany,

Joanne Ablan

Bonjour, Kristi,
Ajoutez du basil et décorez avec des olives.
Voilà une pièce de résistance, délicieuse et jolie!


3 containers of sour cream sounds very rich to me!! I use ricotta cheese in lasagna. I can't imagine that much sour cream.....

Chris Allin

I always use zucchini as a substitute for the lasagne noodles. Slice thin the length of the zucchini and layer, uncooked, in the pan like noodles. Yum! Your lasagne should be a resounding success!

Cynthia Parsons

I agree with JoAnna about the ricotta cheese and sour cream. Also, I believe you can't go wrong with a little garlic sauteed with the onion and beef. I've never had gruyere cheese with this but it sounds wonderful.
There is a really nicely done "artisan grilled cheese" sandwich, that I had in New Orleans, La., which consisted of some avocado mayonnaise spread onto two slices of toasted whole wheat bread. Add a couple of slices of bacon and gruyere cheese. The best grilled cheese sandwich I've ever had.

Mary G in California

I like black olives in lasagne. Maybe just a personal taste... I still want to know about the squirrel!


I learned about the awesomeness of beschamel in lasagna in France. I guess the creme in the bolognaise is a similar thought - and very easy!

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

Making lasagne has always been time consuming and messy for me. What I love about this recipe is the
"easy-peasy" part. Can't wait to try it. And with zucchini in place of noodles, even easier. Thank you!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you,  Chris.  This sounds delicious with zucchini. I will definitely try it.   And thanks to all who have written in with these delicious tips! My first lasagna is cooling in the oven, waiting for Jean-Marc to return from work. I used several of your tips,  so am glad I posted the recipe first--and then waited to cook it! Happy weekend.


Our dear Kristi,
This sounds wonderful! And even more so sans complications of many steps and ingredients.
THANK YOU for another fantastic recipe!
One way I used to make lasagna was to spoon some of the filling on top of the individual pasta pieces and then roll each one up,bechamel on bottom of pan and topped with the sauce.
Easy to serve.I don't know if it would work with the precooked pasta.Wow!What a fantastic idea!
Natalia XO

edie schmidt


My grand kids are learning to "faire du ski" in the French Alps aussi. The 6 year old is in her 3rd season so she's getting good, pre-Olympic material no doubt.
Merci for the tasty recipe. I use to make lasagna a lot and liked adding Italian sausage to the recipe as well. I will have to try your version.

Edie from Savannah


I tried the Marrons dessert for friends. It turned out like a pudding, not a cake at all. I did whip the egg whites and egg yolks separately and then fold them together with the butter and the chestnut puree that I was able to buy at AJ's here in Scottsdale. But it didn't turn out like a cake. It was a pudding. I put strawberries on top and sprinkled powder sugar. It was good. Did yours really look like cake?

Tasha Evans

Classic Italian lasagne is made just like you described- with one addition- the meat sauce- simmered with heavy cream- is mixed with bechamel. Once the layers have been assembled- making sure you slathered sauce at the bottom as per a previous comment- the lasagne is topped with bechamel and sprinkled with Parmesan. Oh, speaking of Parmesan- adding a liberal amount of Parmesan to the bechamel is a must. I am sorry for adding steps here ... I promise you will be very happy.


A spinach layer between the meat sauce and cheese is an excellent. Steam lightly before adding.

Barbara Blizzard

You can put a layer of just the sauce without the meat in the bottom of the dish to keep the noodles from sticking - this will maintain the integrity of your sauce. You can add anything you like to the sauce mix as you can see by the other comments. You can also replace the noodles with eggplant. Go for it.

Robbie Jackson

Almost my exact recipe, except I use cottage cheeses instead of cream. Sounds terrible, I know, but it's delicious, low in calories, and cheap. I also use plain mozzarella. Yum!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Sheryl,  Mine turns out dense and flat,  and you could say pudding.  Still,  you should be able to pick up a slice (with a spatula) from the pan.  How did your taste? P. S.  I dont whip the eggs or whites.


I might actually cook! So many good suggestions, I definitely like "easy-Peary". Glad you had a good time in the mountains!


I have several different types I make. The one with just cheese (ricotta), I add sautéed spinach. It adds a pretty color, as well as needed nutrients. Sometimes I add a layer of pepperoni, which adds a nice flavor. Love lasagna!! One of my favorite foods.


I use noodles which are not labeled as pre-cooked, but I don't cook them, because it makes then harder to handle. Instead, I ladle hot water over each noodle after I place it in the pan--you can see them swell. It goes: tiny bit of sauce, noodles, ricotta/egg/herbs/Mozzarella mix (chopped spinach would be nice in here), meat sauce, repeat layers, then extra mozzarella and Parmesan on top. If my daughter weren't allergic to mushrooms, those would go in the meat/onion/garlic/tomato sauce.


Hi, Kristi
I was going to go to Amazon through FWAD but could not see how to do it with your new format. Do you still have that relationship with Amazon?

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Leslie.  Thanks for asking.  Yes,  you can find the link on the Books page (link is on the navigation bar at the top of my blog). I appreciate it!

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

I'm still a little confused. If we go to BOOKS at the top of your blog, it does bring us to your page of books for sale via Amazon. If one continues to search for and buy items other than your books, by beginning on that page, is that how you receive credit? Or I am missing some other link? Thanks.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Trina,
Any link that I put in my newsletter that takes you to Amazon is coded. I will get a small commission,  via the Amazon Associates program, at no extra cost to the buyer. I need to add an Amazon banner,  for those readers who have been looking for a way to help support French Word-A-Day.  I appreciate it.


On dit "cette lasagne" et non "ce lasagne"!

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