God truly is amazing. He sees beyond what we can comprehend. He knew, before the creation of Adam and Eve that people would falter and fail. So it was that He had a plan.
Without Mary, the Immaculate Conception, there would be no virgin birth. Without Christ, there would be no path to forgiveness. Without the conversion of a man named Saul on the road to Damascus, who knows what path Christianity might have taken or what the world might be like today. Would the Vatican be in China instead of Rome? How would the faith have spread differently? No matter, God had a plan. He has always chosen wisely. Saint Paul was chosen and he answered God’s call.
Saul of Tarsus was born sometime in the year 5AD in Tarsus, Cilicia, Roman Empire. Today he would have been born in Turkey. Saul was from a devout Jewish family. He grew up in Jerusalem, instructed by Gamaliel the Elder, a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in the early first century. Gamaliel was a man held in great esteem by all the Jewish leaders and people of his time. Saul also studies Greek philosophers in addition to his Jewish education. His conversion from Judaism to Christianity not only changed the world, it changed the Christian Faith. Saul became Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.
The details of Saul’s conversion are well known. He was thrown from his horse while on the road to Damascus. While he lay on the ground, he heard the voice of Jesus as “Why are you persecuting me?” To persecute believers, followers of Jesus, was to persecute Christ himself, as the two are one. Saul ha attempted to eradicate Christianity from the world. Rather than smite him, Christ forgave him, demonstrating that no one is beyond redemption. Saul, when confronted with the resurrected Christ, had to rethink from the ground up everything he believed to be true. That conversion of though changed his identity from Saul to Paul. In addition to the Four Gospels, the writings of Saint Paul are contained in the Bible. He is regarded as one of the twelve despite the fact that his conversion came after Christ’s time on earth had come to an end. Today Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.
Feast of Conversion
Lasagna Dome with Béchamel Sauce
30 Lasagna Noodles, boiled until al dente
1/2 medium Yellow Onion, diced
4 Garlic Cloves, finely minced
1/2 cup fresh Basil, chiffonade
2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 lb Ground Beef
1/2 lb Mild Italian Sausage
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
15 oz Tomato Sauce
3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
15 oz Whole Ricotta Cheese
1 large Egg
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
Bring a tall pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta just to the point of al dente. If necessary, cook in batches. Drain and lay pasta out flat once cooked.
Heat the oven to 375-degrees.
Cut onion in half from root to tip. Reserve half for another purpose. Peel remaining half, dice and set aside. Peel and mince garlic, set aside. Chiffonade basil (cut into thin strips) and set aside. Using the larger holes in the cheese grater, shred Mozzarella Cheese from an 8-ounce block. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until starting to brown, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.
Add the ground meats, season with salt, and pepper. Cook until all of the moisture has evaporated ; breaking the meat up as it browns; about 10 minutes.
Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste, stir to blend. Reduce heat to medium; bring sauce to a steady simmer. Cook sauce down until the mixture becomes thick, about 15 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat; set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, basil, egg, and Parmesan. Stir until smooth. Set aside.
Oil a large oven-safe metal bowl with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, then lay about 25 lasagna noodles along the sides and bottom of the bowl, fanning out in an overlapping pattern. Allow the ends of the noodles to hang over the sides of the bowl.
Slice the remaining lasagna noodles in half crosswise. to be used to layer between the meat and cheeses.
Sprinkle half of the mozzarella into the bottom of the bowl on top of the noodles. Spread half of the meat mixture evenly over the mozzarella, then lay half of the cut noodles over the sauce.
Spread all of the ricotta mixture over the layer of cut noodles, followed by the remaining cut noodles. Top this with remaining Mozzarella, then remaining meat sauce.
Fold the lasagna noodles hanging over the sides of the bowl back towards the center, creating another overlapping pattern.
Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes, until cooked through. While the Lasagna Dome bakes, make the Béchamel Sauce.
1-1/2 cups Milk, hot
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Flour
Salt to taste
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
Heat milk, keep hot until ready to use.
In a saucepan over medium heat, create a roux. Melt the butter in the saucepan; add the flour and cook, whisking continuously, for about 2 minutes until a paste forms.
Add the hot milk in a steady stream, continue to whisk as the sauce thickens and comes to a boil. Season with salt and fresh black pepper. Reduce heat to low, whisk in the Parmesan. Continue to whisk until cheese has fully melted and the sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.
Remove lasagna dome from the oven. Invert the dome onto a large serving platter or rimmed dish; allowing it to rest flat. (Even a pizza pan will work).
Basil, chiffonade for garnish
Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
Pour the béchamel sauce over the dome. Stack a few basil leaves, chiffonade. Top dome with basil. Slice the dome, plate slices. Finish each slice with a sprinkling of more Parmesan and basil as desired.
Romaine Italian Salad with Creamy Dressing
Creamy Salad Dressing
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/3 cup White Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
2 tablespoon Light Corn Syrup
2 tablespoon Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoon Romano Cheese
1/4 teaspoon Garlic Salt
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Parsley Flakes
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
Mix all ingredients in a blender until well mixed. Transfer to small serving pitcher or salad dressing bottle and chill until ready to use.
2 bunches Romaine Lettuce
2 cups Grape Tomatoes
1 small Red Onion
8 pickled Pepperoncini Peppers
Tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces. Scatter into a large salad bowl. Cut the tomatoes in half, scatter over the lettuce. Peel and thinly slice the onion into rings. Break apart and scatter over the salad. Add the pepperoncini peppers whole. Toss to blend. Chill until ready to serve.
Creamy Italian Dressing (above) as desired
Italian Croutons as desired
Handful shaved Parmesan Cheese
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Just before serving, add croutons, drizzle with salad dressing; toss to coat. Serve with shaved Parmesan Cheese and additional dressing on the side.
Pass the pepper mill around the table if desired.
Warm breads and choice of wines will finish the feast perfectly. Enjoy!