EXCERPT: 'The Recipe Club'

For the Sauce: 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 medium onion, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 pound ground beef 1 pound Italian sausage, removed from its casing and crumbled 3 tablespoons tomato paste 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes 1 cup beef stock 2½ teaspoons salt ½ teaspoon black pepper 1 bay leaf For the Lasagna: 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil ¾ pound lasagna noodles 12 ounces fresh ricotta cheese (3 cups) 6 ounces grated mozzarella cheese(1½ cups) 6 ounces grated parmesan cheese (1½ cups)

1. To make the sauce, heat the butter and oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Cook the onion, garlic, and oregano until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the beef and sausage, and cook, breaking the meat up with a fork, until well-browned, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, stock, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Simmer, uncovered, until thickened, for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, add the oil to a large pot of salted water. Bring the water to a boil. Add the noodles, and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package directions; drain.

3. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Ladle some of the sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Arrange a layer of pasta over the sauce. Top with a layer of the ricotta, a layer of the mozzarella, and a layer of the parmesan. Repeat until all of the ingredients have been used, finishing with a generous layer of mozzarella and parmesan.

4. Bake, uncovered, until golden and bubbling, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool

5 minutes before slicing.

Dear Lilly, Hello? Anyone there? Have you secretly joined the Weathermen? Joined a cult? Run off to Hollywood?

I'm getting worried. Ben says you're not answering his calls, either.

And that he never sees you at the clubs. He said he thought you might be pissed that he didn't make it to your showcase, but I said you had disappeared off the face of the planet. He told me to relax, you're probably just doing your own thing.

But I can't relax.

Do me a favor and respond. Even a postcard will do. And you know how I feel about postcards.

Love, Val

Dear Lilly, Happy New Year. You know I'm thinking about you tonight. I've given up on hearing from you, but I can't, I won't, let you go.

To send you more words feels meaningless and hollow. So I'm sending you a recipe instead. It's something I know you'll love. It uses olives— an ancient symbol of faithfulness, patience, and peace.

Lilly, I love you and I always will. And I will wait a million seasons for you to find your way back home to me.

Until then, no matter what else happens in our lives, we'll always share the delicious secrets of the Recipe Club.


Part Three: 2002

Val looked up at Jeff, sitting across from her at the kitchen table. She put down her mug and pushed the newspaper toward him. The color had drained from her face. "Isaac's dead."

Jeff scanned the obituary and shrugged. "Well, he lived a good, long life.

Long enough to screw up everyone around him."

"Don't say that, Jeff. Even if it's true. You have no right."

Jeff raised an eyebrow. He didn't need to do anything else to remind Val that he'd been the one she'd turned to every time she and Lilly had a fight about Isaac.

In fact, Isaac had deeply affected his life, too.

"Okay, okay," Val agreed, "you do have a right. I'm sorry."

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