Talk about layers of love.
Volunteer chefs are making and delivering more than 100 lasagna to Gothamites who could use some carbs and care this Thanksgiving.
“We want to bring New Yorkers in need a lasagna to comfort them no matter what their situation is,” Madeline Young, a 27-year-old leading the efforts — which will feed about 500 people — told The Post.
The Brooklynite, who calls herself a “lasagna mama,” is the head of the Manhattan branch of Lasagna Love, a national network of volunteers that cook and deliver the comfort food to those in need, paying for the ingredients out of the own pockets.
Individuals can request the hearty meal via the Lasagna Love website, where they’re matched with nearby volunteers.
“Neighbors can deliver to neighbors, everyone can join to whatever capacity,” Young told The Post.
Young has been hard at work in the kitchen herself in recent days, cooking up several cheesy vegetarian renditions with shredded zucchini, ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella. She customizes each dish with a note to recipients.
“Something I really love to do is make a design with hearts on the lasagna – I’ll usually do some shredded basil, tomato hearts and a printed message saying ‘from our family to yours.’ We want them to feel loved through this,” Young said.
To ensure food safety, volunteers are given instructions based on FDA food safety guidelines and ServSafe Certifications. They’re advised to wear long hair up, wash hands before handling food and after touching raw meat, and thoroughly wash vegetables. There are also guidelines on cross contamination, like using a different cutting board, knife and utensils for raw meats and veggies. Since the food is not being sold, it is not subject to formal regulations.
“Our receiving neighbors sign a waiver recognizing that the meal they are being offered is donated,” Young said.
Those getting the casseroles often need to feel cared for as much as they need to be fed.
Young recalled a recent heartfelt exchange with a grateful, terminally ill mother living in the Bronx with her kids who requested a meal earlier this month.
“We get some recipients who write back saying how much the lasagna means to them. This one woman recently was very sick and unable to cook for herself and this was something that helped her – she wasn’t able to make a meal for her family,” Young said.
Another on the receiving end, Shariea Perry, 52, a registered nurse and mom of four from The Bronx, discovered Lasagna Love in August while searching for meal assistance online.
With her husband out of town at the time, and while mourning the death of her parents, cooking felt impossible.
“I was going through grieving and loss, home with my children and very low on funds. I Googled ‘food pantry’ and Lasagna Love came up. I went to the Facebook and said, ‘wow this is beautiful’ and I put in a request,” Perry told the Post of being paired with a volunteer chef who delivered two pans of lasagna with brownies.
“It was very special. When you’re going through hard times, and you have a lot of things going on, you want to make sure your kids have a warm meal,” she said. “It was a help and a blessing to me.”
Perry is so grateful for Lasagna Love, she and her 17- and 19-year-old daughters have returned the love by volunteering to cook and deliver to others in need.
Pint-sized chefs are also rolling up their sleeves. Girl Scout Troop 1221 — girls aged six through 10 — learned how to make lasagna for their neighbors in the Sound View area of The Bronx last week. Families in need will pick up starting Monday.
“The girls learned step-by-step how to layer the lasagna, put the noodles down and mix in the ricotta cheese for four families all within the area,” Marissa Mann, 21, a speech language pathologist and co-troop leader told The Post.
Lasagna Love was was started in New England in 2020 by Rhiannon Menn in an effort to combat food insecurity. Today, more than 400,000 lasagnas have been delivered globally, thanks to 48,000 volunteers, according to the group’s website.
“We’re not just delivering a meal. We’re delivering something that’s comforting,” Young said.
“We want people to feel that love and kindness. That’s really important to me.”