The “human cannonball” is gone, but his lasagna recipe lives on

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Edmondo “Papa” Zacchini made his name with his human cannonball circus act, but he’s also the reason Wayne Wright of Normal, Illinois, can’t eat at Italian restaurants anymore.

Wright met Zacchini in the ’70s when Wright, who was a circus performer most of his life, was working as a “volunteer Zacchini” and was shot out of the cannon. Zacchini loved cooking as a hobby, and he made dinners for those he worked with, Wright said.

The people around Zacchini took a lot away from these informal cooking classes, but no dish stands out for Wright quite like Papa’s Lasagna — a recipe that came about by accident.

“We were in Puerto Rico for a month and [Zacchini] was in the mood for lasagna, so we went shopping and couldn’t find Italian cheese anywhere,” Wright said. “So we bought some Gouda and some Philadelphia cream cheese.”

Now, ricotta-free lasagna may sound blasphemous, but it’s been almost 50 years since Wright first tried this recipe, and he said he hasn’t made another lasagna since.

After preparing a fresh pot of tomato sauce, Wright pulls out a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish and begins to build up the layers of sauce, pasta, Gouda, and cream cheese before topping them with a five-cheese mix that’s crispy becomes. tanned top layer.

Any tomato sauce will do, Wright said, adding that it’s easier to put the cream cheese in the freezer beforehand to slice into layered chunks.

Wright and his wife Jennifer usually have salad, red wine and crusty bread on the table where the lasagna takes center stage.

Every time he makes it, Wright said, he thinks back to the days he was shot out of a cannon and the memories he shared with Zacchini.

Over the years, lasagna has become a part of the holiday, the Wrights said. And they’ve shared the recipe with friends and family.

“Wayne’s son and daughter-in-law made it part of their family traditions,” Jennifer said. “And we actually used it for our rehearsal dinner. Before we got married we invited our entire wedding party for a special lasagna.”

And if you don’t have a wedding party to feed, don’t worry. The lasagna freezes well, Wright said, so even one person can make and enjoy Dad’s recipe.

Dad’s Lasagna

Recipe submitted by Wayne and Jennifer Wright

Normal, sick.


  • red tomato sauce (homemade or whatever your favorite sauce is)
  • Lasagna pasta (precooked or uncooked)
  • Gouda cheese (thinly sliced ​​or grated)
  • Block of cream cheese (slightly frozen so it can be thinly sliced)
  • Italian cheese mix, grated
  • directions

    Note: The amount of ingredients depends on the pan size chosen.

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

    Spread a layer of red sauce on the bottom of the pan.

    Layer alternately until pan is full: sauce, cooked pasta, cream cheese, sauce, cooked pasta, Gouda, sauce, pasta, sauce, Italian cheese mix.

    Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 40 minutes maximum.

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