Lasagne (US: /ləˈzɑːnjə/, also the UK: /ləˈzænjə/. Italian: [laˈzaɲɲe]; singular lasagna, Italian: [laˈzaɲɲa]) are a type of pasta, possibly one of the oldest types, made of extensive, flat sheets. Either term can also refer to an Italian dish made of stacked layers of lasagne alternating with fillings such as ragù (ground meats and tomato sauce), vegetables, cheeses. They may include ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan), and seasonings and spices, like Italian seasonings, such as garlic, oregano, and basil. The cook may top the dish with grated cheese, which melted after baking. Typically, cooked pasta is assembled with the other ingredients and baked in an oven. The resulting casserole is cut into single-serving square portions.
Baked lasagna is made of a sheet of egg pasta cut into coarsely rectangular sheets called lasagna. Once boiled and drained, they are arranged in a sequence of layers, separated by a filling that varies with local traditions.
The first recipes from the Neapolitan area are recorded in the XIII-XIV centuries. Initially created for a rich and sumptuous court cuisine, the dish had a remarkable success, and there are traces of it in many European cookbooks of the Renaissance period. Then, starting from the seventeenth century, lasagne al forno (baked lasagna) became more and more popular until it assumed a fundamental role in Carnival and Easter menus.
The Neapolitan version of the recipe does not contemplate the use of egg pasta. Instead, it has tomato sauce, dairy products, particularly mozzarella or provola, meatballs, and ricotta Romana.
The traditional lasagne of Naples, lasagne di Carnevale, is layered with local sausage, small fried meatballs, hard-boiled eggs, ricotta, and mozzarella cheeses, and sauced with a Neapolitan ragù, a meat sauce.
Lasagne al forno, layered with a thicker ragù and Béchamel sauce, and corresponding to the most common version of the dish outside Italy, are traditionally associated with the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Here, especially in its capital, Bologna, layers of lasagne are usually green. The color is obtained by mixing spinach or other vegetables into the dough. They are served with ragù (a thick sauce made from onions, carrots, celery, finely ground pork and beef, butter, and tomatoes), bechamel, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
In other regions, cooks can make lasagne with various ricotta or mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, meats (e.g., ground beef, pork, or chicken), and vegetables (e.g., spinach, zucchini, olives, mushrooms). The dish is typically flavored with wine, garlic, onion, and oregano. In all cases, the lasagne is oven-baked (al forno).
Traditionally, pasta dough prepared in Southern Italy used semolina and water; in the northern regions, where semolina was unavailable, cooks used flour and eggs. In modern Italy, since the only type of wheat allowed for commercially sold pasta is durum wheat, industrial lasagne is made of semolina. Nonetheless, in the north and especially in Emilia-Romagna, the tradition of egg-based dough remains famous for artisanal and homemade productions.
In Ancient Rome, a dish similar to a traditional lasagne called lasana or lasanum (Latin for ‘container’ or ‘pot’) was described in De re coquinaria by Marcus Gavius Apicius. Still, the word could have a more ancient origin. The first theory is that lasagne comes from Greek λάγανον (laganon), a flat sheet of pasta dough cut into strips. The word λαγάνα (lagana) is still used in Greek to mean a flat thin type of unleavened bread baked for the holiday Clean Monday.
Another theory is that the word lasagne comes from the Greek λάσανα (lasana) or λάσανον (lasanon), meaning ‘trivet,’ ‘stand for a pot’ or ‘chamber pot.’ The Romans borrowed the word lasanum, meaning ‘cooking pot.’ The Italians used the term to refer to the cookware in which lasagne is made. Later, the food took on the name of the serving dish.
As with most other types of pasta, an Italian word is a plural form: lasagne meaning more than one sheet of lasagna, though in many other languages a derivative of the singular word lasagna is used for the popular baked pasta dish. Regional usage in Italy, when referring to the baked dish, favors the plural form lasagne in the north of the country and the singular lasagna in the south. The former, plural usage has influenced the usual spelling found in British English, while the southern Italian, singular usage has influenced the spelling often used in American English.
Lasagne Abruzzese – Abruzzo’s Lasagna
In Abruzzi’s cooking were created the so-called “sagnitelle” is made with water and flour. The recipe, very similar to the Neapolitan one, was characterized by the absence of bechamel in the condiment.
2 lbs ricotta
1 lb mozzarella, grated (or buy already shredded)
1 cup grated romano or parmesan
Four large eggs
1 lb lasagna noodles
4 cups tomato sauce
How to make the Lasagne Abruzzese – Abruzzo’s Lasagna:
Preheat oven to 375º
Mix the three kinds of cheese and the eggs well in a large bowl.
Cook the lasagna noodles.
In a 13″ x 9″ pan (preferably glass), spread a little sauce on the bottom, then cover four noodles slightly overlapped. Divide the cheese mixture into fourths, with one “fourth” a little smaller than the others.
Spoon one-quarter of the mixture onto the noodles and pour one-quarter of the remaining sauce on top. Mix the sauce into the cheese with your fingers and spread evenly.
Add three more layers of noodles, cheese, and sauce in the same way. Thus, on top, you’ll have the last, smaller portion of cheese with sauce. Make sure the top layer of noodles is well covered with the mixture. You may need an extra piece of noodles across one short end of the pan to fill out the coating on some layers — make sure not to run out of noodles.
Place lasagna in the oven and a cookie sheet on a rack below the lasagna in case of spillover.
Bake for 45 minutes, and let rest for 30 minutes before serving.