CAROL OF MOON RECIPE | My wax rhapsodic: Lasagna’s labor of love
By Carol Dzadony-Mancini
Ah, lasagna, the ultimate comfort food that brings warmth and richness to the table. Let me wax rhapsodic about this Italian classic.
We all have layers. That first outer layer, if you grew up in The Rocks where I did, is usually hard and crusty. We've learned to not allow much to penetrate that first layer. It's like armor if you will. We rarely reveal what's inside.
But if you're lucky enough, which may take a while, you will find underneath the hard crust are layers of soft and gooey loveliness just waiting for you.
Don't mess with us though. You might dive in too quickly and bite into a clove of garlic that will send you skyrocketing. And guess what, we bite back. Sometimes.
But it's only because we've been conditioned to keep a hard layer rather close to those soft delicious layers.
Lasagna is a comfort food you'll yearn for after you've experienced it. Sometimes served with spicy sauce – other times a complex thick meat sauce. Always, in my experience, a warm and savory cream sauce with some kick thanks to fresh garlic and red chili pepper flakes and even more freshness thanks to fresh basil.
Sometimes a surprise awaits you and you are blown away. It's exactly what you've been waiting for all of your life. And the icing on the proverbial lasagna cake, the saltiness of pecorino and parmigiana cheese – because you can't be all gooey and soft with sweetness all the time. That saltiness sometimes gets you in trouble, and sometimes it makes people love you even more.
Behind the layers of tender pasta sheets, bathed in a sumptuous tomato sauce, generously interlaced with meaty pockets of beef or savory sausage, and smothered in a velvety blanket of melted mozzarella cheese is a person who worked tirelessly and put love into every component.
With each bite, with each layer, one experiences a symphony of flavors and textures – the subtle tanginess of the tomato sauce, the meaty umami (if you don't go the vegetarian route), the creamy goodness of melted cheese, and the satisfyingly firm yet tender bite of each layer.
If you grew up in The Rocks, your lasagna recipe and/or your social disposition are probably rather similar to mine.
Most of what we eat of lasagna today is thanks to Italian cuisine. But did you know that the layers of goodness actually originated in Greece?
Its origins can be traced back to Ancient Greece where a dish called laganon was made. This dish consisted of layers of pasta, cheese, and sauce, and was similar in many ways to modern-day lasagna.
The Romans, who conquered Greece, were also known to have a similar dish called lasanum, which was a type of flatbread that was used to make a layered dish with cheese and meat.
It wasn't until the Middle Ages, however, that lasagna, as we know it today, began to take shape. In Italy, a dish called "pasticcio" was popular, which consisted of layers of pasta, cheese, and sauce baked together in a dish. This dish was often served at banquets and special occasions.
As pasta became more widely available in Italy in the 16th century, lasagna began to spread in popularity. The first written recipe for lasagna dates back to the 14th century, but it wasn't until the 19th century that it became a truly popular dish in Italy and beyond.
One of the reasons for lasagna's popularity was its versatility. It could be made with a variety of different sauces, meats, and cheeses, and could be adapted to suit different tastes and preferences. It was also a filling and hearty meal, making it popular with working-class families.
In the United States, lasagna became popular in the early 20th century, thanks in part to Italian immigrants who brought their culinary traditions with them.
Today, lasagna is a staple of Italian cuisine and can be found in restaurants and homes around the world.
It has evolved over the centuries into the beloved dish we know today, and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down. Whether enjoyed in Italy or abroad, lasagna remains a delicious and satisfying meal that is sure to please even the grittiest of us all.
Let's get cooking.
Cooking Class with Carol
Things to Consider
Lasagna is a labor of love. That is to say, it takes several separate components to be assembled and come together as one dish.
Each component is equally important. Don't skimp on freshness or quality to make the process quicker. It's just not a quick process.
Making the pasta sheets takes about as much time as it does to boil, drain, and oil dry pasta sheets. I use a hand-cranked pasta machine to roll the dough to the desired thickness (or thinness in this instance) Amazon has a great variety of pasta machines to choose from. I purchased one about 20 years ago for $49. I do not think the prices have changed much.
I use all-purpose flour for the pasta sheets for lasagna. Why is that you ask? Why not semolina flour? Well, semolina flour is dense, harder, and used for noodles that will allow the sauce to adhere to it when finished. Especially short noodles like penne or rigatoni. Egg noodles for spaghetti are not as smooth and that allows the sauce to grab onto the texture and coat the noodle more perfectly.
These sheets are baked and soak up all of the moisture from the cheese and sauce. It will yield a very tender and fluffy la