The History of Lasagna
There are a number of theories about the history of lasagna. The most popular theory is that it comes from laganon, an ancient Greek dish. This was made with a flat sheet of pasta dough which was cut into strips. This word is still used in Greece to denote flat, thin, unleavened bread.
Another theory is that the word derives from lasana, the Greek word for trivet (the metal utensil which you stand a hot pan on). The Romans started to use this word for their cooking pots and the Italians used it to refer to the dish in which lasagna is made, very much like how the word “casserole” refers to the actual meal when the word is actually the name for the dish it is cooked in.
One More Theory
There is also another idea behind the history of lasagna. This dish might be traced back to a popular English recipe from the 1300s. Although some people believe this theory to be the correct one, there is a problem with it. Tomatoes did not arrive in Europe until after 1492, when Columbus reached America. Since tomatoes are used in lasagna, one of the first two theories is more likely to be correct.
The History of Lasagna and Its Evolution
Although lasagna is believed to have originated in Italy, the word “lasagna” is thought to come from the Greek word for the dish it is cooked in. “Lasagnum” was the name of these ancient baking dishes, first used by the Greeks and then the Romans. The Romans served pasta-like layers with other fillings between these layers, and this is how modern lasagna came to be.
There is also a story about lasagna originating in the UK but unless the first lasagna recipes omitted tomatoes (these were unknown in the UK until the early sixteenth century) this theory cannot be accurate. It is believed however that the “lasagnum” recipe which had spread from Greece into Rome was then introduced to Britain, since there was a recipe for it in the very first cookbook. The old recipe would have been nothing like the one we know and love though.
The Italians changed the name from lasagnum to lasagna (or even “lasagne” as it is spelt in the UK” and the word stopped referring to the baking dish and instead referred to the contents. In modern terms, the word lasagna refers to thin pasta layers with meat, tomato sauce, and cheese in between the layers. There are many types of lasagna today and some feature seafood, poultry or vegetables in place of the meat.
Others feature creamy sauces instead of the tomato sauce and some lasagna recipes do not even contain lasagna noodles. If you are not keen on pasta you can still enjoy a great lasagna recipe because there is something for everybody. There are even crockpot lasagna recipes which you can make if you want the wonderful results that slow cooking always yields.
What Makes Lasagna Truly Great
What sets a great lasagna apart is how it is made, and that does not just refer to following the best lasagna recipe. Italians tend to be passionate cooks and they love to use fresh ingredients. The cheese should also be fresh for the best results. Some recipes for lasagna call for a variety of different cheeses but in the south of Italy, mozzarella and ricotta are almost always used together.
Lasagna alla Bolognese is an especially famous lasagna recipe and this one uses Parmigiano-Reggiano, as well as a nutmeg-enhanced sauce. Nutmeg goes really well with most lasagna recipes, although a lot of home cooks do not know that. Another key ingredient in many authentic Italian lasagna recipes is lasagna verdi, which is a spinach-flavored, green lasagna noodle.
There are lots of different types of lasagna outside Italy, and especially within the United States. Rippled pasta sheets might be popular in American lasagna recipes but they are not used in the north of Italy. Rippled pasta sheets are usually made with hard wheat or durum wheat there and they do not hold on to the sauce. Instead, egg pasta is used and that is made from soft wheat. It soaks up the sauce so does not need to be rippled.
However, if you want to use rippled lasagna noodles or other ingredients in your lasagna recipes, go ahead. Lasagna is a versatile dish which supports all kinds of tweaks.
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