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Lasagne: A Traditional Italian Dish

Lasagne has to be one of the most famous of Italian dishes out there. Who doesn’t recognise the layered noodles, sauce and cheese, herbs and other spices that makes lasagne the delicious dish that it is?

You might notice that we spell lasagne with an ‘e’ at the end, even though you have likely seen the word spelt with an ‘a’ at the end. It’s easy to get a bit confused if you don’t know Italian. With many Italian dishes, the name indicates a plural form. In this case, the word lasagna indicates a singular noodle. Naturally, the dish includes ‘noodles,’ plural, thus the spelling changes to ‘lasagne,’ as opposed to ‘lasagna.’

So if you see boxes of lasagna that say ‘lasagna noodles,’ know that that’s something of a redundancy, albeit something of an innocent one. Plus, people have used this redundancy for so long, it’s become more or less acceptable.

Where Did Lasagne Originate?

This particular debate about lasagne has lasted quite a while, especially since a recipe  resembling the Italian dish surfaced in an old British cookery book sometime in the 15th century. However, it’s been proven that the original name and dish appeared well before that, not just because of the absence of tomatoes from the recipe in the British cookery book, but also because of a reasonable theory proposing that the word lasagna originated from the Greek laganon. It has been held that, later on, the layered noodle-and-sauce combination we know and love so well took on the Roman name of the dish it was cooked in, called a lasanum.

This seems to be the most logical chain of events, especially as the concept is quite old, dating back to both ancient Greece and Rome. Both cultures likely influenced each other, so it’s no surprise to many that the etymology seems a tad muddled.

Of course, many other cultures have layered noodle dishes, but the combination many people cook, order and eat on a regular basis is uniquely Italian in flavour, though there’s been another debate among aficionados as to which combination of ingredients is  truly classic and authentic: Is it the Lasagne Bolognese with the bechamel and ragu sauces instead of cheese, or is it the one with all the mozzarella and ricotta and no bechamel?

Different Regions, Different Variations

Cooking and world cuisines are much like music: there’s always one or two main themes, but someone inevitably comes along and creates imaginative variations on those themes, based on their own imagination and ingredients on hand, as well as what’s common fare in the region. So, it stands to reason that while the Bolognese version with bechamel and ragu combination and the one with the mozzarella and ricotta cheeses and plenty of tomato sauce (the latter being Italian-American), each region of Italy has its own variation. This said, the dish bearing the ricotta tends to be distinctly from southern Italy, and the one using bechamel sauce is from the northern region.

If you choose to make lasagne yourself, you might wonder if it is worth the time and effort to make your own noodles, as it tends to add to an already lengthy (but worthwhile) process. It depends on many factors, of course, two of which being time on your hands and space in your kitchen. Since lasagne can be a bit pricey for some to make, especially if you use good meat, and you want something to throw in the oven fairly quickly without the additional time cost, noodles in a box will indeed help you out.

If you have time on your hands, and plenty of work space, it’s worth having a go at making the noodles from scratch, to say nothing of the rest of the dish, particularly if you’re also trying your hand at the bechamel sauce.

But whether you make your own noodles or not, whether you use the Bolognese or Sicilian style recipes or simply want to order lasagne from your favourite Italian restaurant, if you have not tried it yet, lasagne should definitely be on your list of ‘must try’ foods.

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