Lasagna is a popular Italian pasta dish loaded with flavor and texture. However, many don't know that this fantastic pasta meal is actually of Ancient Greek origin. It has a unique structure and taste, which sets it apart from other pasta dishes. This delectable and filling meal looks intricate and complicated, but it's effortless to make. It just takes a lot of time to prepare each vital part. It's also easy to store and save for the next mealtime, as the pasta won't dry out, unlike other pasta dishes. The layers of sauce and pasta keep it fresh and delicious for more meal times to come.
The History of Lasagna
As mentioned earlier, we bet you're surprised that this delicious dish originated in Ancient Greece but was modified and made better in Italy. The name lasagna is a variation of the Greek word "Laganon," which could be considered one of pasta's earliest variations. Laganon is quite similar to the lasagna we know today, although there are some key differences. It is primarily strips of flat dough and sauce without cheese, meat, or vegetables. It was similar to moussaka, which layered zucchini and eggplants instead of dough.
Around the middle ages, it found its way to Italy. In Naples, it was turned into a scrumptious dish filled with sauce, meat, pasta, and cheese. It is a complete meal packed with nutrition and flavor eaten in one sitting. There, they slowly modified it closer to what we know it is today.
Through the years, many versions of lasagna have been invented. All-meat, all-cheese, all-veggie, even a pizza lasagna hybrid! You name it, it exists! You can usually buy frozen ones in the supermarket and pop them in your microwave. However, to be honest, those frozen ones aren't too great.
Its effects on modern life and pop culture have made this delicious pasta dish more famous. Even Garfield, who hates Mondays, loves lasagna. Lasagna is indeed one of the most famous comfort food in terms of taste and portions.
Lasagna or Lasagne?
These two variations of the same word probably puzzle you. Which one is correct? Don't let them confuse you. The answer is quite simple, both are right. The word "lasagna" is the American variation of "lasagne," the British spelling. However, in Italian, lasagna is the singular form, and lasagne is the plural. In all honesty, it doesn't matter what we call it. We can call it pasta cake, and it would still be one of the most amazing dishes ever.
How to Make Lasagna and What You Need to Make it
I know you're craving lasagna, and you're tempted to order one from the closest Italian restaurant right now. Maybe you even want to settle for the gross frozen ones. But before running off and getting one, why not consider learning how to make one from scratch yourself?
The great thing about knowing how to make your lasagna is you can make it specific to your taste. You can always make it with fresh ingredients. You can also have as much as you want for a fraction of the cost!
Here, we've listed the ingredients and special tools you'll need to cook this classic Italian dish. It's important to remember that making lasagna could be time-consuming, so plan it out carefully and set aside time to make it. Get all the ingredients and tools that you need ahead of time. Making it may take a lot of time and is basically a labor of love for this dish, but it is easy. Great things come with great effort, and so should your lasagna.
The Pasta Sheets
Before we list the ingredients you'll need to make this fantastic pasta dish, you must first decide if you want to make fresh pasta or buy one from the shop. Lasagna sheets are rarely used on any other pasta dish except this one. Choosing the wrong one can make or break your creation. The pasta is the most distinct part of this dish, and choosing the best lasagna sheet can do wonders for your recipe. Another great advantage is that once you know how to make lasagna sheets, you already know how to make any pasta.
If you want to put more heart and effort into your lasagna, make your own pasta. Here are the ingredients, things you'll need, and steps you need to follow:
All-purpose flour (2 cups)
Eggs (4 big eggs to be used whole, and 1 for the yolk)
Salt (just enough for taste)
Pasta Roller or Rolling Pin
On a flat, clean surface, form a "volcano" with the flour and add the eggs in the middle and a dash of salt. Using a fork, slowly and carefully mix the flour and the eggs until it becomes rough dough. Once a dough is formed, use your hands to knead the dough and use flour to keep it from sticking to your work surface and hands.
When the dough is firm, set it aside to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. After letting the dough rest, you can flatten it into sheets using your pasta roller or rolling pin. The ideal thickness of a good lasagna sheet is around 1/16 of an inch. Use flour to keep your pasta sheets from sticking to your work surface or rolling pin. Cut the pasta sheets to your desired size. Once you're done, let it rest before assembling your lasagna.
Additionally, you can add herbs and spices to your pasta dough before forming it into sheets to give it more flavor. This part is optional.
The White Sauce
White sauce, also known as bechamel, is the unique component that sets lasagna apart from other pasta dishes. It makes it creamy even if it has the meat sauce. This thick sauce put in every layer of lasagna gives it the unique flavor only it possesses.
To make this, here's what you'll need:
Butter (unsalted, 5 tbsp)
Flour (5 tbsp)
Milk (4 cups)
Nutmeg (1/2 tbsp)
Parmesan Cheese (1 cup)
Salt and Pepper
In a saucepan, melt the butter until it bubbles. Add the flour and mix it until it turns into a paste-like substance. After letting it sit and cook for a minute, add the milk gradually and stir thoroughly to avoid forming lumps. The sauce has to be as smooth as possible. Incorporate the parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. As an option, you can add herbs to add more flavor to your white sauce and make it tastier. Make sure to mix it all in thoroughly. Let the smooth, thick sauce cool down before assembling your lasagna.
There is a variation of lasagna different from this one that uses only the white sauce and none of the meat sauce. So if you're doing that recipe, you can still add other herbs for more flavor.
The Meat Sauce
How could we forget the meat sauce? Lasagna is not lasagna without the signature ragu sauce. It's the sauce that brings the whole dish together like a perfectly tied bow on top of a beautiful pasta present. This red sauce is made the traditional way you would make bolognese sauce. This recipe involves beef, but you can use any meat to replace it if you prefer something else. It's simple and easy.
The things you'll need are as follows:
olive oil (1 tbsp)
white onion (1 large, chopped)
carrot (1 large, chopped)
celery (1 large, chopped)
tomatoes (2 1/2 cups, crushed)
tomato paste (3 tbsp)
red wine (1 cup)
ground beef (1 lb)
beef stock (6 cups)
salt and pepper
First, choose a saucepan deep enough to make the sauce and provide enough space to stir it properly. In that saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the onion, carrots, and celery until they're soft. Add in the beef and start stirring to keep the bottom from burning. Let it cook until it turns brown. Throw in the red wine and let it cook. After this, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, four cups of beef stock, and bay leaves. Add a dash of salt and paper for seasoning.
Continuously stir the sauce to avoid burning, and then let it simmer for about two to three hours on low heat. Don't forget to check on the sauce occasionally to avoid drying or burning. After this, you can pour the rest of the beef stock to ensure it doesn't dry out. Let the sauce cool down and prepare to assemble the whole dish.
Putting it together
Now for the moment of truth. You've successfully made all of the elements of the perfect lasagna; it's time to put it all together. People have different methods of putting together their best version of this dish, but here's one fool-proof suggestion from us:
Prepare a broad and deep baking dish to create the number of layers you want. Use the meat sauce as the base of your lasagna. On top of it, the white sauce and then the pasta sheets. Adding the sauce at the bottom of your baking dish helps glue everything together and helps it bake nicely together.
Do this on repeat until you've reached your desired layer. Add mozzarella cheese on top of your lasagna as a special treat. Bake it for 45 minutes in a preheated oven with a temperature of 350F. After it's fully baked, take it out of the oven.
It's very tempting to dig in once it comes out of the oven. However, protect yourself from getting burned; let it cool down for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Alterations to the Recipe and Other Variations
The recipe mentioned above is just one way of creating a perfect lasagne dish. However, you can be creative and add your spin to this classic meal.
You can make substitutions or add other vital ingredients to customize and personalize your version of lasagna.
Here are some suggestions:
The original recipe uses beef. However, you can add pork or lamb. Other versions of lasagna use chicken without the red meat sauce and mainly white sauce with lots more herbs. Vegetarians and vegans sometimes omit the meat altogether and settle for veggie lasagna. You can use vegetarian-friendly stocks or broths to add more flavor.
The original recipe only called for parmesan for the white sauce, but you can go crazy and put in any cheese you want. Make it as cheesy and as creamy as you can. There is no one stopping you from creating the lasagna of your dreams. For the topping, you can do the same, don't just stop at mozzarella. Add cheddar, brie, blue cheese, or anything imaginable! It's your lasagna, do what you want with it. However, if you're lactose-intolerant, this might not be for you.
Add more nutrition and color to your lasagna. You can toss in broccoli, eggplants, zucchini, and more. It may be closer to the Greek moussaka, but it will still be amazing. This will give your lasagna more texture and make it more filling but guilt-free. It will also help extend your meat sauce, and you'll be able to make more.
If bay leaves aren't enough for your taste, consider adding more herbs for more flavor. You can incorporate parsley, oregano, rosemary, and thyme to make it more aromatic and tasty.
Of course, you can layer your lasagna to how you prefer. There is no strict rule on how to layer the parts of your lasagna. You can have the sheet as the base and put it in as many layers as you want, as long as your lasagna still bakes evenly in the oven.
Lasagna with fantastic on its own; there's no doubt about that. But having side dishes to complement it adds more to the dining experience. You can have garlic bread, salad, and soup.
Now that you know so many ways to make lasagna start experimenting and create the perfect one for you. Don't just settle for mediocre ones that you can order from restaurants. Cook the best lasagna your imagination can conjure up.