Lasagna is an Italian baked pasta dish made of sheet-shaped pasta by the same name. Cheese and sauce, most often Béchamel sauce are used in the preparation of lasagna recipes. A traditional dish, variations of the Lasagna is commonly seen from one region to the other in Italy. The dish can be made with vegetables and meat of choice. Artichoke Lasagna, Spinach Lasagna, Zucchini Lasagna, Cheesy Buffalo chicken lasagna and pulled pork lasagna are only examples of the vast variety of lasagnae.
History of Lasagna
There are a number of theories to the origin and history of Lasagna. Originally, the pasta dish was supposed to have acquired its name from Greek cuisine according to which there are two perspectives. According to one theory, the pasta derived its name from laganon, ancient Greek sheet-like pasta to which the Italian lasagna bears a resemblance. According to the other theory, the pasta derived its name from “lasanon” which in Greek meant a chamber pot. Also known to have been derived from the Latin American word lasanum which implied the cooking pot, the term Lasagna was used for the pot in which the dish was cooked and later the dish came to acquire the name. According to another theory the first of lasagna recipes was written in an England cookbook implying a British role in the invention of the dish though the Roman version far outweighs it.
Ingredients Used in the preparation of Lasagna Recipes
As described already, Lasagna is a dish made with a number of variations, but in essence it is made with the lasagna pastas the main ingredient and cheese and a sauce as the other mandatory ingredients. The sauce used differs according to the regional cuisine specifications such as ragu or béchamel sauce( as in the northern Italian cuisines). Apart from these ingredients, it being a versatile dish, Lasagna is made with different types of vegetables, meat, eggs, fish and seafood.
Preparation of Lasagna Recipes
Modern versions of Lasagna are made with ingredients of choice and the dish has been cooked in cuisines other than the Italian as a fusion dish with cuisine specific ingredients across the world. For example, Eggplant lasagna is a fusion recipe that is gaining huge popularity now. But for the conservative, the traditional version of lasagna recipes may typically prescribe preparation as follows.
The sauce is to be prepared first. Onion, red pepper and garlic are first sautéed in some olive oil and after that tomato is added along with oregano and bay leaf for seasoning. The ingredients are all simmered together; cheese is added and melted to form the sauce. Lasagnae are cooked al dente and set aside. Parmesan and Ricotta cheeses are blended together along with salt and pepper seasoning, egg yolk and set aside.
Essentially the traditional lasagna is a baked dish consisting of layers of pasta cheese and sauce. A single layer consists of a bed of pasta with an underlying layer of Marinara sauce. The pasta layer is topped with ricotta cheese mixture which in turn is topped with mozzarella cheese, which in turn is topped with the sauce. Two or three such tiers of the pasta, cheese and sauce ensemble are repeated in an oven tray and baked till a casserole is formed.
Lasagna is conventionally cut into pieces and served as a main course of a party or everyday menu typically partnered with salad and bread. As a serving tip, it is recommended by lasagna recipes that the pasta squares are conveniently served with eggplant and zucchini and grilled vegetables, while artichoke is a difficult choice for serving the casserole dish with.
Lasagna is sold commercially in the frozen form. The packaged pasta is cut into size that is convenient for handling and consumption.
Popular Lasagna Variations
Prepared with various cuisine-specific ingredients, Lasagna is a truly versatile dish which can accommodate a large number of ingredients. For example lasagna recipes include different sauces across Italy. In the Southern regions, tomato sauce or ragu is used while in the northern region it is made with Bechamel sauce. Lasgna verde is a variation of dish made with cooked spinach. Apart from these classic variations, numerous lasagna recipes involve creativity of the chef. Mexican lasagna is made with the pasta being replaced by tortilla chips. Some variations of the casserole do not use Bechamel sauce or any sauce in general. Vegetables and chicken are favorite ingredients of many for lasgna recipes.
Lasgna is loaded with cheese which may make it a high calorie food. Therefore it is not very suitable for consumption by people who are on a calorie-restricted diet unless a low-calorie version of the dish is prepared using non-fattening ingredients like plenty of fresh green vegetables and less of meats. The rich nature of the ingredients makes lasagna recipes ideal for occasional consumption as party food and not as an everyday diet.
Miscellaneous Facts about Lasagna
Lasgna having acquired international fame owing to its extremely good taste is as already noted, prepared in different ways with variations in the ingredients with which the lasagnae are cooked. The dish is liked so much across the world that certain cuisines have recipes emulating lasagna recipes even without the usage of the pasta as an ingredient in the first place. Vegan lasagna is one such which is prepared in two different ways. One version is prepared by cooking the pasta with vegan ingredients and another one is prepared by emulating the pasta dish with vegan ingredients without the usage of lasagnae at all. The former version is prepared by cooking lasagna without any animal products. Meat and cheese substitutes are used. Soy protein chunks, wheat gluten and diced vegetables are used as meat substitutes; and tofu, soy cheese or nutritional yeast emulates cheese in the vegan version of lasgna.
Lasagna is also made with the usage of buckwheat pasta as a replacement to lasagna. Diced vegetables, beans, potatoes, polenta and ground nuts are the other ingredients that are used in the preparation of lasagna.