The title begs a question that has often made me wonder why certain restaurants and pasta boxes have different spellings for the same thing and quite honestly, until having done a bit of research for this blog I never took the time to look it up. That being said, and being an Italian speaker, the answer’s quite interesting not for its logical Italian grammatical differences, which did make sense to me, but rather for the geographical differences.
Naturally, both words are Italian and as such, the singular and plural forms change as is the case in most languages. In Italian, an “A” becomes an “E” and an “O” becomes an “I” in most cases. Therefore, lasagnE is the plural form of lasagnA just like spaghettI is the plural form of one strand of spaghettO.
The dish itself in countries other than Italy is relatively young and was introduced by Italian immigrants mostly during the second half of the 20th century. Both the singular and plural forms of the word have had almost the same trajectory and have evolved in virtually the same way on all sides of all oceans. The interesting part is who uses which term and where. In the majority of the world the term “lasagne” is used, whereas in North America, the term “lasagna” usually outweighs its plural counterpart. If you wish to be accurate in your Italian however, the best term to use would be “lasagne” as it’s a dish made with multiple sheets of lasagna.
Traditional lasagne is a simple baked dish made with pasta and other ingredients such as cheese, béchamel and meat sauce although an uncountable number of variations have taken shape since its introduction to other parts of the world. What I’m going to show you here is not the traditional lasagne ascribed to Bologna but rather a common variation including ricotta cheese and mozzarella.
But, enough with the Italian grammar lesson and let’s take a look at what lasagne is. As most of us know, lasagne originated in Italy and is believed to be a Bolognese creation from the region of Bologna. The traditional lasagne is made using sheets of pasta in layers interspersed with béchamel, ragù (both of which we’ll see below) and Parmiggiano-Reggiano (Parmesan cheese). The variations of lasagne are countless the world over, from poultry and game lasagne to vegetarian and even lasagne without any tomato-based sauce!
An ingredient we often see in lasagne is béchamel. Béchamel is an easy to make sauce made from a roux of butter and flour cooked in milk and seasoned with salt. When making béchamel it is very important not to darken or burn your roux (flour fried in butter) and to cook it over very low heat. If the roux is dark the béchamel will no longer be white in colour. It’s also important to keep it over low heat when adding your milk and to whisk it continuously, or you’ll end up with a lumpy, curdled mess instead of a smooth, white sauce.
Lasagne rises slightly as it’s being cooked and just wouldn’t be same if it didn’t bubble over the sides. The use of a drip pan in the bottom of the Fornetto oven, kamado or smoker is a very good idea when cooking a lasagne or any other casserole for that matter.
I bake my lasagne for about an hour and 45 minutes at 180C (350F), covered for the first hour and 15 minutes. The mozzarella cheese on the top is only added after I take the foil off otherwise the cheese would stick to it and come off with it once removed. You could use one of our Fornetto ceramics, which cook beautifully and nothing sticks to them! They can even go directly from the oven to the table.
Once the lasagne has baked for enough time and to your liking, allow it too cool slightly so the contents set perfectly before trying to cut it and removing a piece.
Baked lasagne should be enjoyed with fresh crusty bread and freshly grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano, with a glass of wine on the side!