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Lasagna: Origins and Varieties of the Beloved Baked Pasta

Lasagna has a long history and is still considered an Italian classic dish.


Lasagna has a long history and is still considered an Italian classic dish.

Lasagna, both the name and the food, has a long history. There are other ideas concerning the origins of the name, including the Latin lasanum, which means "cooking pot," and the ancient Greek and Roman laganum, which means "flat piece of bread."

Thin sheets of pasta, similar to modern lasagna, have been found in archaeological digs dating back centuries. The magnificent Etruscan murals in the Tomba dei Rilievi in Lazio, near Rome, depict fundamental pasta-making tools and ingredients, as well as banquets depicting guests savoring a form of lasagna. In terms of textual material, a dish consisting of layers of dough, meats, and cheeses appears in Apicius' ancient Roman cookbook De Re Coquinaria from the first century AD. It wasn't until the Middle Ages that a recipe for something resembling modern lasagna was discovered.


Lasagna is often cooked in southern Italy with dried sheets of pasta stacked with a rich meat ragu, ricotta, and mozzarella. The most popular kind of lasagna in the north, particularly in Bologna, is made with fresh egg noodles tinted green with spinach and covered with ragu, bechamel, and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Baked lasagna in broth, or lasagna al brodo, is a traditional Molise dish made with chicken and veal stock. Tiny veal meatballs, shredded chicken, veal from the soup, mozzarella, and Parmigiano Reggiano are stacked between lasagna noodle sheets. Then it's baked, and slices are served with the stock in a bowl.

  • Lasagne all'Ascolana is a non-tomato-based lasagna made with fresh egg lasagna sheets covered with a sauce of ground beef and chopped chicken giblets simmered in wine and sliced white truffles from the Marche region's Ascoli province.

  • Another Marche specialty lasagna, Vincisgrassi, was named for an army general who battled Napoleon during the siege of Ancona in the late 1700s. It's a bechamel, wild porcini mushroom, and prosciutto lasagna with no tomato sauce.

  • In Sardinia, lasagna is frequently cooked with pane carasau, a huge circular flatbread that is a regional delicacy. It's amusingly named carta da musica, or "sheet music," because it's so thin and audibly crunchy.

  • The pane carasau is dipped in hot broth (traditionally lamb stock) before being stacked with tomato sauce and pecorino cheese and topped with a poached egg, making Pane Frattau a virtually instant lasagna.

Each region of Italy has its unique version of lasagna and it is served as a traditional dish on many occasions.


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