• With Gratitude to Italy

Together in such times...and then the Lasagna

Updated: Jun 24


The reason why Garfield's original owner, Mamma Leoni ,sold him to a pet store was attributed to his love for Lasagna. Davis , the creator of Garfield , wanted to first create Pizza as Garfield’s favorite since it was easier to draw, but stuck to lasagna since he was an all time fan. And so in 1978 , with Garfield , Lasagna too became an all time favourite of many worldwide and popular as family meal.

But the first reported Lasagna probably dates back to the 14th Century , in Naples, during the Middle ages . It bore a slight resemblance to the modern day version where fermented dough was flattened into thin sheets , then boiled, sprinkled with cheese and spices, and then eaten with a small pointed stick.

The Capital of Bologna , in Northern Italy , Emilia-Romagna , pasta is green in color , which comes from spinach mixed in the dough , served with the ragu sauce which is is a thick sauce prepared with onions, ground meats , butter , tomatoes, béchamel and Parmigiano Reggiano .Tomato appeared in the lasagna only after 1880.

A famous quote from this time is by Fra’ Salimbene da Parma, who, in 1284, thus described a chubby friar eating lasagna: “I’ve never seen anyone stuffing himself on lasagna with cheese so pleasurably and so fully as him.” This hints at the introduction of cheese in the recipe. Egg would not be used in the dough until the Renaissance.

In Southern Italy , Semolina and water is used to make the pasta and in Northern Italy , it is prepared with flour and eggs . In Modern Italy , for commercially sold pasta only Durum Wheat is allowed to be used. The Traditional Lasagne , ‘Lasagna di Carnevale’ , prepared with local sausage,small fried meat balls , hard boiled eggs ,ricotta and mozzarella with Napolitan ragu or a meat sauce.

So how did this dish actually come to be known? Not in Italy, but In Ancient Rome , called Laganon , the first form of pasta or a flat sheet of pasta dough cut into strips and layered . Not the traditional pasta as we know it in its form now, but for the method of layering pasta and sauce.

Like most famous dishes and ingredients , countries do debate and become possessive about their origins . Like the Lasagna , may have originated in Ancient Greece, the first actual recipe was found in the ‘Form of Cury’ , a book by the Chief master cook of King Richard the Second, in Britain , and popularized by a American character , but regardless of this facts as stated , the Lasagna we know today , evolved in Italy which gave us a reason to dine together as a family .

Most families have a favourite Lasagna recipe …since one can prepare it with our most loved ingredients…Today I share ‘The Lasagna that binds our family together’,hoping you can find yours too.

Ingredients

4 nos. of no cook organic Lasagne sheets

300 ml Pasata, fresh organic tomato puree

6-7 nos. cherry tomatoes …I used homegrown, sliced

1 ½ nos. medium sized onions , red too can be used, finely chopped

6-7 nos. of large mushrooms, sliced finely

5-6 nos. cloves of garlic ,crushed

½ bunch of spinach leaves

10-12 nos. cubes of organic feta cheese

1 no. small green pepper, finely chopped

½ stick of unsalted butter

3 tblspns of quinoa flour

2 cups of milk

Olive oil

Fresh Mozarella cheese

Choice of grated Mature Cheddar / Red Leicester / Parmesan cheese or what your family enjoys

Himalayan Salt , to taste

Freshly ground pepper

1 tblsp of Dried herbs

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ bunch of parsley , finely chopped

To Prepare:

  1. Place the lasagna sheets in boiling water for 3 minutes each and keep aside.

2. Meanwhile , in a pan , heat oil, add the remaining garlic , let it cook for a few seconds, add the onions ,green peppers and let it cook for a few minutes .Then add the mushrooms and cook till slightly brown. Keep aside . You may saute the green peppers separately too.

3. In a bowl, soak the spinach leaves in boiling hot water and leave them there.

4. In a separate pan , heat the oil, add ½ the garlic , half the onions and let them sweat. Then add the tomato pasata . Let it boil . Add the dried herbs , salt , pepper and the cherry tomatoes and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Keep aside.

5.In another pan, (yes! a lot of pans being used!), heat some butter. When it melts, add the quinoa flour , mix very well and immediately add the milk. Whisk very well till it starts to thicken and its smooth. Add the nutmeg and seasoning.Keep aside.

6. Take the sheets of lasagna and cut into strips . To each strip add a dash of tomato sauce , then a filling of spinach . You may tear the leaves and place it on the sauce. Then crumble the feta cubes and spread. Roll the strips and place in an oven proof dish.

7.Alternatively , to the other strips , add the béchamel sauce ,and the mushroom mixture. Roll again and place in the dish.

8. Pour the béchamel sauce in between the rolls and sprinkle the cheese your family enjoys.

9.Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the lasagna rolls. Sprinkle some more cheese and

slice the fresh mozzarella on top.

10. Place it in a preheated oven of 190 deg C. Cook till it gets browned and the cheese melts. Garnish with parsley .Enjoy with fresh baked bread and a salad

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