Lasagne - right ingredients!

Monica Image
08/04/2009 - 13:25

During my last trip to Italy I ate the best Lasagne ever... Finally, I decided to experiment with cooking something typical Italian. Well, actually I did not decided yet. I asked so many people from different regions what would be the right ingredients to use and EVERY person told me differetn things. Some simply put tomato sauce and cheese. Some others put also ham and parmesan.Oothers pepperoni and meatballs. A grandma, she was so sweet, told me to put sliced eggs and green peas amongst all the other stuff. A last one talked about spinach and ricotta. So ???  Then, I got confused. Now I have to alternatives: try every single recipe and then decide what is the most delicious for my taste...or do a kind of statistics of what others think may be the best way to cook Lasagne!All this Lasagne talking makes me hungry!HELP PLEASE!  :-)


Your question is a difficult one, as there is not such a thing as a "typical" or "genuine" lasagne. Every region and I would go as far as saying that every cook in Italy has a different version, all of them delicious. It is a matter of personal taste. Perhaps, we could say that the basic recipe is made of alternate layers of white sauce, lasagna sheets, ragú (and here you can have a great variety of sauces) finishing the layers with a mixture of white and tomato sauces and plenty of grated parmesan cheese.... but then.... my own recipe alternate layers of a a very rich ragú with onion, garlic, minced veal, sliced mushrooms, strips of oven roasted red capsicum and tomato, with another filling being a mixture of white sauce, ricotta and chopped spinach. I also make a very nice one using seafood instead of meat.They say that the origin of the lasagne is a dish called "princigrassi",which means "fat princes", as they were the only ones who could afford it. The modern version is a dish called "Vincigrassi" from Le Marche. The name was changed to honour the Austrian commander, Count Windischgraetz, who was a fan of this particular dish. The "ragú" used for this dish is a mixture of onion, minced beef, prosciutto or bacon, white wine, sweetbreads and tomatoes, all heavily spiced.If you are interested in Italian cooking, you are welcome to join our group "Il Buongustaio" Circle. Everyone is welcome.

 Quoted:Perhaps, we could say that the basic recipe is made of alternate layers of white sauce, lasagna sheets, ragú (and here you can have a great variety of sauces) finishing the layers with a mixture of white and tomato sauces and plenty of grated parmesan cheese.... but then...I agree, this is like mine,  but I do ad chopped fresh mozzarella on each layer and a bit less bechamel sauce, and use fresh pasta from the "gastronomia" cut into the exact size.

Vincigrassi is the best IMHO - because the pasta layers are very thin and the whole thing is therefore a lot lighter than other lasagne.Although (a bit like spag bol) I like the fact that you don't need to be "precious" about lasagne, and you can continue to invent your own favourite

Mmmhhh ...Thank you guys for your advice! Mozzarella and ragù sounds very good. Also, I didn't know you can mix  bechamel sauce, wow! And I will surely try home-made pasta layers  (a granny taught me how to do it and I bought a pasta maker!) Will let you know how it tasted ... :-)

 Of course it depends on your personal tastes, but I find that the following ingredients can  make your lasagne tasteful:1) ragù  2) prosciutto cotto and provolone3) home-made besciamella!! this will add a delicate flavour to your lasagne..that's sure!If I'd were, I would avoid to use Salame..they may taste too salty..Buon appetito!

well,in the Uk I buy fresh pasta sheets from sainsburys or tesco and they work a treat. I make a loose ragu and a quite loose besciamella so that I do not have to boil the pasta sheet before hand, they just absorb the liquids and cook in the oven.First you put some besciamella at the bottom of your dish, then put a layer of fresh pasta ( you might need to cut the sheets to size) , ragu, besciamella a good sprinkel of parmigiano, a few riccioli of butter and then you can proceed with more layers.I bake it covered with foil for about 40 minutes and then remove it so that it can get golden at the top.I once made ragu with lamb and it was excellent too. enjoy it!paola  

Undoubtedly my wife (from Napoli) makes the best Lasagne in the World.Doesn't matter which Pasta sheets you use (fresh or packet) but ingredients include:-Pork mince, Passatta & fennel seeds in the ragu - ricotta- Buffalo mozzarella - and hard boiled eggs, all layered. They tend not to use a white sauce in the South.As all Italians will say Lasagne is a plain dish but each area, or family for that matter, will say theirs is the best.

Gromit, Undoubtely the Napoli Lasagne is the richest one. I had some recommendations from neapolitan people and wondered that they'd use more ingredients than all the others. Without besciamella but enough ragù, mince and mozzarella!I knew it will be a hard choice!

Obviously, the best lasagne sheets are the ones that are homemade; however, Barilla makes quite a good "Lasagne all´uovo" , in their "La Collezione" selection, which does not need pre-cooking, a real blessing. A few tips, though, to get the best results:1.-  As Paola says, start with a generous layer of béchamel, besciamella or white sauce. I always do this, but particularly if I am using this type of pasta.2.-  Try to find a baking dish which will hold a certain number of sheets without having to break them into pieces.3.- Prepare the dish at least half an hour before you bake it as this will allow the lasagne sheets to absorb some of the sauce.4.- You can freeze any leftovers or you can bake two lasagne at the same time and freeze one. Very handy to have in the freezer.Basically, you can create your own favourite lasagne according to your personal taste. Experiment with fillings and do not forget that herbs and spices are the ones that make a big difference. Good cheese or using different varieties of cheese can also add to the dish. And do not forget a pinch of nutmeg for the white sauce.Happy cooking!

 another form of lasagne i guess and famous here in abruzzo especially the province of Teramo ... they use scripelle (pancake sheets) in the layers... very fine... the ingredients are also more finely chopped but are much as lasagne... your choice... we have a very good restaurant in campli the tunel which has this dish as its speciallity and if in the area its worth trying it.. right in the centre of town... dont bother much ordering a secondo... could be hard wife from Caserta Campania now combines the two cultures of abruzzo cooking and that of Campania... naples have a good Timballo too..  to surely be able to compete with gromits other half... to my mind... and i used to make fun about this in the past the secret is in cooking the ragu for several hours... reducing the passatta slowly over a long time...  in a modern world this is not easy... but i believe its the time taken by Italian cooks in preparing this basic ingredient that makes the diference.. we are lucky with a second kitchen and a wood oven that we can leave things for several hours to slowly simmer... outside Italy do second working kitchens even exist...  in england even at lowest heat red sauce used to spit everywhere and reducing the sauce was not only time consuming but needed lots of cleaning afterwards... anyway use google italy to search on Timballo and Scripelle and you will find many variations of this layered pasta dish...Scripelle broth is another of my favorites 

Adriatica is right. The success or failure of any sauce/ragu based dish is TIME. Tomato based sauces need to reduce to take the acidity out of the sauce and caramelise the sugars (often sugar is added to achieve this effect). My wife cooks our ragus for upto 4 hours (piano piano) to get that flavour and reddy brown colour into it.God my mouth's watering now............

Hi MonicaI didn't realise there were so many versions! I only heard about layering in some boiled egg last week from a colleague at work, who said she had been told to do this by an Italian person. I thought she was having me on, but perhaps not!I agree with Gala Placidia that the best lasagne sheets are the homemade ones. I didn't realise that it was so easy to make your own pasta until I got the Jamie Oliver book that has all the Italian recipes in it. It is also quite fun using the pasta machine and it is amazing how much pasta you can get from such a small ball of dough.When we go to dinner at our friends in Italy the wife often makes fresh pasta for us. When we went to her shop to buy some orichiette to bring back to England before we left last time, she said she would make us some of that next time. I might have to ask her if I can go and help her make it to see how easy it is. I will probably only be able to make a few to her 100 or so.Hope you have fun trying out all of the versions. You will have to let us all know which one you think is the best.Toni

As Adriatica mentions, Timballo is another resourceful dish in Italian cuisine. As it is the case with lasagne, there can be as many versions as cooks and they can be fairly simple or highly elaborated ones. In my opinion, the most memorable version is from Sicily and it is portrayed in Luchino Visconti´s film "Il Gattopardo", based in the award winning novel by Prince Lampedusa. It is a mixture between a timballo and a pie, with a variety of fillings and sauces and it includes truffles and penne rigatte and many spices. All encased in a puff pastry base. A fabulous festive dish with a great presentation, but the word "Moderation" does not apply. Each mouthful will be about 5,000,000 calories.....

My mother came to the US as a child from Abruzzo, bringing this recipe with her for the sauce (the pasta can be store-bought or homemade):Brown garlic and 1 lb. ground beef in olive oil; add  1 large can tomato sauce, 1 small can tomato paste to thicken, basil, salt and pepper.  Allow to simmer for 1 hour or more until beef is cooked.Put small amount of sauce in the bottom of  13x9x2" pan, add layer of pasta, then layer of  cheese: (combine mozzarella,  sliced or crumbled ricotta, parmesan), sauce; repeat 2 times with pasta, cheeses, sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese. Bake 1/2 hour at 350 degrees.  It is delicious. 

  I thought that ‘Lasagne’ referred to the flat pasta sheets and therefore there would be a lot of different dishes using this type of pasta.   Scripelle is quite different (pancakes not pasta) and I think the timballo refers to the layering.   Many dishes are layered for example Greek style moussaka.   It’s a bit like talking about a sandwich. Anything between two slices of bread is a sandwich much like any recipe using lasagne sheets is called lasagne.