The Curious History of Lasagna

Lasagna always makes a wonderful meal, whether paired with a simple green salad, garlic bread or focaccia, or a selection of your favorite side dishes. Modern lasagna is made by layering pasta noodles with layers of sauce. Sometimes mozzarella or ricotta are used, and various meats such as beef or pork might be included. Vegetables like mushrooms, zucchini or spinach are popular in lasagna recipes, and onion, oregano, wine and garlic are common ingredients used to add flavor. Lasagna is typically oven-baked.

The Very First ‘Lasagna’

This dish has a more unusual history than you might imagine though. Lasagna is the only pasta-like dish the ancient Greeks and Romans cooked. It was referred to as laganon, lagane or lagnum back then. Way back in the 4th century, lasagna was pretty much unrecognizable. It was made by combining sow’s belly with fish, chicken and/or other birds, then adding eggs, lovage, pepper, wine and broth, along with pine nuts, flour and oil. This mixture was layered with pancakes, then steamed until done. Lasagna, or at least this version of it, appeared in Greece first, and then when the Romans overthrew the Greeks and occupied the country, they took on a good deal of the local culture, food, language and knowledge as their own.

The Next Lasagna Incarnation

Later on, in the 14th century, pasta dough was cut into squares and topped with cheese and spices. Torta de lassanis was the next incarnation of lasagna, and this included pasta squares, egg, cheese, ravioli and bacon, along with a sausage. It was baked in the oven. Tomatoes didn’t arrive in Europe until after Columbus reached America in 1492 so these were missing from the original recipe. Fast forward seven centuries and we have the tasty beef, tomato and cheese pasta dish we know and love today. Modern lasagna first appeared in Naples, Italy, during the Middle Ages and it was served on special occasions.

Traditionally lasagna includes ragu, béchamel and parmesan cheese between the pasta layers, but there are plenty of variations these days. Italian immigrants introduced their own favorite types of lasagna to America in the 1800s. Today you can choose from the classic beef lasagna or one of countless other varieties such as creamy salmon and spinach, vegetarian or even low-carb versions with thinly sliced zucchini instead of lasagna noodles.

This classic Italian dish (which actually started out in Greece!) ticks all the boxes when you’re looking for delicious comfort food and you want to enjoy something stick-to-the-ribs filling and really flavorful. Forget the frozen lasagnas though if you want to enjoy the best possible lasagna experience, and make your own recipe for the best, freshest flavor in every mouthful.


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