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tommy

Some Lasagna Questions

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This is, of course, the real thing. I am sure there is pasta al forno from the south that includes ricotta, but they certainly don't use it in Emilia Romagna.

There's a few Southern Italian versions of lasagne and they're as traditional as the one from Emilia Romagna. Just two different things. Probably the original Southern version didn't use "pasta all'uovo", just fresh durum pasta, but it does today.

A more or less standard "Southern Italian lasagna" is made with:

- ragu' sauce, i.e. a tomato stew with meat (often ribs) which has been cooked for hours, till the sauce turns a deep brownish red.

- ricotta, often ewe's milk ricotta.

- meat in any of these forms: meatballs, sliced sausages, meat from the ragu' sauce.

- parmesan.

- optional additions: sliced mozzarella, sliced hard-boiled eggs.

These lasagne are pretty much a traditional Carnival dish though today you could find them in restaurants serving traditional fare all year long.

BTW, though I lived many years in Naples I prefer the bolognbese version too :smile:


Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

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Although is not "Lasagna" simply the pasta itself, rather then specifically the dish, so the pasta with any ingredients would still be lasagna.

But to get the soft texture, it if most likely a case of fresh pasta made with soft wheat flour and a relatively low amount egg, cooked slowly over a longish period.

Few people would call it "lasagne" here. It is normally referred to as "pasta al forno", which of course encompasses a wide range of possibilities. However, up here by the Alps, pasta al forno is what most people outside of Italy would call lasagne. Down south it has a whole new range of possibilities.

So that would be Craig "Garfield" Camp? :smile:

I agree with you definition, but many Italian-descent people are from the South and their default may be different. Plenty of Lasagna in Sicily, used salted ricotta, never Bechamel or Parmesan.

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Although is not "Lasagna" simply the pasta itself, rather then specifically the dish, so the pasta with any ingredients would still be lasagna.

But to get the soft texture, it if most likely a case of fresh pasta made with soft wheat flour and a relatively low amount egg, cooked slowly over a longish period.

Few people would call it "lasagne" here. It is normally referred to as "pasta al forno", which of course encompasses a wide range of possibilities. However, up here by the Alps, pasta al forno is what most people outside of Italy would call lasagne. Down south it has a whole new range of possibilities.

So that would be Craig "Garfield" Camp? :smile:

I agree with you definition, but many Italian-descent people are from the South and their default may be different. Plenty of Lasagna in Sicily, used salted ricotta, never Bechamel or Parmesan.

:biggrin: ...the ultimate comfort food. The only problem is my father-in-law likes to serve huge pieces of pasta al forno as a primo piatto, before the meat and potatoes hit the table. This is why the Italian had to invent grappa.

In the south you see it in many ways - often with ricotta and often with other pasta shapes, most notable the various tube shapes.

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When using fresh pasta sheets - do you boil the noodles at all or do you just lay them in raw?

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The only problem is my father-in-law likes to serve huge pieces of pasta al forno as a primo piatto, before the meat and potatoes hit the table. This is why the Italian had to invent grappa.

Oh, man. This is what happens every Thanksgiving. My family is very close with an Italian family that has roots in Abruzzi, specifically the town of Colledimezzo. The matriach of the family (born, raised, and gave birth to all her children in Italy before coming to America), will make lasagne, or pasta al forno as the first course. The first course for Thanksgiving dinner. Just imagine what all is served during an Italian Thanksgiving, and you'll know how much food is served. Yet, we are always served the lasagne first, a gigantic serving, no matter how hard you try to control the size of your serving. I could live the rest of my life on that lasagne--soft, green noodles, bechamele dripping down the sides. I can taste it right now. Unfortunately, by the time I finish my lasagne on Thanksgiving, I can barely taste (and eat) anything afterwards!

If anyone has had the red "punch" that comes from Abruzzi, then you'll about its healing powers. I usually only have it during Thanksgiving. :biggrin:

Also, as much as I love my Italian grandmother's pasta al forno, my Indian mother's lasagne--a good, Southern Italian/Italian-American one--is the absolute best in the world. :smile:

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When using fresh pasta sheets - do you boil the noodles at all or do you just lay them in raw?

I blanched them in boiling water for about 1 minute. I wasn't using a wet sauce, and figured an uncooked noodle would absorb too much liquid. But, I'd guess if you're using a wet tomato sauce in your lasagna, you probably wouldn't have to blanch them.

Greg

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Fresh pasta makes the best lasagna, IMO. I don't bother to boil the sheets before laying them in. Actually I usually slap them out of the pasta maker and layer them in the dish immediately, stopping cranking on the maker periodically to lay down the next layer of sauce etc. before getting more noodles done.

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... I don't bother to boil the sheets before laying them in. Actually I usually slap them out of the pasta maker and layer them in the dish immediately, stopping cranking on the maker periodically to lay down the next layer of sauce etc. before getting more noodles done.

That is good to know. Will do! Thanks.

If anyone has had the red "punch" that comes from Abruzzi, then you'll about its healing powers. I usually only have it during Thanksgiving.  :biggrin:

I'm half Italian, my father's parents from Abruzzi. What is this red punch? I want to find out what I'm missing! :biggrin:

Edited to say thanks, Craig, for the wine suggestion and link.

...and yes I think you can find it in Florida as it is represented by a division of Southern Wines and Spirits.
:smile: Good!
Edited by Susan in FL (log)

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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There is a decided difference in flavor and texture between no-boil and normal dried lasagne pasta.

...also the Barilla is pretty lousy stuff and it is worse in the USA than in Italy where it is pretty bad. By the way, the Barilla no-boil is what you would probably be served in most Italian homes. If the rest of the ingredients are good enough it can be pretty good. However, fresh pasta makes this a COMPLETELY different dish.

that is crazy talk, man :wink:

1) barilla is good stuff, or at least their egg based no-boil lasagne is. great taste. mmm.

2) dried lasagne is best: more bite, and therefore more contrast in the dish. fresh lasagne will give you all sloppyness, no matter how you do it.

i sure agree with:

no ricotta

well cooked bolognese (of the very-little-tomato school)

nutmeg in the bechamel

i'm not sure i agree with the all-parmesan-cheese on top. i'd mix it with another, softer cheese. one that melts well into the top layer of bechamel. plus, i'd drip a tiny bit of evoo over it.


christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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According to Silvano Serventi and Françoise Sabban in their extensively researched book (Pasta:A Universal Food), "al dente" is a term that is only really found post WWI, and is largely derived from the influence of Southern dried durum wheat pasta. So some peoples preference for "bite" in there Northern style lasagna, is proberly a modern thing.

I assume that the traditional lasagna made in Emilia-Romagna would have been made from fresh soft wheat egg pasta and this would have been more 'custardy' like which was described in the original post?


Edited by Adam Balic (log)

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I assume that the traditional lasagna made in Emilia-Romagna would have been made from fresh soft wheat egg pasta and this would have been more 'custardy' like which was described in the original post?

Adam,

I think you're quite right. I've followed the thread with interest but whas a little surprosed about the comment on the bite of pasta. In general, while we Italians would scream in horror at the sight of an overcooked dish of spaghetti we don't really apply the same rule to oven-baked pasta dishes especially if fresh pasta is used, like lasagne Emila-Romagna style are traditionally made.

If you use fresh pasta and the lasagne turn out sloppy there's either too much sauce or the sauce is too runny. You can cut a good lasagna, slightly cooled, in wedges, bricks, whatever rocks your boat and you should be able to pick them off the pan without sauce or pasta sliding off your piece. The whole thing should pretty much hold together.


Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

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Youknow I have never really made the Emilia-Romagna version of Lasagna, mostly just the 'shitty lasagna' from Sicily. But I did make the bake pasta dish from Emilia-Romagna "Pasticcio di macceroni in crosta dolce", the pasta in this was cooked until al dente then baked for 35 minutes. The pasta wasn't al dente, but it hadn't wasn't mush either. I think that much of this comes down to the quality of the pasta, not all dried durum wheat pasta are equal, some will have a horrible texture even if cooked to al dente (there is a brand of scottish pasta here, horrible stuff), better pasta can go past al dente and still be delicious.

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If you use fresh pasta and the lasagne turn out sloppy there's either too much sauce or the sauce is too runny. You can cut a good lasagna, slightly cooled, in wedges, bricks, whatever rocks your boat and you should be able to pick them off the pan without sauce or pasta sliding off your piece. The whole thing should pretty much hold together.

it sure will hold together even if you use fresh pasta, given that your sauces are not too runny - but: no matter what you do, fresh pasta will have so little bite after half an hour in the oven that you lose the delicious textural contrast that you get with a good dried pasta.

may be a matter of taste, though. i like contrasts.


christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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If you use fresh pasta and the lasagne turn out sloppy there's either too much sauce or the sauce is too runny. You can cut a good lasagna, slightly cooled, in wedges, bricks, whatever rocks your boat and you should be able to pick them off the pan without sauce or pasta sliding off your piece. The whole thing should pretty much hold together.

The sauce is what I think most people outside of Italy don't understand. A good ragù is more meat and vegetables than liquid and tomato sauce. Also as you point out the concept of "al dente" certainly does not apply to pasta al forno. It certainly does not apply to no-boil pasta.

My father-in-law uses any general brand of no-boil lasagna in finds in the stores here and his pasta al forno is always very good. However, this is more a function of his excellent ragù, bechamele and first class parmigiano than the pasta.

I assume that the traditional lasagna made in Emilia-Romagna would have been made from fresh soft wheat egg pasta and this would have been more 'custardy' like which was described in the original post?

This I think is right on the mark. Great pasta al forno, done in a Northern Italian style, has this "custardy" flavor. This is not something you would find in baked pasta from Southern Italy, which is delicious in its own right.

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It sounds like Northern Italian is the way I want to go - and actually it was in Venice where we had this amazing lasagna experience. Thank you all for pointing me in the right direction.

So now it's narrowed down to Northern Italian, could I get some advice on cookbooks that would help me recreate the dish? Thanks again!

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It looks like the Giada De Laurentiis version has ricotta in it.

I feel like I'm a better-informed lasagna eater now! I had no idea bechamel was used in lasagnas. It's time for a trip to Italy!

What are the proportions of bolognese vs. bechamel vs. parmigiano reggiano? Also, does the layering order matter? And what is the optimal number of layers?

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