|Place of origin||Italy|
|Region or state||Campania, Emilia-Romagna|
|Main ingredients||Durum wheat|
|Cookbook: Lasagne Media: Lasagne|
Origins and history
Lasagne originated in Italy during the Middle Ages and has traditionally been ascribed to the city of Naples. The first recorded recipe was set down in the early 14th century Liber de Coquina (The Book of Cookery). It bore only a slight resemblance to the later traditional form of lasagne, featuring a fermented dough, flattened into a thin sheet, boiled, sprinkled with cheese and spices, and then eaten with the use of a small pointed stick. Other recipes written in the century following the Liber de Coquina recommended boiling the pasta in a chicken broth and dressing it with cheese and chicken fat, or in one case walnuts, in a recipe adapted for the Lenten fast.
The traditional lasagne of Naples, lasagne di carnevale, is layered with local sausage, small fried meatballs, hard-boiled eggs, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, and sauced with a Neapolitan ragù. Lasagne al forno, layered with a thicker ragù and Béchamel sauce and which corresponds to the most common version of the dish outside Italy, is traditionally associated with Emilia-Romagna. In other regions lasagne can be made with various combinations of ricotta or mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, various meats (e.g., ground beef, pork or chicken), miscellaneous vegetables (e.g., spinach, zucchini, olives, mushrooms), and is typically flavored with wine, garlic, onion, and oregano. In all cases, the lasagne are oven-baked (al forno).
Traditionally, pasta dough prepared in Southern Italy used semolina and water and in the northern regions, where semolina was not available, flour and eggs. Today in Italy, since the only type of wheat allowed for commercially sold pasta is durum wheat, commercial lasagne are made of semolina (from durum wheat).
Emilia-Romagna's intensive farming economy in the northern region of Italy results in plentiful dairy and meat products, and their commonality in regional cooking – more so than the olive oil found in southern regions of Italy. Pastas from Emilia-Romagna and its capital, Bologna, are almost always served with a ragù, a thick sauce made from ingredients such as onions, carrots, finely ground pork and beef, celery, butter, and tomatoes.
In Ancient Rome, there was a dish similar to the traditional lasagne one called lasana or lasanum (Latin for 'container', 'pot') described in the book De re coquinaria by Marcus Gavius Apicius, but the word could have a more ancient origin. The first theory is that lasagne comes from Greek λάγανον (laganon), a flat sheet of pasta dough cut into strips. The word λαγάνα (lagana) is still used in Greek to mean a flat thin type of unleavened bread baked for the Clean Monday holiday.
Another theory is that the word lasagne comes from the Greek λάσανα (lasana) or λάσανον (lasanon) meaning 'trivet', 'stand for a pot' or 'chamber pot'. The Romans borrowed the word as lasanum, meaning 'cooking pot'. The Italians used the word to refer to the dish in which lasagne is made. Later, the name of the food took on the name of the serving dish.
Another proposed link, or reference, is the 14th century dish loseyn as described in the British The Forme of Cury, a cookbook prepared by "the chief Master Cooks of King Richard II", which included English recipes as well as dishes influenced by Spanish, French, Italian, and Arab cuisines. This recipe has similarities to modern lasagne in both its recipe, which features a layering of ingredients between pasta sheets, and its name. An important difference is the lack of tomatoes, which did not arrive in Europe until after Columbus reached America in 1492. The earliest discussion of the tomato in European literature appeared in a herbal written in 1544 by Pietro Andrea Mattioli while the earliest discovered cookbook with tomato recipes was published in Naples in 1692, though the author had apparently obtained these recipes from Spanish sources.
As with most other types of pasta, the Italian word is a plural form, lasagne meaning more than one sheet of lasagna, though in many other languages a derivative of the singular word "lasagna" is used for the popular dish. Regional usage in Italy, when referring to the baked dish, favours the plural form lasagne in the north of the country and the singular lasagna in the south. The former usage has influenced the usual spelling found in British English, while the southern Italian usage has influenced the spelling often used for the dish in American English.
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