Food & Drink

Coast Cooking: Everybody loves lasagna

By JULIAN BRUNT

Special to the Sun Herald

Lasagna is an Italian favorite.
Lasagna is an Italian favorite.

Lasagna is an Italian specialty, but it has been embraced by the Italian American community with such vigor, it is impossible to keep it off a list of most-loved Italian comfort foods in this country.

Layers of thick noodles, a rich ragu, béchamel sauce and lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano would be the Italian version. Many think it was invented in Naples, most likely just after the tomato was introduced to Italy from the New World.

This is a recipe that begs to be tinkered with, so American versions include ricotta, mozzarella, beef of all sorts, even pork, as in a good pork sausage or ham, and a host of vegetables, including mushrooms, spinach, zucchini and even squash. 

Marcella Hazan, in her Italian cookbook, “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking,” makes several interesting suggestions.

Foremost is that she thinks homemade pasta is the only way to go for the best lasagna. Hazan goes a step further and says that a green pasta, made with spinach, is the very best. She also likes a Bolognese sauce, made with chuck, not ground beef. Lastly, she keeps it traditional and avoids the stringy cheese many Americans seem to love and uses only Parmigiano-Reggiano.

I would not disagree with Hazan, but I do think a little grated top-quality buffalo mozzarella would be a nice addition, indeed. Also, please use fresh herbs when possible, adding them at the end. If they are added too early they will disappear into the sauce.

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