“Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors - it's how you combine them that sets you apart.” - Wolfgang Puck
Italian cuisine is popular all over the world. According to a YouGov survey of 25,000 people from 24 different countries, Italian food is the most popular. It’s hardly surprising when you think about it.
Lasagna is made from lasagna noodles or sheets, ground beef, meat sauce, tomato sauce, white sauce or bechamel, and by layering it all on top of one another. While you can buy premade lasagna, the best lasagna is homemade with fresh ingredients.
So why not learn how to make lasagna?
Here’s what you need to know about making it.
Where Does Lasagna Come From?
Just like risotto, pasta carbonara, and pizza, lasagna is a typically Italian dish.
But when was it invented?
The first records of lasagnas date back to the Antiquity when Greeks and Romans ate “Lagana”, thin slices of pasta cooked in boiling water. It was a bit like a pancake or pizza base.
It wasn’t until much later that lasagnas started looking like they do today. In fact, in the 13th century, they were prepared in a namesake dish known as a “lasagna”. The Greek term “lasagna” referred to a cooking tripod.
To make lasagna, the Italians slid a filling between each slice. By alternating between pasta sheets and filling, the lasagna’s ancestor was born. At the time, it was filled with chicken, pork, or even fish. The meat was mixed with beaten eggs as well as the fish brine. The whole thing was cooked together.
There are also Arab dishes similar to lasagna that were cooked with thin pasta sheets. These were called “lauzina”. Some believe that these two words are at the origin of the name lasagna.
After the 13th century, the cheese started appearing in lasagnas. Once the pasta changed, the way lasagnas were made also changed drastically.
The most popular lasagna recipe originated in Bologna. The bolognese sauce, made from tomatoes, cheese, and minced meat, became popular all over the world.
This is generally the type of sauce you’ll find in premade lasagnas all over the word.
Discover some easy recipes for beginners.
The Lasagna Bolognaise Recipe
To get a lasagna bolognese recipe right, you need to get the proper ingredients. Here’s how you can easily make your lasagna.
For four people, you’ll need:
- Lasagna sheets
- 600g of bolognese sauce
- 350g of minced meat
- 1 onion
- 100g of grated cheese
For the Béchamel:
- 500ml of milk
- 2 large tablespoons of flour
- 125g of butter
Start by chopping the onion and lightly cooking it in some olive oil. Before it browns, add all of the minced beef to the pan. Let it all cook on a high heat making sure you don’t burn the onions. Add the bolognese sauce (you can buy this in most shops).
Now we can move onto making the bechamel. To do this, melt the butter in a pot. Once melted, add the two tablespoons of flour and mix with a whisk. Pay attention because you need to do this quickly. Keep the milk beside you as you need to progressively add it into the mix. Keep stirring as you slowly add the milk to the mix; you don’t want any lumps. Mix until it starts to thicken. Once your bechamel is ready, add it to the meat and bolognese sauce.
Now you need to put everything together. Make sure you have a suitable baking dish or lasagna pan. Add a later of the sauce and bechamel to the bottom of the dish. Cover with a lasagna sheet. Repeat these steps until you’ve no sauce left. Make sure that the last layer is sauce and not pasta.
Add the grated cheese to the top of the dish and bake it in the oven for around 45 minutes at 180°C. Generally, Italian food is better with Italian cheese, so make sure you're always stocked up with mozzarella cheese, parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano, etc.
To check that it’s ready, stick a knife into your lasagna. The lasagna sheets should be soft.
So how can you make your pasta?
Making pasta might seem difficult. However, the recipe is rather simple. You just need a pasta maker to help you. If you’re patient, here’s how you can make your lasagna sheets.
A pasta maker is a special tool used to flatten lasagna sheets (or other types of pasta).
You can get them for between £30 and £60 online.
It’s pretty simple.
You just need a few ingredients:
- 300g of flour
- 3 eggs
- A pinch of salt
- A tablespoon of olive oil
In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour with the eggs and olive oil. Add the salt. Mix until you get a homogeneous batter. It shouldn’t stick. If it does, you need to add a bit more flour.
Once you’ve made the dough, roll it into a ball and let it sit for half an hour. Split the dough into smaller pieces. Pass each piece through the pasta maker. Bit by bit, adjust the pasta maker until you’re making very fine sheets. Once you’ve done this, you need to dry the pasta. You can do this on the handle of a wooden spoon, for example.
Once you’ve finished the sheets, you can use them in the aforementioned recipe.
Different Types of Lasagna
Lasagna bolognese isn’t the only type of lasagna. While this is the most common, there are plenty of different ways to make lasagna.
Lasagna sheets can be used in several different recipes. While the basic recipe is the same, you can add ingredients like spinach, for example. This is usually the case if you’ve got a green lasagna.
You can also have them with mushrooms, curry, etc. In terms of the filling, there are plenty of recipes for vegetarian lasagnas, for example.
To make vegetarian lasagna, replace the meat with vegetables such as leeks, tomatoes, courgettes, etc. There are plenty of vegetables that work well with bechamel. They’re delicious even if you’re not vegetarian.
You can also make lasagna with goat’s cheese and pesto, spinach and ricotta, mushrooms, and even chocolate!
How Can You Learn to Make a Lasagna?
To learn how to make homemade lasagna, you can practise yourself. Lasagna recipes aren’t that complicated, even if you make your pasta. You just need to invest in a pasta maker.
You can also learn to cook in restaurants. There are restaurants and cooking schools that offer cooking classes. You could always get advice from a professional chef by attending cooking classes. You might want to consider getting in touch with a private cooking tutor who specialises in Italian cuisine. In addition to learning how to make lasagna, you can also learn how to make your pizzas or risotto.
You just have to go for it!
You could also learn how to make couscous.
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