#LasagneDay is organised by the Italian Food Union and the International Pasta Organisation and features a day-long series of online culinary events, with the chance to follow the lasagna recipes of top chefs live from your own kitchen.
To celebrate we thought we would enlighten you on it’s origins and invite you to make Lasagne the Italian way at home using the recipe of Gino Di Campo’s mother.
The History of The Lasagne
The history of Lasagne is a hot topic of debate, with many countries staking claim to it’s creation. Believe it or not it’s origins can be traced all the way back to Ancient Greece! The name “Lasagne” is a derivative of the Greek word “Laganon” – a word used to describe flat pasta dough sliced into strips. Laganon was not filled with traditional Italian ingredients like the hearty lasagne we all know and love, but it was made up of layers of pasta in sauce. So, you could say lasagne got its name from Ancient Greece, but not it’s ingredients.
Some historians argue that the origins of lasagne came from 14th century England. The discovery of a cookbook from 1390 contained a recipe called Loseyn which consisted of chicken broth and muenster cheese layered between pasta sheets. At this point in time the Tomato hadn’t reached Europe yet. This occurred a whole century later when Christopher Columbus ventured to the America’s and brought back the deliciously foreign Tomato plants. The prinicipal is similar to modern lasagne, but without the red sauce… it’s hard to imagine it being like modern lasagne.
That leaves us with one last country claiming they invented the Lasagne… Italy! Lasange is believed to have originated in Naples, Italy. The first Lasagne recipe in Italy appeared in a medieval cookbook called Liber de Coquina in the 14th century. The medieval recipe includes layers of pasta with cheese and spices such as nutmeg and pepper in between each layer – extremely similar to the traditional modern Lasagne. Thanks to Columbus’ voyage and the Italian passion for food the recipe has been perfected with the introduction of Ragu giving us our beloved Lasagne.
We challenge you to get your apron on and give it your best shot. Check out Gino’s video below on his top tips to make sure your Lasagne is nothing short of restaurant standard.
Authentic Lasagne Recipe
Time: 2 hours
Servings: 8 People
- 12 fresh lasagne sheets, each about 10 x 18cm
- 50g freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 50g cold salted butter, cut into 1cm cubes
- to taste salt and pepper
For the Bechemel Sauce
- 100g salted butter
- 100g plain flour
- 1 litre cold full-fat milk
- 50g freshly grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ freshly grated nutmeg
For the Meat Sauce
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
- 1 celery stick, finely chopped
- 500g minced beef or lamb
- 2 glasses italian dry red wine
- 1 x 700ml bottle passata (sieved tomatoes)
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée
- 10 fresh basil leaves
First make the meat sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion, carrot and celery for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
Add the minced beef and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until coloured all over. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 more minutes.
Pour in the wine, stir well and cook for 5 minutes until the alcohol has evaporated. Add the passata, tomato purée and basil, then lower the heat and cook, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until you get a beautiful rich sauce. Taste and season after about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4.
Meanwhile, to make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute until it becomes light brown in colour. Gradually whisk in the milk, lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes, whisking constantly. Once thickened, stir in the Parmesan and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to slightly cool.
Spread a quarter of the béchamel sauce in the bottom of a deep ovenproof dish measuring about 30 x 25cm. Lay 4 lasagne sheets on top and, if necessary, cut them to fit the dish.
Spread half the meat sauce over the pasta, then top with a third of the remaining béchamel sauce. Lay 4 more sheets of lasagne on top and cover with the remaining meat sauce. Spread half the remaining béchamel sauce on top. Arrange a final layer of lasagne sheets over the sauces, then gently spread the rest of the béchamel on top, making sure that you completely cover the pasta.
Sprinkle with the Parmesan and cubed butter. Finally, grind some black pepper over the top.
Cook in the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes, then place the dish in the middle of the oven, raise the temperature to 200ºC/gas mark 6 and cook for a further 15 minutes until golden and crispy all over. Set the dish aside to rest for 10 minutes before serving.