Lasagna is both a type of noodle and a dish made with that noodle; when pluralized, lasagna noodles are known as “lasagne”. Lasagne are long, flat, broad noodles which are ideally suited to layering in a baking dish to make a sort of noodle pie with an assortment of ingredients which may include meats, cheeses, and tomato sauce. Most markets carry lasagna noodles, often in an assortment of flavors including spinach, whole wheat, and plain, and making the baked noodle dish which calls for these noodles is quite easy.
The history of the name of these noodles is actually quite interesting. “Lasagna” is derived from the Greek lasanon, which means “chamber pot.” The Romans borrowed the word to refer to cooking pots of a similar shape, and eventually the word came to be used to refer to the noodles which were traditionally layered in a lasanum, a Roman lasagna dish. Many people are unaware of the humble origins of the name for this popular Italian food, which means that you can trot it out at your next dinner party and look impressive.
In Italy, lasagne are totally flat, while American lasagne tend to be ruffled along the edges to help trap sauces. The best noodles are made from Durum wheat, a particularly hard wheat which stands up to extended cooking, remaining chewy and resilient even after boiling and baking. Some cooks prefer to use special no-boil lasagna noodles, which are layered into a lasagna pan without being precooked. The moisture in the lasagna and the heat of the oven cook these noodles so that they are finished along with the rest of the lasagna.
There are numerous lasagna recipes used throughout the world, since this Italian dish has caught on in many nations. All of these recipes involve alternating layers of lasagne with various sauces, cheeses, and other ingredients. A lasagna can contain spinach, eggplant, tomato sauce, meat, and cheeses like mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan. Many cooks develop their own lasagna specialties, and this dish often appears at potlucks and big family dinners since it is easy to make for a crowd.
A whole lasagna can also be assembled and then frozen without being cooked, allowing the cook to prepare the lasagna at his or her leisure. Frozen lasagna can be a useful tool in the culinary arsenal in a busy household, since a cook can assemble two lasagne, bake one, and freeze the other to prepare on a busy day. Lasagne are also frequently brought to post-operative patients and grieving families so that they can have nutritious home-cooked meals without the effort.