By Tatiana Pietrzak

                Greeks, Italians, or British: who invented Lasagna? Lasagna is a word derived from the Greek ‘Laganon’, a name for possibly one of the first known and oldest types of pasta.  Most reports though say that the dish was created in Naples, Italy in the Middle Ages. It was called “Lasagna de Carnevale”. Ingredients included sausage, fried meatballs, hard boiled eggs, ricotta or mozzarella, and Napolitan Ragu. Romans formed the word ‘lasanum’ from the Greek, meaning cooking pot.


                However, British researchers found a recipe for Lasagna in a cookbook dated from the 1390s. So, they claim to have invented the dish although the recipe did not call for tomatoes. Tomatoes would not appear in recipes until after 1492 when Columbus reached America. Modern versions were created between 1544 and 1692 based off similar dishes in Ancient Greece. Lenten recipes called for walnuts instead of meat.

Desserts and Tomatoes

                The 16th century actually saw the dish become a dessert. There was use of cinnamon and sugar. Finally in an 1880s Italian cookbook there was mention of using tomato sauce. Yet one could find many varieties throughout Italy. Some areas used the traditional flat noodles whereas other areas used rippled ones. Bologna is known for using green spinach pasta. Their recipe is mixed with a Ragu, bechamel sauce, wine, onion, oregano and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Ragu is a thick sauce made from onions, carrots, celery, finely ground pork and beef, butter, and tomatoes.


                In older times Lasagna was not an everyday dish. Meat was expensive and the preparation of traditional Lasagna took a lengthy amount of time to prepare.  It wasn’t until the early 1900s when America saw an immigration boom from Italy that the dish became more common. Meat was cheaper and easier to buy. The dish was simplified by leaving out many ingredients and cooking techniques. Hard-boiled eggs, sausage and fried meatballs were no longer used. Long-simmered meat sauces became ground hamburger and canned tomato sauce.

                Today, people throw in all types of vegetables to make it a little healthier. Spinach is popular, as is zucchini and mushrooms. There is even a Tex-Mex version with corn tortillas, chicken breasts, refried beans, salsa, and a bottle of beer. If you have a special type of Lasagna that you make, write and let me know. My favorite is a vegetarian one called Polenta Lasagna with Tomato-Mushroom Sauce (without any noodles) from the cookbook The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley.

Easy Bake Lasagna


1 medium yellow onion, small diced

½ lb. ground beef

½ lb. ground Italian sausage

4 cups tomato-basil pasta sauce

6 uncooked wavy lasagna noodles

1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese

2 ½ cups (10 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup hot water


  1. Sauté onions over medium heat until translucent.
  2. Stir in beef and Italian sausage until crumbled and no longer pink.
  3. Lightly grease a 11 x 7 inch baking dish.
  4. Spread one-third of meat sauce in dish.
  5. Layer with 3 cooked noodles (boil 8-10 minutes) and half each ricotta and mozzarella cheese.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5.
  7. Slowly pour hot water around inside edge of dish
  8. Tightly cover with 2 layers of aluminum foil.
  9. Bake at 375֯ for 45 minutes; Place in broiler for 2-3 minutes
  10. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Traditional Lasagna – This takes longer to make but is very delicious for holidays and special occasions.


Bolognese Sauce

½ lb. ground beef

½ lb. ground Italian sausage

1 Tbls. olive oil

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 small yellow onion, small dice

1 ½ cups fresh spinach leaves

½ red or yellow bell pepper, julienned

16 ounces tomato sauce

6 ounces tomato paste

16 ounce can diced tomatoes

2 tsps. Italian seasonings

½ tsp. fennel seeds

Salt and freshly ground pepper TT

1 container fresh basil leaves

Béchamel Sauce

4 Tbls. butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 ½ cups milk

Salt and freshly ground pepper TT


9 wavy lasagna noodles, boiled for 8-10 minutes, sprinkle with olive oil so they don’t stick

½ lb. ricotta cheese

½ lb. shredded mozzarella cheese

10 oz. freshly grated parmesan cheese


Bolognese Sauce

  1. Brown beef and sausage over medium-high heat. Break up with spoon to crumbles. Cook till all pink is done.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. In the same skillet over medium heat, add olive oil. When oil is shimmering add garlic, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.
  4. Add onion, spinach and bell pepper. Continue on medium-high heat until vegetables are softened – around 2-3 minutes
  5. Transfer to food processor and pulse until pureed.
  6. Return mixture to skillet. Add tomato sauce and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, fennel and salt and pepper TT. Stir.
  7. Cover and allow to simmer for 25-30 minutes on low heat. Stir occasionally.
  8. Stir in beef and sausage, and fresh basil.

Béchamel Sauce

  1. Add butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add flour, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.
  2. Gradually add in the milk, whisking until smooth.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook over medium heat, whisking often so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Thickens in about 5-7 minutes

Lasagna Prep

  1. Preheat oven to 350֯ . Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
  2. Layer bottom of pan with 3 lasagna noodles.
  3. Spread 1/3 of Bolognese sauce over the noodles, then 1/3 Béchamel sauce. Spread ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan to the edges.
  4. Repeat 2 more times.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, then broil for 2-3 minutes until top layer is slightly browned.
  6. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes before serving.


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