My First Lasagna§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: March 6, 2010; revised: March 24, 2018; readers in past month: 820


When I was a child, my grandmother would make a wonderfully tasting lasagna. Unfortunately, she has since died, leaving me without another source for that lasagna. So I have been searching for many years to find lasagna similar to the way she made it. I’ve tried lasagna at many restaurants over the years, but have not come close to finding it. I thought by coming to Italy, I would be in lasagna heaven and thereby find any type of lasagna I might want. Actually, I have been somewhat disappointed by the lasagna in Italy so far: not only the content, but the taste.

The primary ingredient in my grandmother’s lasagna was roast beef. She didn’t use ground beef. When she made lasagna, she did it over two days. She would slow roast the beef and make the tomato sauce one day and then assemble and bake the lasagna the next day before serving. This is why she didn’t make it too often and why restaurants don’t make it this way.

Given the unlikely chance that I will ever find what I want, I decided recently to try to make it myself. A couple of months ago I started practicing making a tomato sauce similar to my grandmother’s, but more to my liking. I have also worked on learning to roast beef. Last week I discovered that I could get fresh pasta sheets for lasagna at the grocery store here. Feeling ready, I made my first attempt this past night. Here are the layers that make up this lasagna, at least as I’ve ordered them so far:

Lasagna Layers (top to bottom) sprinkle of parmagian cheese thin layer of pesto sauce ricotta cheese only mix tomato sauce … pasta … ricotta cheese & spinach mix baked eggplant (thin) sprinkle of parmagian cheese tomato sauce … pasta … mozarella cheese thinly sliced roast beef tomato sauce … pasta … sprinkle of parmagian cheese smear of tomato sauce

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As you can see from this list, it’s a pretty elaborate process to make the ingredients, as well as to assemble. No component came out quite right: The roast I bought was larger than I had tried in the past couple of months, so getting it roasted all the way through was difficult. While rare beef might be good on its own, it’s not the same buried within a lasagna. I sliced the eggplant too thin in parts, so I burned some slices. The result was I had to throw some out, and trim others. I ended up not having as much baked eggplant material for the eggplant layer. When I experimented on tomato sauces over the past couple of months, I made enough sauce for a good size bowl of pasta. It didn’t occur to me that I would need more for lasanga. After I started making the lasagna, I realized this, so I put together another batch of sauce. However, it still wasn’t enough. I probably needed three batches of tomato sauce. Finally, I think the pesto on the top was pointless; it seemed like a distraction from the rest of the medley. There are many other nuances I need to work on, but that’s natural not only when learning a recipe, but especially when developing a recipe as I am doing. The important thing is that I’ve started the process to creating a lasagna the way I like it. Oh, and it tastes pretty good so far. So it should only get better from here.