“Well,” I opined, “I imagine it is the manner in which the noodles lay in the pan.”
He shook his head sadly, as if to say you dunderhead, and asked, “Isn’t lasagna just noodles in a pan?” He then went on to say, ”I mean, really, if you think about it, whether the noodles are layered or rolled up and placed in the pan, both are lasagna.”
I stifled my initial reply and, waiting a few beats to allow my brain to engage before putting my mouth in gear, said “Let’s resolve this conundrum by turning to the Internet.”
We fired up his laptop. This is what we found:
The term lasagna can be traced to the Greek word laganon, which was a flat sheet of dough cut into strips. The Romans borrowed this word and turned it into lasanum, which refers to the dish in which lasagna is made .
“Holy moly,” I said. “You were right. Lasagna is lasagna is lasagna, no matter how you layer or roll the noodles because lasagna does not refer to the pasta itself but to the dish in which it is cooked!”
Lol looked at me and said, in his best impersonation of Perry Mason, “I rest my case.” He then walked off to find a bottle of good Chianti.
Here’s a recipe for rolled lasagna that our son, Robert, made for us and served on our back deck one perfect spring evening. These are great with a small side salad for lunch. For dinner, serve with a fresh garden salad and plenty of French bread. Lol recommends serving it with a bottle or two of Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Colledilà (2008) if you can still find it.
Why not make this as a vegetarian alternative for your holiday table?
8 lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 – 10 ounces whole mushrooms (sliced thin)
2 cups finely chopped baby spinach (chopped fine)
8 ounces firm tofu (patted dry and mashed)
6 ounces fresh mozzarella (mashed)
2 garlic cloves (minced fine)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3½ cups marinara sauce (divided)
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cook the lasagna noodles until just done (should be a little chewy). Remove from water and lay out on a clean towel to dry and to cool. Set aside.
Add butter and olive oil to a large frying pan and heat on medium-high heat. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems. Slice mushrooms thinly and add them to the pan. Cook, uncovered, for 5 to 6 minutes or until lightly browned and wilted. Set aside.
Mix spinach, tofu, moz., garlic, salt, and pepper together. Set this spinach mixture aside.
Lightly grease a 9×14-inch baking pan. Brush marinara sauce on the noodles. Divide the spinach mixture evenly between the noodles, spreading the mixture over the entire length of each noodle.
Layer mushrooms on top of the spinach mixture and roll up the noodles (like a jelly roll). As each noodle is rolled, place it seam side down, in the pan. Pour 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the roll ups, and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Cover tightly with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 10 minutes longer.
Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. While the roll ups are cooling, heat the remaining 1 cup marinara sauce in a medium saucepan until hot, pour into a serving bowl, and serve alongside plated roll ups.