This post contains details about the use of the term Lasagna and Lasagne. In this post there is also a recipe for a Lasagna al Radicchio.

In Italian, baked pasta can be Pasta al forno, Pasta imbottita (stuffed pasta), Lasagna/ Lasagne or Pasticcio, (as it was called where we lived in Trieste, in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region.)

When my parents and I came to Australia we used to invite guests for Sunday lunch. Often on the menu, the finished baked dish was a Lasagna Bolognese. It consisted of layers of cooked green or white sheets of pasta (lasagne), interspersed with a slow-cooked ragù, béchamel, and Parmigiano.

But the Emilian Romanian people where the Bolognese version of this baked pasta dish originates, refer to the finished dish as Lasagne Bolognese.

A single, wide sheet of pasta is called a lasagna, the plural is lasagne. When we speak about the type and shape of pasta, it is always in the plural – spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, fettuccine etc. so lasagne is no different.

So, when we refer to the cooked dish, is it Lasagna or Lasagne?

 Recently I made a Lasagna from the Veneto region (stuffed with red radicchio, béchamel, ricotta and parmesan) and I intended to use the correct grammar. I have completed quite a bit of reading to research this issue.

It appears that over the centuries, the two usages have always alternated, but the plural (Lasagne) was more common. There are many theories about where the term comes from. There are various theories about the word lasagna and how it originated, one common and simple explanation is that it could have derived from the course Latin lasanum for cooking pot, or the ancient Greek and Roman laganum, the name for their flat pieces of dough.

Dictionaries are more likely to use Lasagne and because of this, recipes on the web also use Lasagne. Modern publishers because of the dictionary use of the term also prefer Lasagne, unless they are publishing traditional regional recipes from menus of local restaurants that have called their dish Lasagna. There appear not to be any set rules about the lexicon. This is confirmed in my three comprehensive Slow Food Editions of traditional, regional dishes that in total has 2,260 recipes from the Italian Osterie (local eateries).

Pellegrino Artusi has no references of Lasagna or Lasagne. His book is about home cooking and this baked form of pasta was rather lavish and not considered an everyday cooking dish. His book L’Artusi was first published in 1910, my edition is from 1978.

When I looked at the numerous books I have about Italian cuisine both in the Italian and English language I did not find many recipes for either Lasagne or Lasagna, but then I realized that when we are discussing traditional recipes of baked pasta from different regions (either layered or not) they use a variety of shapes of pasta and not sheets of lasagne and therefore cannot be called Lasana/Lasagne.

For example, some traditional Sicilian recipes for baked pasta are (language -Sicilian/ Italian / English):

Maccarona di zitu astufati/ Maccheroni di zite stufate/Baked pasta made with the zite shaped pasta.

Maccheruna au furnu amuricana /Maccheroni al forno alla modicana/ Baked pasta from Modica made with short shaped pasta.

Ncasciata/Pasta incassata/Pasta that has been encased.  This is a favourite dish of Montalbano. There are different versions of this dish, as the most popular versions are as made in Messina, Ragusa and in Palermo. In Messina and Ragusa the maccheroni could be short pasta such as rigatoni, ditali, zite or penne, while in Palermo the pasta are anelli or anellini (ring shapes). Montalbano would be eating the one fro Modica.

In my Sicilian texts there are also recipes for:

Timbale/Timballo that is also made with maccheroni but encased in slices of fried eggplant (derived from the word drum, encased/shaped like a drum).

Gattó, derived from the French word gâteau, (food baked or served in the form of a cake) and used by the Sicilian monsu (derived from the French word monsieur –chefs who embraced the French cuisine in the homes of the well to do).

All of these Sicilian recipes of baked pasta mentioned above use short pasta shapes, a strong sugo and a variety of extras, for example – meatballs, salame, boiled eggs, eggplant and cheese. These combinations of various ingredients could also just as likely be called a Pasticcio (Greek Pastitsio) from pastiche – mixed styles, a mess. The names and combinations of ingredients are explicable as they fit with the cultural and culinary history of Sicily that was settled by various cultures – Greeks, Arabs, French, Spaniards.

In the more comprehensive collection of regional Italian recipe texts there are a couple of recipes that are referred to as Lasagne but they are made with lasagnette – narrow strips of pasta larger than fettucine; some types of lasagnette have curly edges.

And then there are recipes for Lagane/Laine, the traditional wide pasta strips  in Basilicata, Campania, Calabria and Puglia. It is traditionally served with legumes, mainly chick peas.

In my more modern Italian texts there are very few Lasagne recipes, but there are a few that are the Open Lasagne/ Lasagne deconstructed, i.e. the layers are constructed on the plate and and are not baked. Obviously the traditional Lasagna was out of favour.

My research tells me that in America, Lasagna is the more common usage, but in the UK the preferred usage is Lasagne. Once again I checked my books/web resources and this appeared to be true.

I also found it interesting that some references indicated that In Northern Italy the most common lexicon is Lasagne and in Southern Italy the preferred usage is Lasagna, but not so, the books/web resources I used did not reflect this. Although, every time I found the baked pasta from Napoli (in southern Italy), it was always called Lasagna, but one reference/example cannot apply to all of southern Italy.

After all of this (I am a sucker for punishment, it took me several days to research it), I can assume that the two forms are both still used and are equally correct. The terminology, whether in speech or in writing refers equivalently to the same thing:

Lasagna or Lasagne are both acceptable alternatives.

Lasagna al radicchio

*Cooked radicchio is much more intensely bitter than fresh radicchio. If you do not like bitter tastes don’t make this Lasagna.

The béchamel sweetens the taste and this is why I also used Ricotta. Nutmeg, for me, always adds a delicate sweetness to the taste, especially when used with milk.

I can only buy the round Radicchio at the Queen Victoria Market (Chioggia) and this is what I have used. Trevisano or Tardivo radicchio is used in Italy, both have narrow long leaves. All three are red radicchi (plural of radicchio).

I used a commercial pasta this time.

250 g lasagne. (9oz) fresh or dried

1 onion, chopped

2 -3 heads of radicchio,  cut into quarters and then sliced thickly

150g grated Parmesan and 350g of ricotta

Salt and black pepper to taste

4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and 3 tbs butter

100ml white wine

a few fresh bay leaves

For the béchamel:

110g butter

80 g corn flour

1litre whole milk milk, approx. 4 full cups (have some more on hand just in case the béchamel becomes too thick

 a little nutmeg, grated

Cook the radicchio

In a large frying pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil and butter, sauté the onion until it begins to soften. Add the radicchio and bay leaves and cook for about 10 minutes over gentle heat. Add salt and pepper and wine and evaporate the liquid. If there is too much liquid in the pan use tongs to pull out the radicchio and evaporate the wine further. (I like the taste of wine and therefore am prepared to use this process). Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Make the béchamel (white sauce)

Heat the milk but do not boil. Put the butter in a pan over a low heat, melt it, add the flour and mix until it forms a thick paste (roux). Remove it from the heat and slowly add the milk stirring continuously. Try to prevent lumps. Place the pan on heat and keep stirring constantly until it starts to thicken. It will take about 5 mins. If it is too thick add more milk (cold is fine as you won’t need much). Add grated nutmeg, add some salt. You may wish to taste it especially if you have used salted butter.


Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water. You may wish to cook half of the sheets per time to keep them from sticking together. Cook them till just before they are at the al dente stage as you will be baking them. Drain them and plunge them into cold water so that they do not stick together.

To Assemble

Begin the layering process in a baking tray.

Select a baking pan that will accomodate the contents. I played around with the baking trys i have and decided on one that was:  35x 25x 7 cm. Aim for 3 layers:  a little béchamel, a layer of pasta, radicchio, distribute some grated cheese, ricotta in small pieces. Begin again with the pasta, radicchio etc. Finish with a pasta layer and top with a little bechamel, some grated cheese and ricotta in small pieces. Grate more nutmeg on top.

Bake at 200°c degrees.

Cook for the first 20-25 mins covered with foil. Remove the foil and continue cooking for another 10 mins uncovered until the top is crisp, bubbly and golden on top). Remove from the oven, allow to rest for about 10 mins and serve.



EMIGLIA ROMAGNA and their love of stuffed pasta



COZZE-Mussels, Crostini (canapés)

Crostini made with mussels.

I do like mussels (called cozzuli in Sicilian and cozze in Italian) and they are sustainable, but more often than not I cook too many (usually steamed in a little white wine, garlic, parsley, chili and eaten with bread). What to do with left over mussel meat? This is not ever a problem, but for something different try these.

Crostini (from the Latin, crusta – crust) are thin slices of toasted bread, cut small, brushed with olive oil and then toasted. Crostini are eaten like canapés spread with different toppings (usually chicken livers) and served with drinks. But these Sicilian crostini are different and remind me of French toast. In this recipe, the mussel shells are discarded; the mussel meat is made into a paste and is then sandwiched between two small slices of bread. It is then dipped in beaten egg, and fried. They make wonderful morsels.

Perhaps there is some French influence in this recipe because it contains besciamella. Some Italian culinary historians believe it was brought to France by the Italian cooks of Marie de Medici but the most common story is that the court chef named the sauce after an important steward in Louis fourteenth’s court – Louis de Béchameil. Originally béchamel was made by adding cream to a thickened stock but the more common and more modern version is made by adding hot milk to a roux of butter and flour. Some béchamel also contains the vegetables found in stock.

mussel meat, about 1 cup (chopped, Australian mussels are much larger than those found in Catania)
bread, thin slices, good quality, sourdough or pasta dura, no crusts. Day old bread will cut better. (I like to use sourdough baguettes – good size for mouths)
pecorino cheese, ½ cup , grated
eggs, 3 extra virgin olive oil for frying
tomato salsa, 1 cup (made with 500g of tomatoes, 2 garlic cloves, fresh basil leaves, sea salt, ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil).
Place all of the ingredients and any liquid from the mussels in a saucepan and cook uncovered until reduced to about 1 cup. Use cool.

Besciamella (besciamelle or béchamel sauce), 1 cup:

1 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoons flour, 1 cup milk, freshly ground nutmeg, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Melt the butter and add the flour in a saucepan over a moderate heat, cook the mixture while stirring with a wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes. Over the heat gradually add the milk while stirring to stop lumps occurring. When all the milk is added continue to cook while stirring until the mixture thickens (it should be quite thick). Season, add nutmeg, remove the pan and allow to cool.

Mix the salsa, besciamella, ground pepper, mussel meat and cheese.
Cut the bread to size and thickness about 1cm.
Spread this mixture thickly between slices of bread, like when making sandwiches.
Dip the sandwiches briefly in the egg but allow the egg to soak in. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and fry the sandwiches on each side. Serve hot.

Chine va chjanu, va sanu e va luntanu (Sicilian proverb).
Chi va piano, va sano e va lontano. (Le cose fatte con calma sono le migliori).
The best things are made when calm.