If you know me, you know that lasagna is my absolute favourite food. A dish I affectionately referred to as “plop-plop” from as long ago as I can remember (because of the curving edges of its pasta), I can eat lasagna hot or cold. No store-bought version has ever satisfied my refined plop-plop palate and the time that must be devoted to making it from scratch means it’s only an occasional feast for me. This is probably a good thing, too, as its rich ingredients of beef, ricotta, mozzarella are probably best consumed in moderation.
The concept of “everything in moderation”, was one with which I had some difficulty while in Italy recently with my family. In fact, “consumed with gusto” is probably more accurate. Staying at a working fattoria (in this case a working vineyard and olive grove), we were able to cook our own meals for the most part and pack picnics for our Tuscan countryside day trips. We did, however, indulge in two traditional Tuscan meals at the on site restaurant prepared and served by the owners. As expected, an antipasto was first served, followed by the primo piatto, and then the secondi served with a simple salad. Dessert was also not neglected served alongsise the customary espresso (whose stovetop preparation I never quite mastered and must return to Italy to properly apprentice).
A lover of pasta, it does not quite sit right with me that pasta is given second billing to the meat course (though the term primo does give it an aura of superiority to secondi) being the precursor to the main event. In both cases the main event was pretty incredible but I totally savoured the pasta. In fact, during our Last Supper in Tuscany, it was announced that lasagna would be served as the primo piatto. Insert the emoticon 😮 here as I’m sure that’s how I reacted.
The dish I was served bore no resemblance to the homestyle lasagna for which I had developed such an affection. Yes, there was tomato sauce, pasta, cheese and beef but its combination achieved resulted in nothing short of a culinary masterpiece, a sonata of salivating, an opus of yum-yum. Its rich, creamy, béchamel-like texture, fresh pasta, simmered sauce and sparing use of ground beef totally defies an appropriate expression. Its consumption was not a messy, peeling of layers but a smooth, luscious bond of ingredients that all held on my fork and lingered on my palate… still… to this day….
Repeated mmmmm’s and ooooo’s emanated from our group as fully articulated accolades proved impossible, except for the one person in our family who spoke flawless Italian. His linguistic talent resulted in the gift of a second serving of this indulgent lasagna. I instantly vowed to learn Italian.
I doubt I can recreate this exceptional dish as its ingredients are probably not known to North American but I will try! Furthmore, I’ve been home for a week now and have yet to step on my bathroom scales for fear of its reply. Best use that device “in moderation” for another few weeks.
Ciao Italia, alla prossima!