My Search for Perfect Lasagna

Standard

When I was a teen and a senior in high school, I had the zany idea of trying to find the perfect lasagna.  I searched high and low, going to restaurants all over the tri-county area and even sampling homemade lasagnas.  I quickly found out that everybody makes their lasagna a little different yet each person thinks their lasagna is the best.  What was I looking for in the perfect lasagna?

  • Traditional – no spinach or other nonstandard ingredients.  No top-chef “plays” on traditional lasagna.  Just pasta, cheese and meat sauce with the correct ratio of seasonings, done with authenticity.  I guess Lasagne alla Bolognese would be the closest authentic equivalent to what I was looking for. 
  • Al dente pasta – no tough pieces of lasagna pasta; no exposed burned pieces of pasta, no overly mushy pasta.
  • Baked, not microwaved, stove-topped or done in some other manner.
  • Use high quality tomatoes – I should not be able to detect that tinny taste of cheap canned tomatoes, nor should the tomatoes used be “pre-seasoned” with all sorts of herbs and spices.  Canned Italian tomatoes are ideal, or the proper fresh ones.
  • Fresh cheese; not that highly salted jarred stuff and not the cheap rubberized tasteless stuff from the deli case either. 
  • Meat – should not be cheap hamburger, nor should it all be sweet Italian sausage…there must be a balance.

We met a friend at Macaroni Grill the other night.  I was talking and not paying attention to the menu and found myself being the last to order with everyone watching…so I got the “Trio” dinner of Caesar salad, Layers of Lasagna and the lemon cake.  The lasagna here was a big disappointment – Macaroni Grill used to have some really good lasagna & meatballs, but this stuff was textbook below-average: sloppy lasagna noodles cooked to the point of disintegration, pepperoni slices intermingled in the layers, sausage with a tough casing intact, oversauced yet dry…and salty. Yuck!

Besides the Macaroni Layers of Lasagna, one other thing that makes me shudder is when I hear the words “make ahead lasagna”…that is almost an automatic disqualification in my book – because it typically means the pasta will be overcooked.  Having said that, I recall that I only found one lasagna which passed muster after sampling dozens of them.  The winner came from a place called Santa’s in Debary, FL.  This place was decorated with Christmas stuff and it was really cheesy (pardon the pun) – I have not been there in ages but the lasagna was served in oblong dish and it had all of the hallmarks of a great dish of lasagna – fresh bechamel, perfect pasta, good tomatoes and sauce, balanced meat and spices…

Ever since those younger days when I went out looking for lasagna (!), I have not been too keen on lasagna…perhaps because I burned myself out on it, or discovered that there are many better things to be had in Italian restaurants.  From what I have seen, NONE of the chain places have good lasagna and not many of the privately owned restaurants have passable lasagna either.  I wonder if there are any good lasagna’s out there today?

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2 responses »

  1. Yeah I almost did not respond as my lasagna is def. the best. I do, however, enjoy the “cracklings” around the edge of the Pyrex dish and always request a side piece for those alone. I do agree with the extras quote…classic is best…no extras…they are used to hide a subpar dish. I will also say this…a poor pasta brand for linguine or penne should not be discounted for the lasagna until tried. Because what makes the former so great is really the anti-thesis of the lasagna pasta….go figure…I also think that an egg or two and salt and pep in the ricotta is key. I do not want to give away for free my recipe so I will stop there….but years ago was challenged by my “new” motherinlaw while bragging…had her over 2 weeks later…she took a few bites…and said….oh my goodness…this is good…and never spoke of it again….ever. ‘Nuff Ced.

  2. Pingback: Violette’s Lasagna « G.I. Crockpot

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