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Grim's Grub: A layered history for layered food

Here's another Debbie Grimler recipe

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Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

I'm going to say the most controversial thing I have ever said while writing for this newspaper.

My mother's lasagna was the best lasagna.

I know you probably think your mother made the best lasagna - everybody does - but I'm just here to set the record straight for posterity.

Speaking of posterity and lasagna, let's look at where lasagna comes from. It turns out the word "lasagna" comes from ancient Greece where "laganon" was the name for what is considered the first known form of pasta (at least in the West). The word actually describes the noodle, much like what we know - a wide noodle that was rolled out into long, rectangular strips.

The Greeks also made their own dish called Laganon, which some consider the first lasagna. Others consider it more of a precursor because the layers in this dish would have been full of more traditional Greek fillings instead of Italian, specifically just pasta and some type of sauce, though tomato sauce would not yet be an option here, or almost anywhere at this time. (Many thought they were poisonous).

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So, if the lack of Italian filling separates lasagna from lagonon, then you might think lasagna was originally made in Italy. To be fair, Italy does like to claim dibs. But the earliest written reference that lands close to the mark is from a cookbook printed in 1390 from, believe it or not, Britain. Around this time, still generally considering tomatoes poisonous, the dish included many of the familiar ingredients but still no tomato sauce.

Italy didn't place its mark on the history of lasagna until the publication of a cookbook in Naples in 1880, at which time they finally completed the dish with a luscious, slow cooked tomato sauce, and lasagna took the shape we know it as today.

It turns out we got one thing wrong though. Linguistically the word "lasagna" means just one noodle. The dish created with several noodles is lasagne, which is plural. But it isn't like anyone is going to argue with you over that. Their mouths should be too full.

classic-lasagna-baking-dish-shutterstock.jpg
A 9x13 baking dish of classic lasagna fresh out of the oven.
Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

Debbie Grimler's Classic Lasagna

  • 1/2 pound ground hamburger
  • 1/2 pound ground Italian sausage
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 punnet fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • Italian seasoning blend, to taste
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 10 noodles, cooked according to box instructions
  • 2/3 cups Parmesan cheese
  • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella (or more)
  • 8 ounces Romano or Asiago cheese (or more)
  • Approximately 24 ounces cottage cheese or ricotta cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan over medium high heat, brown your hamburger and Italian sausage. When done browning, strain the oil, but reserve about 2 tablespoons of oil.
Return the reserved oil to the pan and add the onion to sauté. Once the edges of the onion begin to soften, add the garlic and mushrooms. Once the onions appear translucent, return the meat to the pan and mix thoroughly before adding the sauce, Italian seasoning and bouillon. Simmer this mixture for half an hour while stirring.

Grease a 9x13-inch pan to avoid sticking. Lay down one layer of 5 noodles, overlapping, covering the bottom of the pan. Spoon over half of the hamburger and sauce mixture followed by 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, a layer of cottage cheese (use less if you prefer) and a layer of the other two cheeses (as thick as you like). Start a new layer by placing the remaining 5 noodles on top of the first layer, overlapping like before. Then repeat the above instruction, but do not repeat the layer of cottage cheese.

Cover this and bake for 45 minutes, then uncover it and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Immediately upon removing from the oven, sprinkle Italian seasoning on top and allow the lasagna to set 10 minutes before serving.

Dessert Lasagna

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  • 8 waffle cones (chocolate is a bonus)
  • 2 bottles magic shell chocolate sauce
  • 1 48-ounce carton of ice cream (vanilla or cookies and cream may work best)
  • 15.5 ounces frozen strawberries in syrup, partially thawed
  • Sprinkles or shaved chocolate

Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper (optional). Use a mixer to soften the ice cream until spreadable.
Boil a saucepan full of water. Use the steam to unroll your waffle cones. While still soft, layer four cones on the bottom of your pan, overlapping. You can cut off the overhangs on the edge of the pan, or allow them to curl up the side.

Use a rubber spreader to coat the flattened cones with a layer of chocolate. Next, add a thin layer of strawberries, reserving half of the strawberries, followed by up to half of the softened ice cream (you can freeze this between each layer if you are having trouble spreading the strawberries or ice cream).

Soften four more cones, again placing them on top of the ice cream and overlapping in the middle. Repeat the instructions listed above, then add sprinkles to the top. Thinner layers may be easier and healthier.

Cover this and place it in a freezer to harden overnight. If you used the parchment paper, you may be able to lift it out of the pan and slice pieces off this way. Otherwise, just be careful slicing them inside the pan, as the layers may be more solid than traditional lasagna.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.

Related Topics: FOODHISTORYGRIM'S GRUB
Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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