Lasagna is the quintessential comfort food, a decadent, rich dish that warms the soul and adapts seamlessly to meat, seafood and vegetarian varieties. Many chefs can testify to the long tenure of lasagna’s popularity. It’s a dish that simply refuses to go out of style.
Worth the work
Carla Gomes added it to the menu at Antico Forno, her Southern Italian restaurant in Boston, back in 1999. The recipe for the restaurant’s roasted vegetable lasagna came from Mario Nocera, her Italian-born chef. When he left, his lasagna stayed on. Gomes and her team make two sheet pans a day to accommodate the 30-plus servings. They purchase homemade lasagna sheets from Maria’s Gourmet Pasta in Malden, Massachusetts, and use San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce. The tomato variety is important, Gomes says. “San Marzano tomatoes, grown in Italy’s Mount Vesuvius area, are the best tomatoes for the sauce, because they have fewer seeds, a stronger, sweeter taste and are less acidic.”
The dish has three layers each of roasted vegetables, mozzarella cheese, pasta and tomato sauce, and is baked in a terra cotta dish in a brick oven. It sells for $14 on the lunch menu and $17 for dinner.
“It’s definitely a cost-efficient dish, because the ingredients are inexpensive,” Gomes says, adding that her food costs range between 25% and 30%. “If there is an expense, it has more to do with the labor-intensiveness, and that’s what chefs need to consider before putting it on the menu.”
It’s a meal-in-a-dish that doesn’t require anything alongside it, Gomes adds. And, consider its homey connotations. “It’s a comfort food that reminds people of home and their mothers making it,” she says. “It’s versatile, easy to make, inexpensive, and its ingredients are easily obtained by ordinary people. What’s more, it’s nutritious, tastes good, is filling, and it’s always better the second day.”
Chefs shouldn’t shy away from serving lasagna on that second day, providing it is cooked, cooled and reheated correctly, says Bruce Mattel, associate dean, food production, The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York. “Often, by the second day, the flavors have married
together. And once it’s cooked and completely cooled, it portions in a much cleaner, easier way.” Read more … (PDF)