Darwin would be proud of lasagna. Talk about the power of evolution and global contribution. We can start 2,000 years ago in ancient Rome, with lagana, arguably the world’s first sheet of fresh pasta. The word evolved into lasagna, as did the pasta itself, and as did the way of preparing it. Meanwhile, over the centuries tomatoes migrated to Italy from the Americas via the explorers and black pepper came from the Far East, probably India. Cheese, older than recorded history, came from either Europe or the Middle East, but no one is really certain. And the pig? Despite its personal hygiene, it has managed to survive almost everywhere for millenia.
Given the centuries of culinary cross-pollination, it is no wonder that pasta and cheese combine easily with so many other ingredients. And perhaps lasagna is the most versatile pasta dish of all, with seemingly limitless ingredient combinations. I love it with spinach or roasted red peppers, though a Bolognese meat sauce it is most popular in America. Here, however, I add pork loin for a heartier twist. Truly a dish of historic significance! Or, depending on your viewpoint, truly divine! All I know for sure is that it tastes good.
Rub the pork loin with garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil and let it marinate for several hours or overnight. Cut the pork into small, bite-sized pieces.
Dice the onion, celery and garlic and carrot into small pieces. In a large pot, saute the onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil until translucent, then add the garlic and cook together until lightly golden. Add the pork stir for a minute or two until the pork is no longer pink. Add the wine and allow it to mostly evaporate. After a couple of minutes, puree the tomatoes and add to the vegetables, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1 hour, stirring regularly, or until thickened.
In a large bowl, mix eggs into the ricotta. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and ¾ of the mozzarella.
In plenty of salted water, cook the lasagna for half of the suggested package cooking time, drain and set aside. Coat the bottom of a bake-proof pan (9 x 11 or other similar size at least 3" deep) with a little olive oil, and then cover with 3/4 cup of sauce. Then start layering: a layer of lasagna (slightly overlapping), a layer of the ricotta mixture, and 3/4 cup of sauce. Repeat layers until you reach the top of the pan. (Depending on the depth and size of the pan, you may have left over lasagna, or you can make more layers with slightly less filling between layers.) Cover top with a layer of lasagna, and 3/4 cup of the sauce, the remaining mozzarella and a generous sprinkle of Parmigiano. Cover with aluminum foil and cook at 350° F for about 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 10-15 minutes until top is browned. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Check out our wine pairings to compliment this dish.
Ed Garrubbo, Editor