Celebrate Lasagna Day!
LASAGNA: Facts & Trivia
Green lasagna (lasagna verde) is flavored with spinach and pink lasagna is flavored with tomato
The etymology of the word lasagna is amusing. It starts with the Greek lasanon which means ‘chamber pot’! The Romans borrow it as lasanum to humorously refer to a ‘cooking pot’. Later, the Italian word lasagne (plural of lasagna) came to refer to a dish cooked in such a pot – flat sheets of pasta layered with minced meat and tomatoes topped with grated cheese. Soon, the word lasagna was applied to the pasta itself.
Question 1: When do historians believe the first lasagna noodle appeared?
B. Middle Ages
C. Modern Era
Correct answer: B. Middle Ages
One of the most primitive forms of pasta, lasagna was considered a staple during the Middle Ages.
Question 2: True or False? In Italy, you seldomly find rippled lasagna noodles.
True or False
Correct answer: True
While ruffled noodles are often used when making lasagna stateside, flat sheets of pasta are the norm in Italy.
Question 3: Aside from tomato sauce, what other sauce is frequently added to lasagna?
Answer: C. Béchamel
Rich, creamy béchamel is a component of many lasagna recipes.
Question 4: Just how heavy was the largest lasagna ever created?
A. 1 ton
B. 5 tons
C. 8 tons
Answer: B. 5 tons
Polish chefs constructed a mindbogglingly large lasagna to honor the Italian soccer team’s run in the 2012 Euro Cup. Weighing in at 5.29 tons, it trumped the previous world record: 4.09 tons.
Question 5: Which cartoon feline has a famous affinity for lasagna?
Answer: C. Garfield
Because he was born in Mamma Leoni’s Italian restaurant, Garfield quickly developed a love of Italian food — lasagna in particular.
Question 6: This is probably the most popular type of pasta. Sophia Loren has said that she owes everything she has to it. Rossini used a large plate of it to resolve the plot of his opera “L’Italiana in Algeri” (pasta ex machina?). People often struggle to eat it gracefully; the trick is to twirl it around your fork. What am I talking about?
Answer: D. Spaghetti
“Everything I have, I owe to spaghetti” said the magnificent Loren who will, unbelievably, turn seventy next year. Rossini, no stranger to the glories of the table himself, featured spaghetti in “L’Italiana in Algeri”. The Sultan Mustafa is in love with the captive Italian girl Isabella, who is herself in love with one of Mustafa’s other captive servants, Lindoro, whom she had known back in Italy. To dupe the sultan into allowing Isabella to return to Italy, he is asked by two of the Italians to accept the “honor” of becoming a “papatacci”. He is told that a “papatacci’s” duties are to eat large quantities of spaghetti, drink wine, and take long naps. They promptly present him with an enormous plate of spaghetti; while he is eating this, he scarcely takes note of the Italians, with Isabella on board, setting sail to return to Italy.
Question 7: This cut of pasta resembles the writing end of an old fashioned quill pen, hence its name. It is tubular and cut on the diagonal.
Answer: B. Penne
Penne come in a number of sizes and sometimes have ridges.
Question 8: Another tubular pasta is named for the grooves, or ridges along its sides which help it hold onto the sauce.
Answer: A. Rigatoni
Rigatoni also come in different sizes. They are an ideal choice for thick, chunky sauces, since their wide openings trap chunks of meat or vegetables.
Question 9: The name for this pasta translates to “little ears”, which they resemble.
Answer: C. Orecchiette
Orecchiette are made by taking marble-sized pieces of dough and pressing on them with the thumb to create an indentation.
Question 10: There are two names for this type of pasta, which consists of very thin hollow tubes. When cooked, they resemble thick spaghetti. One name is bucatini (from the word “buco”, meaning hole). What is the other name?
Perciatelli, or bucatini, are rather difficult (but fun) to eat, since their thickness makes it difficult to twirl around a fork.
Question 11: Which of the following is NOT a stuffed pasta?
Answer: B. Malloreddus
Malloreddus, like Orecchiette, are made by pressing small pieces of dough with the thumb, in this case onto a textured surface such as the bottom of a straw basket or the underside of a cheese grater. The dough for maloreddus often contains saffron. Tortelline, cappellacci, and agnoli are all small stuffed pastas.
Question 12: This type of spaghetti is handmade on an implement resembling a zither or a box-shaped harp. It has many wires running across. The pasta dough is rolled across and falls through cut into thin strands. What is the name for this type of pasta?
B. Pasta alla chitarra
The “chitarra” (the name means “guitar”) is the implement on which spaghetti was probably first made. It produces somewhat square-shaped spaghetti. Ready-made “pasta alla chitarra” in dry form is now available at many groceries (however its much more fun to make it “a mano”).
Question 13: This type of pasta is usually made from scraps of dough cut irregularly into triangles. It is principally used in soups. Its name means “badly cut”. Which is it?
Answer: D. Maltagliati
Maltagliati are made by folding the dough into quarters lengthwise and cutting on the bias. Great care need not be taken to cut them to the same exact size since, as the name implies, the are supposed to be “badly cut”.
Question 14: “Little worms” and “little tongues” are the rather unappetizing translations of the names of these two pastas.
A. Vermicelli and linguine
B. Fettucicne and linguine
C. Vermicelli and fettuccine
D. Tagliatelle and linguine
Answer: A. Vermicelli and linguine
Vermicelli is a very thin spaghetti which is sometimes broken up and added to soups. Linguine is somewhat thicker and flatter and is the ideal choice to be served “alla vongole”- with clams, olive oil, and garlic.
Question 15. Of the following, three are types of pasta, the fourth is a name for almond paste. Which one is the odd man out?
A. Pasta alla Chitarra
B. Pasta Casalinga
C. Pasta Reale
D. Pasta Grattata
Answer: C. Pasta Reale
Pasta reale (reale means “regal” or “royal”) is made from ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites. Pasta Casalinga means “Home-style pasta”, pasta grattata is a type of pasta dough that is grated into hot broth to make soup. Pasta alla chitarra has been discussed in question 7.
Question 16. Gnocchi is a type of dumpling which is usually made from potatoes and flour, but can also be made from rice, ricotta cheese, pumpkin, or even bread crumbs. Or they may be flat discs made from a semolino mixture, layered in a pan, and baked with either a sauce or butter and cheese on top. Which is the name for the traditional potato gnocchi?
A. Gnocchi di zucca
B. Gnocchi di riso
C. Gnocchi verdi
D. Gnocchi di patate
Answer: D. Gnocchi di patate
Gnocchi di patate are made from a lighter dough than the usual pasta dough. They are usually formed by being rolled off the thumb against the tines of a fork to form indentations to hold the sauce. Gnocchi di zucca are made with pumpkin or winter squash (such as Butternut squash). Gnocchi verdi (“green” gnocchi) are made with spinach. Gnocchi di riso is made with rice.
Question 17. In what way are tortelloni different from tortellini?
A. Tortelloni are larger.
B. Tortelloni are made with spinach in the dough.
C. Tortelloni are filled with meat, tortellini with cheese.
D. Tortelloni are shaped differently.
Answer: A. Tortelloni are larger.
The suffix “-one” indicates a larger size; hence “minestrone” is a big, hearty soup, whereas “minestra” is a lighter, thinner soup. “Panettone”, the traditional Milanese sweet bread, is a large, high loaf. “Polpettone” is a meatloaf whereas “polpette” are meatballs. “Tortelloni” are large stuffed pasta circles of the same shape as “tortellini”; they are served much like ravioli.
Quesiton 18. Bow-tie pasta is known by this name in Italian, which means “butterflies”.
Answer: B. Farfalle
Farfalle are made with squares of dough cut with a ravioli-cutter and then pinched in the center to form the “bow” (or “butterfly”). Alternately, they can be made with circles of dough cut with a small, fluted biscuit cutter and pinched the same way.
Question 19. Spaghetti and meatballs is the most common pasta dish served in America. If you wanted to order this in Italian, what would you ask for?
A. Spaghetti con le salsicce
B. Spaghetti con polpette
C. Spaghetti con le vongole
D. Spaghetti con le melanzane
Answer: B. Spaghetti con polpette
Italian “polpette” are much smaller than those served in America; about the size of marbles. (Salsicce is sausage, vongole are clams, and melanzane is eggplant.)
Question 20. Ragu is the brand name of an American brand of pasta sauce, not the name of an actual Italian pasta sauce.
The name “ragu” indicates a rich, thick sauce usually containing meat and/or chunks of vegetables. It is derived from the same root as the French “ragout”, meaning a thick stew. The commercial pasta sauce “Ragu” took its name from this traditional type of sauce.
Question 21: This sauce is named for the “ladies of the evening”. It is quickly prepared and contains tomatoes, peperoncini (small hot peppers), olives, garlic, capers, and anchovies. Which of these is it?
A. Aglio e’ olio
Answer: B. Puttanesca
There is some question as to how this sauce got its name; the most popular explanation is that its quick preparation made it popular among the “working girls” of Italy, who needed something to throw together for dinner between “jobs”. However Sophia Loren, in her cookbook, opines that the term “puttana” is not always necessarily a pejorative term; it may also describe a zestful, vivacious, “spicy” woman, which is also a description of the sauce itself.
22. This meat sauce is named from its city of origin, which is known for the richness of its cuisine. It contains meat, tomatoes, and cream and, as traditionally made, is seasoned with cinnamon.
Answer: A. Bolognese
Sauce Bolognese is a long-simmered sauce made with ground or chopped meats simmered with tomatoes and aromatics. Toward the end of the cooking time, heavy cream is added. It may be used to make lasagne or tossed with pasta and cheese. The cinnamon used is true cinnamon, which has a different flavor from the kind commonly found in America (this is usually Cassia bark).
23. Fettuccine Alfredo, created at the restaurant “Alfredo” in Rome, is popular with American tourists. It was created in the early 1900s by chef Alfredo di Lelio for his wife, who had just given birth. It was later served to the American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks; they loved it and it became a favorite of visiting celebrities ever since. American versions of this dish are made with an “Alfredo sauce”, containing cream, butter, cheese, egg yolk, etc. However the original dish uses only these two ingredients.
A. Double cream (crema doppia) and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
B. Triple butter (triplo burro) and crema doppia (double cream)
C. Triple butter (triplo burro) and grated pecorino Romano
D. Triple butter (triplo burro) and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Answer: D. Triple butter (triplo burro) and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Triplo burro is a very rich butter, as the name implies, which melts to a creamier consistency than most American-made butter, so that the addition of cream is unnecessary. At “Alfredo’s”, the freshly cooked fettuccine is tossed with a large quantity of the butter and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; this is usually done at tableside with great fanfare. The dish is actually not much eaten in Italy except by tourists, though pasta dishes with butter and cheese are not unknown in Italy, especially in the North.
24. Pesto, a green herb sauce from Genoa, has become a “trendy” dressing for pasta in America in the past two decades. What are its traditional ingredients?
A. Fresh basil, olive oil, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and cream
B. Fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, and grated Pecorino-Romano
C. Fresh basil, olive oil, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and butter.
D. Fresh basil, olive oil, fresh garlic, pine nuts, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Answer: D. Fresh basil, olive oil, fresh garlic, pine nuts, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
In Genoa, the ingredients (except for the cheese) are ground in a mortar and great care is taken to use only the smaller, tender leaves of the basil. The sauce is then tossed with the cooked pasta and cheese (it is not cooked). It can also be made, far more easily, in the blender. Purists prefer the more painstaking method; however Marcella Hazan, in her groundbreaking “Classic Italian Cooking”, points out that, while the traditional method is better, pesto is so good made either way that one should not be discouraged from making it the easier way.
25. Pasta served “all’ Arrabbiata” is made with a tomato sauce containing this key ingredient.
D. Hot crushed pepper
Answer: D. Hot crushed pepper
“All’ Arrabiata” means “in a rage” and derives from the fiery flavor given to the sauce by the peperoncini. (Lobster, in Italian is “aragosta”, anchovies are “acciughe”, vodka is the same in both languages).
Question 26. Two kinds of fettuccine, regular egg fettuccine and fettuccine verde (green fettuccine made with spinach) are used to make “Paglia e fieno”, a dish containing cream, butter, cheese, and possibly prosciutto. What does the name “paglia e fiene” mean in English?
A. Grass and straw
B. Green and yellow
C. Hay and straw
D. Grass and hay
Answer: C. Hay and straw
In my family, this is traditionally made on Christmas Eve (sans the prosciutto). San Giorgio (and some other pasta companies) sells boxes of the two-color fettuccine to make this dish.
Question 27. If you wanted linguine with clam sauce, you would ask for this in Italy.
A. Linguine ai gamberi
B. Linguine alle vongole
C. Linguine alle conchiglie
D. Linguine alle capesante
Answer: B. Linguine alle vongole
The clams from the Adriatic are little larger than a thumbnail; they are generally used and served in the shell for this dish. (Gamberi are shrimp, conchiglie is conch, and capesante are scallops).
Question 28. What is the name for pasta tossed with egg yolk, pancetta (bacon), grated cheese, and cracked black pepper?
B. All ‘amatriciana
Answer: A. Carbonara
The name “carbone” means coal in Italian; presumably this dish was invented among coal-miners.
Question 29. Pasta “Aglio e olio” traditionally uses these two ingredients.
A. Olive oil and anchovies
B. Garlic and butter
C. Olive oil and garlic
D. Garlic and parsley
Answer: C. Olive oil and garlic
Aglio means “garlic”, olio means “oil”- no true Italian cook would attempt to make this dish with anything but olive oil. Other possible ingredients are peperoncini (hot peppers) and chopped fresh Italian parsley.Traditionally, this dish is not served with grated cheese.
Question 30. Cannelloni is a stuffed, tubular pasta; what stuffing and topping is most typically used?
A. A meat filling and a bechamel (white) sauce.
B. A ricotta cheese filling and a tomato sauce.
C. A vegetable filling and a topping of butter and cheese.
D. A meat filling and a topping of tomato sauce.
Answer: A. A meat filling and a bechamel (white) sauce
While any of these are possible, the dish is traditionally made with a pork or veal filling and baked with a topping of Bechamel sauce and, possibly, cheese.