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-   -   Lasagna: ricotta or bechamel? (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=880303)

DCnDC 08-12-2019 09:44 AM

Lasagna: ricotta or bechamel?
 
When you make (or just eat) lasagna, do you prefer ricotta or bechamel? Do you use both? Neither?

El_Kabong 08-12-2019 09:55 AM

Selected "Ricotta" but only because I've never had the version with béchamel.

Nava 08-12-2019 09:55 AM

For standard lasagna: bechamel, pasta (despite what some Spaniards appear to believe it's not lasagna if it doesn't have the flat planks of pasta which say "lasagna" on the box, excuse me while I switch back from werewolf form), tomato sauce, mince meat, an amount that an Italian would consider offensively small of medium-strength grated cheese (a strong cow's cheese, say; not as strong as a peccorino romano or a parmigiano, but you should notice you've encountered it, eh?). Minced bacon optional. No ricotta.

Lasagna with other fillers will have the cheesiness adjusted and may get bechamel instead of tomato for the filler itself (spinach lasagna, for example) or even no sauce (zuchinni lasagna works well with no filler-sauce).

I grew up with Barcelona's "traditional Christmas menus", which depending on who you ask inspired Rossini's canelloni or copied them: the canelloni I grew up eating on Boxing Day use the same pasta as the lasagna, the same bechamel, the same cheese on top (no tomato for the filler though).

AHunter3 08-12-2019 09:59 AM

If I'm going to go the bechamel sauce route, I'm making pastitsio, not lasagna.

CairoCarol 08-12-2019 10:05 AM

My first foray into lasagna was using a recipe from Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook - rather painstaking, but quite luscious. It called for bechamel, so that's what I used.

But I'll occasionally just make a lasagna with whatever I feel like using for the layers. If I do that, sure, I might use ricotta.

mixdenny 08-12-2019 10:22 AM

Small curd cottage cheese for me.

Dennis

pulykamell 08-12-2019 10:36 AM

Both are fine, but I prefer the bolognese-bechamel version.

SanVito 08-12-2019 10:36 AM

Bechamel of course, what's wrong with you heathens?

Beckdawrek 08-12-2019 10:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mixdenny (Post 21801603)
Small curd cottage cheese for me.

Dennis

Agree

bobot 08-12-2019 10:38 AM

I don't know what béchamel is. When I make lasagna a single layer of ricotta is required. Also included are parmesan and, of course, mozzarella.
(Oddly, I never use ricotta in any other way. If I buy ricotta it's because I am making lasagna.)

SanVito 08-12-2019 10:43 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bobot (Post 21801635)
I don't know what béchamel is. When I make lasagna a single layer of ricotta is required. Also included are parmesan and, of course, mozzarella.
(Oddly, I never use ricotta in any other way. If I buy ricotta it's because I am making lasagna.)

It's a white sauce, used in lasagne. In Italy.

Ricotta is too thick, claggy and cheesy.

bobot 08-12-2019 10:44 AM

I also did not actively add that little slash thing over the E in béchamel, it just popped up automatically. Spell check continues to amuse this old guy.

aceplace57 08-12-2019 11:11 AM

béchamel is my favorite sauce.

Shoeless 08-12-2019 12:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bobot (Post 21801635)
I don't know what béchamel is. When I make lasagna a single layer of ricotta is required. Also included are parmesan and, of course, mozzarella.
(Oddly, I never use ricotta in any other way. If I buy ricotta it's because I am making lasagna.)

I voted ricotta. I know what bechamel is but I've never heard of using it in lasagna.

bobot I also use ricotta when I make manicotti.

Chronos 08-12-2019 12:28 PM

I'm another cottage cheese user. Which I suppose, of the two options, is closer to ricotta, but ricotta is too fancy for me.

I'll also have mozerella in other layers. And lots of other stuff.

EDIT: For some reason, in the US, it's common for red lasagna to be made with meat, and for white lasagna (with bechamel replacing the tomato sauce) to be made with veggies. If a menus says "vegetarian lasagna", it probably means the white stuff, even though you could just take a red recipe and leave out the meat and still have a perfectly good dish, and you could likewise add ham or bacon to the white stuff and have another perfectly good dish.

bibliophage 08-12-2019 12:30 PM

Ricotta, but not straight ricotta: a mixture of ricotta, beaten raw egg, herbs, and a little bit of milk. Thin enough to spread before cooking but it firms up by the time the lasagna is cooked.

Sternvogel 08-12-2019 04:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by El_Kabong (Post 21801532)
Selected "Ricotta" but only because I've never had the version with béchamel.

Same here, As a matter of fact, I'm just about to start preparing lasagna from a recipe which features ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses, as well as spinach and leftover meat from yesterday's roast chicken dinner.

Aspidistra 08-12-2019 04:23 PM

I never even knew lasagne with ricotta was a thing until ... some time last year I think. On these boards. So, bechamel all the way. Or, to use good old ozzie no-frills terminology - White. Sauce.

D_Odds 08-12-2019 04:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pulykamell (Post 21801625)
Both are fine, but I prefer the bolognese-bechamel version.

Agreed. When I'm going through the effort to make a slow-simmered bolognese sauce, definitely bechamel. When I am making a quick ground beef and/or sausage sauce, ricotta.

DCnDC 08-12-2019 04:38 PM

I don't use either. I don't like ricotta, and I've made it with and without bechamel and personally I can't really tell the difference, so I don't bother.

ThelmaLou 08-12-2019 04:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mixdenny (Post 21801603)
Small curd cottage cheese for me.

Dennis

Ditto this.

N9IWP 08-12-2019 04:43 PM

Cook's Country used cottage cheese and heavy cream in their quick lasagna:
https://www.cookscountry.com/videos/...y-beef-lasagna

Brian

seal_cleaner 08-12-2019 05:31 PM

Around here, some people use cottage cheese :mad:

Fiveyearlurker 08-12-2019 05:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by N9IWP (Post 21802447)
Cook's Country used cottage cheese and heavy cream in their quick lasagna:
https://www.cookscountry.com/videos/...y-beef-lasagna

Brian

This is the single thing I do not listen to the folks at America's Test Kitchen on. There is no way I'm putting cottage cheese in a lasagna. My Nana would never forgive me. Ricotta.

amarinth 08-12-2019 06:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bibliophage (Post 21801891)
Ricotta, but not straight ricotta: a mixture of ricotta, beaten raw egg, herbs, and a little bit of milk. Thin enough to spread before cooking but it firms up by the time the lasagna is cooked.

Last time I made lasagna, I "discovered" that putting the ricotta mixture into a pastry bag (well, technically a zip-lock bag with the end snipped off so it was pastry-bag-esque) and piping it out worked way better than trying to spread it with a spatula. Which never works.

Ricotta, but I'm not opposed to bechamel.
I am opposed to cottage cheese.

bobot 08-12-2019 06:32 PM

My mother would sometimes use cottage cheese instead of ricotta. It's why I didn't attend her funeral.

enipla 08-12-2019 06:38 PM

Ricotta. Only had the Béchamel once. It was at a very nice Italian restaurant. I was disappointed. I like my lasagna heavy and firm.

Same for manicotti and ravioli. Ricotta, with a few herbs in the cheese.

Made spaghetti from scratch yesterday. My Wife doesn't see the difference between that and the boxed stuff. She's away for the week, so it's a special treat for me.

Two Many Cats 08-12-2019 06:39 PM

I love lasagna and I love small curd cottage cheese. But together? GAACKKKK.

Meat and ricotta please, with tomato sauce.

Tamerlane 08-12-2019 06:39 PM

There is nothing, NOTHING, more disappointing than ordering the lasagna at a new restaurant and getting a bechamel version. Ugh :mad:. Now I make sure to ask.

Bechamel lasagna is of the devil.

D_Odds 08-12-2019 06:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fiveyearlurker (Post 21802532)
This is the single thing I do not listen to the folks at America's Test Kitchen on. There is no way I'm putting cottage cheese in a lasagna. My Nana would never forgive me. Ricotta.

It's not the single thing (there are several), but I'm in agreement. I do look for ricotta with no thickeners (xantham gum, etc.). Just milk, vinegar, salt. If I plan in advance, I'll even strain it.

ThisSpaceForRent 08-12-2019 06:58 PM

take the small (or large) curd cottage cheese and plus it in a food processor...instant fake ricotta. and just as good....smooth it out !!

Fair Rarity 08-12-2019 07:58 PM

I'm a bad Italian-descended American because I didn't even know bechamel was a lasagne thing until a few years ago. Ricotta all the way. Although the bechamel intrigues me. Sometimes a ricotta one gets too dried out and crunchy. Any frozen lasagne or chain restaurants offer a bechamel one that I could try a small portion of? If I made a whole tray of it and it sucked, I would hate to throw it away. And as I've never encountered it in a restaurant, I don't know think I'd find it in one of my local Italian places.

DinoR 08-12-2019 08:21 PM

I don't think I've even had bechamel in a lasagna. I've made it both with ricotta and a ricotta/cottage cheese mix.

Oredigger77 08-12-2019 09:03 PM

We used to have a poster that occasionally posted recipies as the angry chef that were hilarious. His lasagna was the best I've had. The last couple of times I've searched for it I couldn't find it any more.

I just googled it again and it was RickJay I really want him to write a cookbook.

araminty 08-12-2019 09:46 PM

So I think the difference, broadly speaking, is a north-south divide. Southern Italian and Sicilian families are more likely to make lasagne with ricotta, and were also more likely to immigrate to the USA. Northern Italians favour the besciamella style, and made up a greater proportion of European migrants to the UK and Australia. (Similarly, the earlier wave of Italian migration to the US happened before the invention of the espresso machine, so these families opened diners and served drip coffee. The later immigrants took their taste for espresso with them, and the delightful cafe culture of Melbourne is the result.)

I have served my besciamella bolognese lasagne to lots of Americans, many of whom have never tried it before, to great acclaim.

NAF1138 08-12-2019 10:46 PM

I don't, as a rule, like bechamel sauce. It's, fine I guess, but bland and vaguely like eating warm mayo. Ricotta for me.

elfkin477 08-12-2019 11:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bibliophage (Post 21801891)
Ricotta, but not straight ricotta: a mixture of ricotta, beaten raw egg, herbs, and a little bit of milk. Thin enough to spread before cooking but it firms up by the time the lasagna is cooked.

Right, like this.

Quote:

Originally Posted by amarinth (Post 21802590)
Last time I made lasagna, I "discovered" that putting the ricotta mixture into a pastry bag (well, technically a zip-lock bag with the end snipped off so it was pastry-bag-esque) and piping it out worked way better than trying to spread it with a spatula. Which never works.

It also is a great trick for manicotti.

pulykamell 08-12-2019 11:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fair Rarity (Post 21802745)
I'm a bad Italian-descended American because I didn't even know bechamel was a lasagne thing until a few years ago. Ricotta all the way. Although the bechamel intrigues me. Sometimes a ricotta one gets too dried out and crunchy. Any frozen lasagne or chain restaurants offer a bechamel one that I could try a small portion of? If I made a whole tray of it and it sucked, I would hate to throw it away. And as I've never encountered it in a restaurant, I don't know think I'd find it in one of my local Italian places.

No lasagna sucks, bechamel, ricotta, or filled with whatever craziness you want to fill it with.

That said, I didn't think I liked lasagna much until I found the Simili Sisters' recipe for it in an old issue of Saveur c. 2000. Here's a recipe for their excellent bolognese, which is one component of it. The whole recipe and story can be found here (site says 2008, but the original recipe was published in '99 or '00), but the site is not adblocker friendly, and the recipe is broken up into four parts (one for the spinach lasagna, one for the besciamella, one for the bolognese, and one for the the constructed lasagna.) The first time I made this recipe, my taste buds and my girlfriend's tastebuds were just blown. I just could not believe how something so simple (but time consuming) can be. Just concentrated flavors of beef and creamy, parmesan-y umami. I swear to god that first lasagna I made was the best dish I ever made in my life. I haven't been able to perfectly recreate it since -- I was living in Hungary at the time, so the beef was a bit different, and perhaps even the parmesan I used was different (actually, I remember I subbed a grana padano), but holy shit, just that bolognese was so concentrated and de-fucking-licious. My SO and I at the time just could not stop eating it straight from the pot.

Loach 08-12-2019 11:55 PM

My mother’s family came from Naples and I’ve never had a version cooked for me that didn’t use ricotta (pronounced with the New York Italian dialect).

MrDibble 08-13-2019 12:27 AM

I voted "both", but then remembered I'm much more likely to use a Mornay sauce than a plain besciamella .

But spinach noodles, always.

Nava 08-13-2019 02:20 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bibliophage (Post 21801891)
Ricotta, but not straight ricotta: a mixture of ricotta, beaten raw egg, herbs, and a little bit of milk. Thin enough to spread before cooking but it firms up by the time the lasagna is cooked.

OK, so you're making a cheesy bechamel. Apparently your lasagna marries north and south.


Quote:

Originally Posted by bobot (Post 21801651)
I also did not actively add that little slash thing over the E in béchamel, it just popped up automatically. Spell check continues to amuse this old guy.

Ooooh your spellchecker speaks French! Mine is happy with the Spanish version, no accent mark.

SanVito 08-13-2019 02:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Loach (Post 21803020)
My mother’s family came from Naples and I’ve never had a version cooked for me that didn’t use ricotta (pronounced with the New York Italian dialect).

Well, I spend time every year in Italy, and have never had it with ricotta instead of bechamel.

Honestly, you're all monsters. Monsters.

Nava 08-13-2019 02:27 AM

SanVito, they also make stuff with palm oil or with thickeners and call it "cheese". It's a strange day when a Spaniard and an Englishwoman agree that someone else's food needs scare quotes!

SanVito 08-13-2019 02:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nava (Post 21803108)
SanVito, they also make stuff with palm oil or with thickeners and call it "cheese". It's a strange day when a Spaniard and an Englishwoman agree that someone else's food needs scare quotes!

Ha! So true, but in fairness I'm not trying to defend English interpretations of Italian food (Lord only knows what my mother did to lasagne in the 70s, considering she used to put blackcurrent jam into her chicken curry).

pulykamell 08-13-2019 08:20 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SanVito (Post 21803107)
Well, I spend time every year in Italy, and have never had it with ricotta instead of bechamel.

Honestly, you're all monsters. Monsters.

But where in Italy? In the south, you'll find ricotta variations. This is where the Italian-American versions of lasagna hail from.

Note, for example, the Italian article on lasagna from Wikipedia:

Quote:

La versione napoletana della ricetta, che in questo caso non contempla utilizzo delle paste all'uovo, prevede tra gli ingredienti: il ragů di pomodoro, i latticini, in particolare Mozzarella o Provola, le polpettine di carne e la Ricotta romana.
Lasagna takes on many different forms. There's versions made with pesto, with hard-boiled eggs, with meatballs, with cheeses other than parmesan (like mozarella and ricotta), with vegetables, etc. It's not all lasagna alla bolognese. (Though that is the most perfect form of lasagna. ;) )

TRC4941 08-13-2019 08:46 AM

I had to look up "bechamel"! Never heard of it.

My cheese layers of lasagna consist of small curd cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and eggs. I find ricotta too dry. My Italian grandma never used ricotta either.

SanVito 08-13-2019 10:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pulykamell (Post 21803340)
But where in Italy? In the south, you'll find ricotta variations. This is where the Italian-American versions of lasagna hail from.

Note, for example, the Italian article on lasagna from Wikipedia:



Lasagna takes on many different forms. There's versions made with pesto, with hard-boiled eggs, with meatballs, with cheeses other than parmesan (like mozarella and ricotta), with vegetables, etc. It's not all lasagna alla bolognese. (Though that is the most perfect form of lasagna. ;) )

North, middle and in Puglia, although I do admit lasagne comes in many forms. If I'm ever in doubt about a dish, I'll go to the Italian food bible, the Silver Spoon.

I prefer my lasagne oozing with smooth sauce, so don't fancy the idea of ricotta at all. I sometimes add mozarella for a little soft cheesyness. I also like a pork/beef combo for a richer flavour. Cottage Cheese sounds bloody awful way to spoil lasagne.

kaylasdad99 08-13-2019 11:02 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bibliophage (Post 21801891)
Ricotta, but not straight ricotta: a mixture of ricotta, beaten raw egg, herbs, and a little bit of milk. Thin enough to spread before cooking but it firms up by the time the lasagna is cooked.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nava (Post 21803103)
OK, so you're making a cheesy bechamel. Apparently your lasagna marries north and south.

:confused:

Huh? Where's the roux (wheat flour cooked in butter, usually seasoned with herbs and/or spices. I use black pepper)? And what are eggs doing in there? And how are the eggs being raw when bechamel is cooked?

:confused:

TroutMan 08-13-2019 11:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SanVito (Post 21803107)
Well, I spend time every year in Italy, and have never had it with ricotta instead of bechamel.

Honestly, you're all monsters. Monsters.

Yeah, I'm surprised at the vote, I expected it to be lopsided the other way.

How many of those voting ricotta have tried it both ways and actually prefer ricotta? I hope it's just what you've seen in simple recipes and are voting that way by default. I mean, lasagna with ricotta is fine and a very tasty dish (it's lasagna, after all). But lasagna with bechamel is divine.

kayaker 08-13-2019 11:20 AM

Ricotta, but I always pronounce it "Ricot".


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