View Poll Results: Lasagna: ricotta or bechamel?
Ricotta 90 60.81%
Bechamel 18 12.16%
Both 11 7.43%
Neither 5 3.38%
Sometimes one, sometimes the other 11 7.43%
Depends on... 2 1.35%
A completely different answer 9 6.08%
What's "lasagna"? 2 1.35%
Voters: 148. You may not vote on this poll

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  #51  
Old 08-13-2019, 12:25 PM
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Yeah, I'm surprised at the vote, I expected it to be lopsided the other way.
I'm almost surprised bechamel is doing as well as it is, as this is an American-heavy board, and almost all Americans I know have been a bit baffled by the idea of lasagna alla bolognese with ragu alla bolognese and bechamel. I mean, read through (Canadian, but still technically "American") RickJay's "Angry Chef" rant linked to earlier:

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Incidentally, some recipes I read about talk about adding “roux” or “bechamel” or some such thing. I had to look those pansy-ass words up. As near as I can tell, “Bechamel” is a sauce made of milk, flour, and butter. What a load of bullshit. If you want milk, flour, and butter, go bake a fucking cake, pastry-boy. Lasagna is all about the CONCENTRATION of flavours, of taking strong flavours and mixing them together just right. Adding some weak-ass sauce that’s nothing but flour and butter? You might as well pour in dog shit. No roux, no bechamel, unless you want me to come over to your house and hit you in the head with a fucking bat.
That's pretty much the attitude I've encountered (though much diluted) from others when I talk to them about lasagna alla bolognese. Now, whether they've actually eaten it, or if RickJay has, I don't know, but I'm guessing not, as lasagna alla bolognese is the pinnacle of "CONCENTRATION of flavours" in my opinion.
  #52  
Old 08-13-2019, 07:02 PM
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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.
I have, but must admit I adore ricotta.The béchamel I've had is sloppy. Not at all lasagna. Lasagna should be able to be served by cutting a square out a pan and placed on a plate. If you would like more sauce, have at it but pour a little on top after it's plated. Lasagna is not supposed to resemble thick soup with wide noodles.

Was at another nice Italian restaurant last summer, and the ravioli was some meat mixture. Um. Ravioli is stuffed with ricotta. They did have little ravioli/ricotta appetizers that where wonderful. Like I said, I really like ricotta.
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  #53  
Old 08-14-2019, 03:02 AM
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I have, but must admit I adore ricotta.The béchamel I've had is sloppy. Not at all lasagna. Lasagna should be able to be served by cutting a square out a pan and placed on a plate. If you would like more sauce, have at it but pour a little on top after it's plated. Lasagna is not supposed to resemble thick soup with wide noodles.

Was at another nice Italian restaurant last summer, and the ravioli was some meat mixture. Um. Ravioli is stuffed with ricotta. They did have little ravioli/ricotta appetizers that where wonderful. Like I said, I really like ricotta.
Ravioli is just a type of pasta - you can stuff it with anything you like, pretty much.

And you have a very singular view of lasagne. Lasagne with bechamel in no way resembles soup, any more than a portion of lasagne should resemble a brick.
  #54  
Old 08-14-2019, 03:33 AM
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Originally Posted by SanVito View Post
Ravioli is just a type of pasta - you can stuff it with anything you like, pretty much.

And you have a very singular view of lasagne. Lasagne with bechamel in no way resembles soup, any more than a portion of lasagne should resemble a brick.
Yes to both of these comments.
  #55  
Old 08-14-2019, 07:51 AM
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IUm. Ravioli is stuffed with ricotta.
That is a possible stuffing for ravioli, but hardly the only one. Meat-stuffed ravioli is pretty standard, but you can get spinach-stuffed (usually mixed with ricotta), butternut squash, goat cheese, fish, fruit, chestnuts, potato, whatever your heart desires.

And lasagna alla bolognese should not be soupy. This should be about what it looks like (though I make it with spinach pasta.)
  #56  
Old 08-14-2019, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
That is a possible stuffing for ravioli, but hardly the only one. Meat-stuffed ravioli is pretty standard, but you can get spinach-stuffed (usually mixed with ricotta), butternut squash, goat cheese, fish, fruit, chestnuts, potato, whatever your heart desires.

And lasagna alla bolognese should not be soupy. This should be about what it looks like (though I make it with spinach pasta.)
I like mine a little more on the moist side - something akin to this or this
  #57  
Old 08-14-2019, 11:05 AM
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I like mine a little more on the moist side - something akin to this or this
Those look reasonably similar to me. Point being, it's not a soup or soupy in any way.
  #58  
Old 08-14-2019, 11:56 AM
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How many of those voting ricotta have tried it both ways and actually prefer ricotta?

It really isn't just lasagna. I honestly dislike bechamel in everything. I'll just say this out loud - pastitsio sucks. Now we can pause here briefly while pulykamell contemplates murder .

Don't like it and I've actually had quite a few bechamel lasagnas over the years, which I've always found edible but sorta disappointing and not really what I had wanted. To the point now where I will indeed never voluntarily order one again( I'll eat them without demure if served it by a friend of course ). As with papayas I'd like to like it better. I like sauces. I like many rich sauces. I honestly thought I would like it. I was jazzed to try my first pastitsio. But alas, it just doesn't work for me at all.

In lasagna it is partly a textural thing, I just prefer that ricotta-y texture to another oozy sauce. But the main issue is that I honestly find it a mix of slightly bland and richly cloying. For me it's a bit like a plain fettuchine alfredo which I like to eat once every three years, then don't want to revisit again until that time expires.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 08-14-2019 at 11:59 AM.
  #59  
Old 08-14-2019, 12:08 PM
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It really isn't just lasagna. I honestly dislike bechamel in everything. I'll just say this out loud - pastitsio sucks. Now we can pause here briefly while pulykamell contemplates murder
You would think that, but I'm not the biggest fan of pastitsio, either, or at least the versions I've had. I'm not entirely sure why, as it's pretty darned similar. But you're right about the texture thing. I'm fine with any texture, but in my case I prefer the smooth texture of bechamel to the grainy, bumpy texture of ricotta or small curd cottage cheese or whatever it is people typically use.

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  #60  
Old 08-14-2019, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by TroutMan View Post
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.
I may have had it both ways and don’t remember. I doubt it. It’s not a dish that I tend to order in restaurants. All my Italian relatives cook it with ricotta.
  #61  
Old 08-14-2019, 02:28 PM
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I don't think I have seen a recipe that uses bechamel, although I have had it in restaurants on occasion.

Although, I almost answered the poll, "What's lasagna?" - it's lasagne, unless you're making a version that uses only one noodle. After all, it's not "spaghetto" or "raviolo," now is it? (Although considering what my A1C is, maybe, in my case, it should be...)
  #62  
Old 08-14-2019, 03:28 PM
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Although, I almost answered the poll, "What's lasagna?" - it's lasagne, unless you're making a version that uses only one noodle.
In English, it's generally lasagna, with an "a" at the end. Doesn't matter what it is in the original language.
  #63  
Old 08-14-2019, 04:51 PM
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That is a possible stuffing for ravioli, but hardly the only one. Meat-stuffed ravioli is pretty standard, but you can get spinach-stuffed (usually mixed with ricotta), butternut squash, goat cheese, fish, fruit, chestnuts, potato, whatever your heart desires.

And lasagna alla bolognese should not be soupy. This should be about what it looks like (though I make it with spinach pasta.)
The Bolognese I have had, needed a spoon to eat. What you linked to looks right as it is lasagna.

What ever floats our boat. I like ricotta.
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  #64  
Old 08-14-2019, 06:04 PM
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In English, it's generally lasagna, with an "a" at the end. Doesn't matter what it is in the original language.
No, in American English it's lasagna, in English it's lasagne.

And cottage cheese? No, ricotta maybe, never had it in lasagne, may try it one day, but cottage cheese is the devil.
A well made bechamel is a thing of beauty, a gentle sprinkle of cheese on top, and I could gluttonously eat it by itself, and have done.
  #65  
Old 08-14-2019, 07:40 PM
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No, in American English it's lasagna, in English it's lasagne.
Sorry--I really meant to check on that. In American English, "lasagna" is standard.
  #66  
Old 08-14-2019, 07:43 PM
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The Bolognese I have had, needed a spoon to eat.
Bolognese should be basically like a sloppy joe in consistency, maybe a bit drier. It is not so much a "meat sauce" as it is ground beef with concentrated tomato/milk/stock binding it together. Definitely not a "meat sauce" in the manner of Prego or Ragu where it's tomato sauce with ground meat speckled throughout. It's quite the opposite: it's ground meat, with cooked down tomato sauce speckled throughout.
  #67  
Old 08-15-2019, 02:32 AM
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Lasagne layered with spinach, sometimes called Florentine,* is of course made with béchamel. It's been many long years since I've seen that dish, since "Florentine" was last trendy in the 1970s.

*Catherine de' Medici happened to like spinach and she was from Florence. "Florentine" as a synonym for "with spinach" is a term from France. Actual Tuscan cuisine from Florence didn't have any particular connection with spinach.
  #68  
Old 08-15-2019, 04:22 AM
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Lasagne layered with spinach, sometimes called Florentine,* is of course made with béchamel. It's been many long years since I've seen that dish, since "Florentine" was last trendy in the 1970s.

*Catherine de' Medici happened to like spinach and she was from Florence. "Florentine" as a synonym for "with spinach" is a term from France. Actual Tuscan cuisine from Florence didn't have any particular connection with spinach.
Interesting. The association must have made its way back to Italy, as shown in the italian Pizza Fiorentina, involving spinach.
  #69  
Old 08-15-2019, 05:12 AM
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Bolognese should be basically like a sloppy joe in consistency, maybe a bit drier. It is not so much a "meat sauce" as it is ground beef with concentrated tomato/milk/stock binding it together. Definitely not a "meat sauce" in the manner of Prego or Ragu where it's tomato sauce with ground meat speckled throughout. It's quite the opposite: it's ground meat, with cooked down tomato sauce speckled throughout.
You're making a distinction between Bolognese and ragů that isn't generally done - Bolognese is just one kind of ragů. Or does the capital letter denote some sort of brand name?
  #70  
Old 08-15-2019, 07:26 AM
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You're making a distinction between Bolognese and ragů that isn't generally done - Bolognese is just one kind of ragů. Or does the capital letter denote some sort of brand name?
Sorry -- "Ragu" capitalized is an American brand of pasta sauces.
  #71  
Old 08-15-2019, 07:53 AM
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I'm still not sure how they managed to get away with using that as a brand name. It'd be like a company making "Salsa" brand Mexican condiment.
  #72  
Old 08-15-2019, 08:04 AM
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Lasagne layered with spinach, sometimes called Florentine,* is of course made with béchamel. It's been many long years since I've seen that dish, since "Florentine" was last trendy in the 1970s.
Back in the US, at least as recently as 2015, lasagne florentine is still pretty common, and virtually always made with ricotta, at least in my experience.

The frozen food brand Michael Angelo's makes a really good (for mass produced frozen food) version, especially after you punch it up with a little garlic salt, crushed red pepper flakes and a generous sprinkle of grated parmasean.
  #73  
Old 08-15-2019, 10:05 AM
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Sorry -- "Ragu" capitalized is an American brand of pasta sauces.
Aah, I'm assuming Prego is too? Here, prego sauce is a type of piri-piri steak sauce, for the Africanised diaspora version of the traditionally plain Portuguese prego roll.I know Nando's does one.

Last edited by MrDibble; 08-15-2019 at 10:07 AM.
  #74  
Old 08-15-2019, 11:54 AM
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Aah, I'm assuming Prego is too? Here, prego sauce is a type of piri-piri steak sauce, for the Africanised diaspora version of the traditionally plain Portuguese prego roll.I know Nando's does one.
Yep. Prego and Ragu.

In my generation most folks went through the same progression. Introduced to Ragu as a kid and fell in love with it( it is loaded with a shit-ton of sugar ), got older and switched to Prego as a poor young college student( very slightly less sweet and a little chunkier ), then either migrated to fancier jarred sauces and/or just started making their own as their palates/wallets expanded.

But Ragu is the ur-bottled sauce in the United States. Pretty much completely inedible to me for decades, because goddamn is it sweet. But man I would have jumped through hoops of fire to get it in preference to my mother's perfectly fine homemade sauce when I was nine.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 08-15-2019 at 11:55 AM.
  #75  
Old 08-15-2019, 12:07 PM
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Yep. Prego and Ragu.

In my generation most folks went through the same progression. Introduced to Ragu as a kid and fell in love with it( it is loaded with a shit-ton of sugar ),...
As a young bachelor my first "successful" attempt at making home made spaghetti sauce was accomplished my following the list of ingredients on the Ragu label. I used canned tomato sauce and actual corn syrup from a bottle, along with onion powder and I forget what else. There wasn't much else, though. I remember thinking: "holy crap, I just made Ragu."
  #76  
Old 08-15-2019, 02:35 PM
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Corn..syrup? In a pasta sauce? That you eat?
  #77  
Old 08-15-2019, 02:46 PM
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Corn..syrup? In a pasta sauce? That you eat?
I'd like to say Ragu is a step above this, but no, it's pretty much the same.
  #78  
Old 08-15-2019, 02:51 PM
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Use this ragu alla Bolognese recipe and you probably won't care whether it's ricotta or béchamel in the lasagna.

https://www.saveur.com/article/Recip...lla-Bolognese/
  #79  
Old 08-15-2019, 03:05 PM
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Corn..syrup? In a pasta sauce? That you eat?
Sugar is often added to tomato sauces.
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Old 08-15-2019, 03:16 PM
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I use a 50/50 cottage cheese mix ricotta mix. It smoothes out the ricotta and gets rid of some of the grainyness. I also use canned sauce, spinich, no pre-cook noodles and leftover meat. Most noodle based italian food isn't good enough to put much work into.
  #81  
Old 08-15-2019, 05:59 PM
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Bechamel tastes better, is harder to make, and has more calories. My mum always used bechamel, but I use ricotta, unless I'm making it 'her way', for the kids.
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Old 08-15-2019, 06:38 PM
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Spinach was popular all over Italy in general, nothing to do with Florence in particular. Catherine being Italian, she was used to it and naturally wanted to continue enjoying it in France. It was the French who made the association between Florence and spinach just because their queen was from there.

The restaurant I worked in some 40 years ago offered lasagne Florentine and they certainly used béchamel in that. I mean I understand liking ricotta, but spinach on lasagne or any other baked pasta definitely calls for béchamel.
  #83  
Old 08-16-2019, 02:41 AM
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I use a 50/50 cottage cheese mix ricotta mix. It smoothes out the ricotta and gets rid of some of the grainyness. I also use canned sauce, spinich, no pre-cook noodles and leftover meat. Most noodle based italian food isn't good enough to put much work into.
I'm speechless. The reason Italian food (real Italian food) has such worldwide renown is because the quality of the original ingredients used is stella. Pasta dishes included. The freshest tomatoes, the finest olive oil, the sharpest lemons.
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Old 08-16-2019, 04:46 AM
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Sugar is often added to tomato sauces.
Sugar is not corn syrup.
  #85  
Old 08-16-2019, 05:38 AM
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Sugar is not corn syrup.
When you're talking about sweeteners dissolved into a sauce, it's a pretty fine distinction. What, IYHO is the meaningful difference?
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Old 08-16-2019, 07:34 AM
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As a young bachelor my first "successful" attempt at making home made spaghetti sauce was accomplished my following the list of ingredients on the Ragu label. I used canned tomato sauce and actual corn syrup from a bottle, along with onion powder and I forget what else. There wasn't much else, though. I remember thinking: "holy crap, I just made Ragu."
It was a revelation to me when I stopped being a Ragu-eating student, and followed an actual recipe for italian tomato sauce. It was so bloody easy and only has about four ingredients in it.
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Old 08-16-2019, 07:41 AM
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Oh yeah, I'm no chef by a long shot, but I make much better sauce today. That first one, I was just kind of amazed that it tasted exactly like jarred Ragu.
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Old 08-16-2019, 08:02 AM
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It was a revelation to me when I stopped being a Ragu-eating student, and followed an actual recipe for italian tomato sauce. It was so bloody easy and only has about four ingredients in it.
When I was first learning to cook, I fell into the fallacy that if my food wasn't good enough, it wasn't spiced enough. Oh, how wrong that was. Looking back at most of my early attempts at pasta sauces, I basically dumped everything but the kitchen sink into them. Gobs of dried Italian seasoning blend, bouillon cubes, seasoned salts, onion powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, probably even some ketchup at some time as well. And I'm sure I made a run through spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and the such (hey, I re-invented Cincinnati chili!) It was all just so much a mess. It was a series of "taste. hmm ... still needs something" and grab something random from the spice rack. (And the "still needs something" was probably just salt.)

Then, in my early 20s, I simplified and learned that just good tomatoes (and canned are usually preferable unless it's tomato season and you have access to fresh-picked fruit -- which I actually did when I finally figured out how to cook), a little bit of olive oil, onion or garlic, and optional hot pepper made for a fantastic tomato sauce. Salt to taste, and accent it with a fresh herb like basil or parsley, and you're golden.

The only jarred sauce I've discovered that I could stand these days is Rao's. But ain't no way I'm paying like $8 a jar for that, when I'm comfortable making it from scratch without much bother for a third-to-quarter of the price. But, yeah, Ragu and Prego -- I just don't like them anymore. (Although, wait, there is now the Prego Farmer's Market Line -- I believe I had that at my MIL's house and it wasn't terrible.)
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Old 08-16-2019, 08:20 AM
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I'm speechless. The reason Italian food (real Italian food) has such worldwide renown is because the quality of the original ingredients used is stella. Pasta dishes included. The freshest tomatoes, the finest olive oil, the sharpest lemons.
How do you determine the sharpness of a lemon before you cut it? I'd love to know how to do that.

And I agree somewhat; ingredient quality is definitely part of the equation, but a lot of it is more because the cuisine itself is excellent. I mean, you can make a perfectly delicious, if inauthentic "lasagna" out of dried pasta, hamburger meat, canned pasta sauce, grocery store ricotta and grated "parmesan" from a can.

THAT is why Italian food is great- even when abused or reinterpreted a dozen ways, it's still tasty. Mexican food is similar- pretty much anything can be put in a tortilla and become part of a taco and still be tasty.

French food is a bit more finicky- I wonder if it's because a lot of Italian and Mexican foods were originally peasant foods, even if they were peasant special occasion foods, while a lot of French cuisine derives from a more upper-class culinary origin.
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Old 08-16-2019, 09:18 AM
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I mean, when other countries eagerly adopt even your recipe for "Whore's noodles", that kind of tells you that you've hit on a winning system. Italian food: So easy to make good, that even a hooker can get it right.
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Old 08-16-2019, 02:45 PM
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When you make (or just eat) lasagna, do you prefer ricotta or bechamel? Do you use both? Neither?
Ricotta or béchamel? I never knew the latter was a choice. I'd love to try it, but I'm too lazy to actually make lasagna and every frozen version I've ever found has been made with ricotta. Is there any respectable chain of Italian restaurants that serves the béchamel variety? I'd even try Olive Garden just to get an idea of what it should be like.
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Old 08-17-2019, 08:53 PM
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I voted ricotta. I know what bechamel is but I've never heard of using it in lasagna.
Ditto.
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Old 08-18-2019, 02:33 PM
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I'm speechless. The reason Italian food (real Italian food) has such worldwide renown is because the quality of the original ingredients used is stella. Pasta dishes included. The freshest tomatoes, the finest olive oil, the sharpest lemons.
Which supports my point that noodle based italian food is pretty average. There isn't much difference between good and great, so it's not really worth too much effort. A lot of the non noodles based dishes can be spectacular, a lot of the seafood dishes can be almost life changing.
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:41 PM
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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.
Yeah, it's like making a custard layer. I've had lasagna with bechamel, but it's a bit too, I don't know, soupy? for me. Also, a little richer. I think the ricotta adds a slight tang. Bechamel's fine. I just prefer ricotta.

We used cottage cheese when I was growing up, and our family was poor. Once I could afford it, I always used ricotta after that. Cottage cheese is too nugget-y to make a good custard.

Last edited by carrps; 08-18-2019 at 04:44 PM.
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:50 PM
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When you're talking about sweeteners dissolved into a sauce, it's a pretty fine distinction. What, IYHO is the meaningful difference?
Fructose ratios.
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Old 08-19-2019, 05:17 AM
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Which supports my point that noodle based italian food is pretty average. There isn't much difference between good and great, so it's not really worth too much effort. A lot of the non noodles based dishes can be spectacular, a lot of the seafood dishes can be almost life changing.
I've had some pretty life changing pasta dishes in my time. I don't agree with your view at all.

Last edited by SanVito; 08-19-2019 at 05:17 AM.
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Old 08-19-2019, 05:47 AM
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Wikipedia says that bechamel is a roux of butter, flour, and milk.That sounds like something I'd add to baked mac n cheese (along with cheese, of course) but I would never have considered it as a substitute for ricotta in lasagna. Obviously people do use it, so I've learned something.
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Old 08-19-2019, 05:56 AM
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I've had some pretty life changing pasta dishes in my time. I don't agree with your view at all.
The biggest compliment my cooking has ever received was my mother gasping and exclaiming that my penne in tomato sauce were "just like the godmother's!" Her godmother was from Napoli, apparently the "cook things as God ordained" gene skipped both grandma and my mother but revived in me.

That there is a lot of people there who can't take the care needed to cook things properly doesn't mean there is no difference between a perfect dish and a mediocre version of the same. Or an abysmal one, and as Epicurus is my witness I've encountered some "Italian" dishes that weren't good for pig fodder.
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Last edited by Nava; 08-19-2019 at 05:57 AM.
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Old 08-19-2019, 06:10 AM
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Ok, while I have everyone's attention, I've noticed in this and other threads that Americans sometimes use 'noodles' to refer to pasta in general? Is this right? Or is it just for long thin pasta like spaghetti or linguine.

Full disclosure, I would only use 'noodles' to refer to the long thin things that typically come with cuisine from the Far East. Not Italy.
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Old 08-19-2019, 06:24 AM
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Originally Posted by SanVito View Post
Full disclosure, I would only use 'noodles' to refer to the long thin things that typically come with cuisine from the Far East. Not Italy.
I can't speak for anyone else, but long before I became a sophisticated, cultured, erudite, globetrotting European-based Gentleman of Leisure, () I was a kid from a middle-class family in decidedly unsophisticated Salt Lake City UT., and I have never used "noodles" to describe pasta of any kind, instead using the specific name of any given type of noodle e.g. rigatoni, linguini, lo mein, etc.

Noodle sounds childish and imprecise to my ears.

Last edited by Royal Nonesutch; 08-19-2019 at 06:25 AM.
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