Lasagna is a uniquely curious food. It’s very popular. It is highly customizable. It even has a noodle named after it: Lasagna. As a matter of fact, the noodle is pretty much only used for lasagna. This meal-food is surrounded in mystery as well. For example, who invented it? Lasagna is certainly Italian fare in most minds, but some legends tell the British baked it first. Ancient Romans stacked it up, too. Who knows? Well, something else yanks at the corner of my brain: why is the lasagna noodle flat in the middle and curly on the sides?
The “how” part of that why is easy. Dough is rolled or pressed out flat and cut into long strips. The edges are somehow stretched and curl up when dried. But why was it decided that noodles with curly edges were best for baking lasagna (before they were aptly named lasagna noodles, that is). Why not just use one over-sized flat noodle (by the way, you can buy completely flat lasagna noodles, but not pan-sized ones)? Or how about corrugated noodles which would be curly all the way across, like cardboard? All we can do is to speculate.
Perhaps the dawn of the lasagna noodle was by chance. Two Italian brothers were bickering over who was to lay the very first noodle of what was to become a world-wide food-phenom. The noodles they had cut were long strips and completely flat. Both brothers grabbed the corners and pulled, determined to steal infamy from the other. The edges they were holding stretched the sides of the noodle in their struggle. Like rubber, the noodle snapped from their hands at the same time. The first lasagna noodle of modern history was formed! The middle was flat and the edges now curled, a constant reminder of mankind’s outer conflict and inner peace.
Perhaps lasagna’s bright beginnings were scientific in nature. A great innovator discovered a great problem. Lasagna as-was was a complete mess! The flat noodle was not rigid enough to hold together the cooked consistencies of meat, ricotta, and ragú. Lasagna was well-loved and well-loathed once served. As delicious as it was, it was a slippery, sloppy, sliding mess! The layers were completely separated and the ingredients formed no bond. But the great innovator knew exactly what to do. A more proper lasagna noodle would be classically flat-centered, but wavy on each of its longer sides. Alas! The curly edges served a dual purpose. For one, they “gripped” the other ingredients, both up and down. Two, they allowed for ingredients to seep together through the small openings where the curls met, heating when baked, and ultimately bonding chemically. The great innovator turned a common dinner disaster into a magical meal!
We may never know the true history of the curly creation, but we do know this: no matter how you slice it, lasagna is surely a savory, sensational supper!
By: S. Cole Garrett