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Jul 27, 2008 03:54 PM

Which Lasagne's more common in NZ/OZ?

Ok, still in NZ winter cold weather cooking mode, it was a chilly morning today. Rain's in the forecast all week so I planned to make a lasagne for a potluck. Wanted it to be special (different than the norm) so I found a recipe using a creamy cheese sauce (rather than a meat sauce in red gravy). The cheese sauce in the recipe I found means I wouldn't use the normal ricotta, mozzerella and tomato/meat sauce layers I would use making a more traditional (American) lasagne.

I announced that I would be cooking the creamy cheese sauce version to a Kiwi friend and was told that the creamy cheese sauce version was the only one they had ever seen. Is that your experience? I always thought the traditional tomato/meat sauce, ricotta, pasta, mozzerella layers was the most common. If that's not what people in NZ usually make (eat), then I'll make the traditional version.

Any thoughts you have on the matter would be great. Thanks!

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  1. I am a Brit and we never ever ever make lasagne with tomato sauce and ricotta and meat. In the UK it is always a meat sauce made with tomatoes (unless it's vegetarian) and then a bechemel sauce. I have not got used to the American type of lasagne with all that red sauce and ricotta.

    1 Reply
    1. re: smartie

      Hi Smartie... the recipe you describe as the norm in the UK is the one I was thinking of trying here, but if they already eat that all the time it won't be anything new (wanted to try something different with them). I'm cooking for an adventurous lot of Kiwi horticulturalists so they would definitely give the American version a try. I'm leaning toward making the American type (since they are expecting something American from me) for the potluck, but if it's common here, maybe I'll just choose a whole new recipe. But thanks for your input, I'm beginning to think that your answer will be the one I hear most from Kiwis and Aussies as well... but we'll see!

    2. the one with the bechamel is a lasagna bolognese, actually the "traditional" lasagna from Italy. the one with ricotta is an American invention.

      16 Replies
      1. re: fara

        Thanks, fara. Now to find out which is more common in NZ!

        1. re: ideabaker

          maybe the one that originated in italy?

        2. re: fara

          Uh, no. Baked lasagna with bechamel is one of many, many, many variants in Italy. The dish comes from all over central Italy, and with infinite variations from family to family. Basically anything that some central Italian thought was a good idea to bake in layers is traditional. Not to mention that the dish spread both north and south, and nicely established itself all over a couple hundred years ago.

          Using ricotta instead of bechamel, as well as adding meatballs, isn't an American thing, it's something from the south of Italy.

          1. re: tmso

            Speaking of other Italian variants, this Sicilian recipe looks good:

            Google translation here:

            1. re: tmso

              tmso, thanks for the links... I'm eager to read the recipe; unfortunately I need a bit more guidance. I can't figure out how to use the google translator to translate the site. Directions???

              1. re: ideabaker

                Hmm, the second link I posted works for me, but maybe there are cookies or something involved. If that's not working for you, try going to the Italian page, copying the URL, and pasting it into the "Translate a web page" field at If you still have trouble, I can do a translation/paraphrase (I can't be much worse than a machine :)

                Google's translations actually look reasonably good, much better than Altavista's ever were. So this is good news for home-cooking chowhounds, as well as for those of us who are polygot and like to share finds with others.

                1. re: tmso

                  Unfortunately, translation sites make some serious (if hilarious) errors in translation. Give it a try, but I wouldn't get my hopes up, especially if there are Italian words that are unusual.

                  1. re: oakjoan

                    True, and given that ideabaker had issues with one of the translations might very well mean that I was wrong here and they're not comprehensible unless you can already read the original. That's still an improvement compared to babelfish, but that's not saying much...

                2. re: ideabaker

                  Hmm, hungry and waiting on something at work -- I'll paraphrase it here.

                  Sicilian baked lasagna

                  1 lb white flour, 3 eggs
                  1 lb beef, tomato sauce
                  100 g grated pecorino
                  Onion, carrot, celery, parsley, butter, olive oil, salt and pepper

                  Make a dough out of the flour and eggs, adding a spoonful of oil and a little salt. Roll it out on a floured tablecloth and cut in two-foot long rectangles.

                  Cube the meat, and fry over a low heat with plenty of oil, along with the onion, carrot, celery and parsley, salt and pepper and a ladle of sauce. Simmer 45 minutes, adding water as needed. Cook the lasagne (that you made above) in salted water, and let them dry on a tablecloth.

                  In a buttered pan, layer the pasta, then meat, then sauce, then plenty of pecorino. Repeat until you've used up your ingredients. The last layer should be the pecorino. Cook for 20 min in a hot oven.

                  Buon appetito!

                  1. re: tmso

                    Thanks for the translation tmso! So what cut of beef does this recipe use? "Cubing" makes me think it must be some solid piece that I cut up, not minced... any suggestions?

              2. re: tmso

                no, the american version is definitely american. italians don't make lasagna with ricotta AND mozzarella cheese AND meat and lots of tomato sauce. that gooey glop came out of an italian-american restaurant menu.

                1. re: fara

                  Fara: The doyen of Italian cookbook authors, Mario Batali has a recipe in Molto Italiano for lasagne from Naples, replete with ricotta, mozzarella, tomato sauce, sausages, and parmesan. Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni has a recipe for lasagne from Apulia with the same ingredients. In the Calabrian-Lucania section, there's one with meat sauce, hard-boiled eggs, mozzarella, pecorino, meatballs, sausage, artichokes. The chapter on Naples/Campagna also has a ricotta, mozz, tomato sauce and BUTTER.

                  So recipes abound in Italy for the tomato/cheeses/sausages, and all kinds of "gooey glop".

                  1. re: oakjoan

                    Yes, thank you. I would note that lasagna napoletana is a perfectly traditional *festival* food, that is to say, it's for special occasions. It's not on the quotidien table, but it's perfect for when you invite people over, which I'm sure is part of how it got so popular in the US.

                    1. re: tmso

                      Hey, I made it to raves, however I will still learn the Bechemel sauce one... to serve to my Yank friends! :-)

                      1. re: tmso

                        That Calabrian lasagne recipe, for 'stuffed' lasagne (or sagne chjine in dialect) is also only a very special occasion dish and an old one at that. You will never see it outside of feast days or Saints days and then, it's still as rare as hens teeth.

                        In the deep South, dairy (particularly fresh, back in the day) was not readily available (unless you were quite wealthy) so that the average recipe wouldn't have evolved using these (ricotta) ingredients. Meat was also a luxury. We only use (what is called) mozz here, and then, only the smallest amount, because it is available. I certainly wouldn't use domestic ricotta for a group lasagne if only because of the price. I'd save my $$ and use bechamel. I personally cannot comment on i Napoletani or any other region because when it comes to regional Italian cooking, there are regions within regions and more exceptions than rules. Personally, I think sagne chjine sounds like they were using up leftovers!

                        Mario Batali (while a great chef and author of many a good cookbook) is still an interpreter of these recipes. He also must, as any good author should, keep in mind the audience for which his books are intended. Ada Boni is also the author of 'Il talismano', the 'go to' book for Italian cooks (my Nonna never heard of it) and some very nice compilations of regional Italian specialities, translated for American kitchens over 50 years ago. Butter, as strange as it seems, would've worked well in NZ, (we've got heaps!) and also because back in the 50s, you'd have bought olive oil from the chemist not the supermarket or every other winery in Waiheke or Hawkes Bay. My Nonna says 'The diet lessens all ailments", so olive oil was a medicine after all :-)

                        If you are truly concerned before cooking Italiano for Kiwis, you could look up Maria Pia's Italian Food (she's Wellington based with a recipe contribution to the English translation of the Silver Spoon plus an award from the Italian government for promoting Italian food abroad no less), maybe Secrets and Recipes by Guy Grossi (of Melbourne's Grossi Florentino) and I'll second the comment to consult Edmonds. It will contain the recipes to which most Kiwis are accustomed. In the end, I think we're an adventurous lot so feel free to give anything a go!

                        1. re: gallileo

                          Thanks, gallileo, for a thorough response! I am familiar with Batali but not Maria Pia--- I will check her out. I would like to experiment with new ways to make lasagne, so am always open to ideas. I did end up cooking the ricotta lasagne with meat gravy for my Kiwi friends and they gobbled it up, even though I did put a little bit too much food on their plates!

                          Then I made them the Mexican lasagne or "The Bomb" (described in this thread) which they liked quite a lot and even asked for seconds and thirds on.

                          Last night I made fresh corn tortillas, then used those to make chicken and cheese enchiladas with great results... will make that again too. Sadly, I'm headed back to the states tomorrow until November when I'm back in NZ, so tonight a simple pot of butter chicken and yams (can't get yams where I live), then plans for summer entertaining when I get back. Again, thank you for your response!

              3. In NZ they have a great classic cookbook that a lot of kiwis would have grown up with, Edmunds Cook Book - It has all the classic recipes. On a trip back to NZ a few years ago I finally picked up a copy from a bookstore and the lasagne in it is definitely with the b├ęchamel or cheese sauce (White sauce with grated cheddar added at the end). I'm sure you will find that everyone only knows this recipe so would make the American version, I'm sure it will be a hit!

                3 Replies
                1. re: Tbar

                  Thanks Tbar, I am familiar with the Edmunds Cook Book though we don't have one here at the moment. But if it (the biggest selling book in NZ next to the Bible I'm told :-) ) is in Edmunds, it must be the most common. So I will go with the American invention-- thank you again for your help!

                  1. re: ideabaker

                    i did reply to your original post. but it's lost
                    lasagne in aus is usually bolog/bechamel/pasta sheets.
                    apparently the italian version involves bechamel, ricotta and eggs.
                    It sounds like we all just make it up.
                    re your original comments by your NZ friend, i susepect there was a level of confusion as to your wording - i was confused by your oP re creamy sauce vs meat sauce vs ricotta. check out taste,,, and for a better understanding.

                    1. re: kmh

                      Hi kmh and thank you once again, you are scooping me out of a
                      "Down Under" cooking quagmire! :-) I just typed a response to you and heard a click then it vanished... gotta love technology, so you might get two. I did explain that it was a bechemel sauce (which I then clarified was a creamy cheesy sort of sauce... wasn't talking to a Chowhound!) and was told that's all they'd ever seen. With your response, I'm leaning toward one with a meat gravy. Once I figure out how to translate that site that tmso sent I'll pick which one to make. After I do will report back here! Again, thank you, you are a gem!

                2. Sounds like a tasty cheese and meat pie with minimal vegetable intrusion. How did it come about? And how did it come to be called lasagne?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mrbozo

                    Good questions... it's the only lasagne I've ever heard of before stumbling up on the Bechemel sauce one. It is basically layers of minced beef (sometimes with onions and garlic cooked in) "gravy" (sauce), ricotta cheese, lasagne noodles and mozzerella and parmesan. Hey, tasted good to me growing up, but I did grow up in the Southern part of the U.S.A. But when I moved to NY they make it the same way there. I'm curious what the Southern Italian origins of it are myself!

                    1. re: ideabaker

                      the vast majority NZ'ers will be familiar with the meat sauce and Bechemal version...hmmm...wouldn't mind some for lunch!!

                      1. re: jogas

                        Thanks jogas, this is definitely the weather for it... cool and rainy. Lasagne is a benefit of colder weather, too hot back in the states to crank up the oven this time of year!

                  2. I live in Australia. Most people make it using minced beef, white sauce and tomato sauce, onion and capsicum and grated chedder or motzarella.
                    I LOVE it with added grated zuchinni, baby spinach and shredded ham. I also use cabonara (store bought) instead of plain white sauce. This is great for a hardy winter nights dinner. Ive only had the ricotta version once and I found it very plain. I would think that as long as it tasted good your guests would be happy either way with your own creative adaptation.