Among the most famous traditions in Italy is the Venetian Carnevale. Celebrated this year between February 8th and 25th, Carnevale in Venice is a sight to behold.
Boats dance and parade along the twinkling canals at nighttime. A young lady, winner of the “Feste delle Marie” parade from the year before descends in traditional costume from the Bell Tower, or Campanile of St. Mark’s Square. The flight of the angel, the scene is called. Dancers, costumes, masks, music, and joy are everywhere in Venice this time of year. It is indescribable magic in an already magical city.
While balls are held in palazzos, and the notes of Vivaldi drift through the streets, inside kitchens, families and chefs prepare special meals, traditional for this time of year.
One important, though often overlooked aspect of Carnevale in Venice and throughout Italy is carne, meat. Carnevale means, literally, farewell to meat. It is a last hoorah of sorts indulging in meat-based dishes that are abstained from during the reverent days of Lent that follow this time of feasting and celebration.
Among the most popular dishes enjoyed during the days of Carnevale is Italy’s famous lasagna. Lasagne is the most common and correct spelling in Italian, as it refers to the plural of the type of noodle. One lasagna noodle would be correct, but in the plural, it is lasagne as we see Mia Emilia’s box of delicious Sfoglia Lasagne pasta noodles from the makers at La Pasta di Aldo.
There are many great things about lasagne. It is easy to make, and easy to make your own. You will find many varieties in Italy, but what most have in common are flat, wide pasta noodles called lasagne layered in with a sauce, vegetables, spinach, whatever the chef desires.
Traditional recipes call for a thick ragu` beginning with a soffritto (mix of celery, carrots, and onions, finely chopped and lightly fried in extra virgin olive oil) and mixing in your choice of meat from beef to pancetta along with tomatoes. Usually, traditional lasagne in Italy is topped with a Bechamel sauce before baking in the oven.
As a vegetarian, which, I know, leaves me out of the whole carnevale meat indulgence entirely, I like to indulge instead in a fantastic eggplant lasagne with ricotta cheese.
For this variety, we make a red sauce still using the soffritto and tomato, but obviously eliminating the meat. Then, we layer the pasta, tomato sauce, eggplant slices, and ricotta cheese before baking in the oven. It is one of my favorite meals we make at home, and a very easy one to prepare and bring to an event or party and share with friends!
Mia Emilia’s lasagne noodles are the perfect base for whichever type you like best. Each one is between .9 and 1.3 mm thick, helping you to achieve the ideal consistency that truly makes your recipe. Unlike many large production brands, these artisanal noodles do not stick together.
Nothing is more frustrating when crafting your lasagna than tearing apart sticky noodles and ruining the presentation. These do not stick, allowing you to create a beautiful dish easily that not only looks better, but tastes better than regular factory-made brands. These egg noodles produce a delicious, fluffier lasagne, sure to wow your family and friends!
Begin by cooking the noodles in a large pot. Size is important, as we want to be careful not to break them to retain the tidy appearance.
One important note about cooking your pasta, this or any other type, is to bring your water to a full boil before adding the noodles.
Once the water is boiling nicely, add in some salt. The salt will enhance the flavor of the noodles, and this a traditional Italian trick to flavorful pasta meals!
Wait until the salt dissolves in the water, and then it is time to toss in the pasta noodles. The pasta makers advise us against stirring the lasagne noodles in the first two minutes, to avoid accidentally breaking them. Within only about 4 to 6 minutes, your noodles will be done. I, personally, like to err on the shorter side, knowing that the noodles will continue to cook in the oven.
Drain your noodles and let them cool enough to be able to touch them, then begin to craft your delicious lasagne, using your favorite ingredients or recipe! After baking for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees, your dish should be perfectly done.
At one of my favorite wineries in Italy, and the world, really, the family serves their grandmother’s lasagne to many a visitor from all over the world. I have had many guests including my husband and colleagues return saying it was the best they have ever tasted. Why? Because it’s authentic.
With Mia Emilia’s artisanal lasagne noodles, made by Luigi and Maria in Le Marche, you can prepare that same home-cooked authentically Italian meal for your own family. Yes, you can buy cheap brands in the supermarket, but you will never achieve the texture and farm-fresh flavor that you find in products made traditionally and by hand.
One taste of this quality is all it takes to understand, a meal can be an experience, not only a necessity. When food tastes this good, it encourages us to linger around the table, and around each other, enjoying life’s simple pleasures with those we hold most dear.