I’ll never forget the first time I savored a lasagna made with something other than the usual mozzarella and ricotta cheeses.
I was living in New York City, and a lovely Englishwoman invited me to dinner. Out from her oven came a pan of lasagna, bubbling with of all things Cheddar cheese between the layers.
I was skeptical at first; it seemed heresy to use an English cheese in a typically Italian dish. But the depth of flavor that a true Cheddar brought was indeed head-turning. There was something else in the recipe, too—slathers of white sauce adding a creamy lusciousness that I had never before experienced in the dish.
A few years later, I found myself in Paris swooning over a French version of lasagna, this one made with a white sauce and Comté cheese (a French Gruyère). The waiter asked me why I was making such a fuss; after all, didn’t we have lasagna in America? Yes, I told him but many recipes don’t include a white sauce. And we certainly didn’t use Comté. “Well, then, what’s the point?” he asked.
A trip to Italy confirmed the same thing—luscious lasagna lies in the creamy béchamel sauce, and Italy’s famed Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Enjoy them all.
By Wini Moranville, Relish wine columnist
For a video on making a creamy bechamel sauce click here.