Taste of the Week – January 24th-30th: Rocky’s Lasagna

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Sometimes I think it is a lot easier for non Italian-Americans to appreciate lasagna. For Italian-Americans lasagna is very, very personal, perhaps more so than for any other Italian-American dish. While I can like a lasagna other than that from the Sconzo family recipe, I find few to be exciting. This past week, however, I ate one that, though it was quite different to what I am used to, was delicious and proof that different can be good too, even for something as personally ingrained as lasagna.

The occasion was a pot-luck business meeting for the Slow Food Saratoga Region Executive committee that was held at my home. Everyone brought delicious and remarkable dishes, while I supplied wine and my wife made home-made pumpkin pie entirely from scratch. For me, Rocky's lasagna, which he calls "Two-Day Lasagna," stood out not just because it was so good, but because it was an alternative lasagna that I really, really enjoyed and which opened my mind!

Maybe it was the ground veal from Brookside Farm or the fresh Italian sweet sausage and pancetta from Roma in Saratoga Springs. Maybe it was the combination of cheeses including cow's milk ricotta, feta, mascarpone and Parmesan. Maybe it was his home-made tomato sauce. Maybe it was the home-made hand-rolled, hand-cut pasta made with DP flour, semolina and faro flours. Maybe it was all of the above.  Though Rocky (current SFSR President and occasional DStB contributor Rocco Verrigni) didn't mention any, I could swear that I tasted some roasted red peppers in there too. Perhaps, that is just a chef holding back on his secret ingredient? Whatever the reason, the lasagna was remarkable and quite delicious, possessing deep, rich flavor with plenty of zing and zest.Though this one was freshly made, Rocky generally recommends making it one day and serving it the next reheated, so that the ingredients hold together better, thus his "Two-Day Lasagna" moniker.

Maybe I was able to appreciate this lasagna because it was very different from the Sconzo lasagna. This lasagna was quite compact without an overabundance of any particular ingredient. The Sconzo lasagna uses more ricotta and mozzarella compared to pasta and the sauce has more of a fennel component from either sausage or added fennel seeds. In addition, we generally prefer the lasagna fresh from the oven and appreciate its creamy, runny gooieness. As with so many things that go with personal preference, there is no right nor wrong, nor even an absolute "best" way. It is always good though to be able to expand and appreciate something for its own sake, no matter what name it goes by or what personal associations it may hold.


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