Lasagna is arguably my favorite Italian dish. You’ve got everything in there you would possibly want! The name lasagna (spelled “lasagne” everywhere but the United States, of course) comes from the broad, flat pasta used to create the dish, making the meaty, saucy layers, like a savory Italian Napoleon. You can put just about anything you want in a lasagna between those pasta layers, but traditionally, the layers consist of tomato sauce, a meat (like ground beef or sausage), and various cheeses, including ricotta and mozzarella. When lasagna was on the menu at my parent’s house as a kid we also had onions, mushrooms, and spinach added to that mix. The tomato sauce can be omitted (or substituted for alfredo or any other thick sauce), the meat can be omitted, and basically any vegetable you want can fit neatly in between those lasagna sheets. Lasagna is so versatile, yet so good!
The best lasagna I ever tasted was, sadly, not in New York City. I ate that on Thanksgiving Day in Florence when I was studying abroad. You have not lived until you’ve tasted the food in Italy, it’s, in my limited experience, the best in the world. But you don’t have to hop on a plane to get some really great lasagna: you just have to hop on the 1 train to West 50th Street. Celebrity chef Marco Canora makes a lasagna at his restaurant, Insieme, that you definitely have never seen before: first of all, it’s green. His “lasagna verde” makes his lasagna pasta fresh, using spinach dough, and the sauce is a bechamel sauce, not red tomato. It gives the dish a refined, earthy taste, as opposed to the powerhouse of flavor that a red tomato sauce lasagna will give. The lasagna is expertly crafted, with seven super-thin layers of sauce, cheese, pancetta, and pasta, making for a dense and delicious dish. It’s so well-revered that New York Magazine gave it the distinction of Best Lasagne in New York back in 2008. With that kind of accolade, you’ve got to stop over and try it–even just for curiosity’s sake!
777 7th Ave (between 51st St & 50th St)
“So whenever we feel like a taste of the real thing without any of the attendant hassle, we slip into one of the sleek booths at Marco Canora’s midtown restaurant, Insieme, and call for a platter or two of the exquisite “lasagne verde.” Canora makes his sheets of pasta with fresh spinach, and mingles his beef Bolognese with milk, butter, and plenty of pancetta. Instead of three or four layers, he constructs seven, each one wafer-thin, and oozing with a rich béchamel seasoned with nutmeg. The result is a rich, meaty, densely articulated confection, layered with the kind of flavor that our dear Grandma Nona, with her well-worn apron and collection of wooden stirring spoons, could only dream about.”–New York Magazine
“For a dish that grandma might have made, make way to Midtown’s Insieme (777 Seventh Ave., 212-582-1310), where chef Marco Canora dusts off his family recipe for lasagne verde: Seven layers of spinach pasta are filled with oozing, nutmeg-spiked béchamel, beef Bolognese and oodles of minced pancetta you’ll be rooting around for like magnificent, meaty treasure.”–Metro Mix
“It’s an artificial conceit; the traditional dishes feel quite new, and the new ones are rooted in tradition. Consider Insieme’s deservingly touted lasagna. It occupies a line on the old-school side of the menu, but bears little resemblance to that familiar red-sauce-layered pasta. This version is a sandwich of spinach pasta and parmesan sitting atop a two-inch pile of beef-and-pork ragù, cemented together with a thick béchamel. It’s just as innovative as its contemporary peer in the primi section, black-olive fettuccine tossed with a wine-heavy duck ragù and pecorino sardo.”–Time Out New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Main course: My wife ordered the Lasagna Verde di Bolognese, after which the waiter asked us if we knew it was one of their signature dishes. She absolutely loved it. Light, fresh, all the flavors mixed and complemented each other.”–Steve G.
“I couldn’t pass up what’s been named the best lasagna in NYC and the first bite was stunning, not only because it tasted wonderful, but more because it was EXACTLY like my Nonna makes it. Not the pasta, but the sauce–it was exactly the same! I shared it with Justin just to confirm my taste buds weren’t playing tricks on me and we agree–Insieme must have a little old Italian grandmother slaving away in that kitchen, making meat sauce day and night.”–Julia W.
But everyone who’s had a lasagna knows that it’s best served when homemade, around a family dinner table with tons of loved ones to share it. Fancy green lasagnas are all well and good, but nothing beats the experience of homemade. Now you can bring that homey goodness back to your place–without even turning on your oven! While doing my research for this day I found a great family startup company in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, who will do just that for you: made-to-order homemade lasagna. Zahra Tangorra of Brucie restaurant gives you a choice of flavors and toppings–like eggplant and kale, goat cheese and mushrooms, or sausage and white beans. You drop off your 11×14 pan, and in 24 hours you get back a delicious, full pan of gourmet lasagna, ready for you to take home, zap in the microwave, and pass off as your own to your impressed dinner guests. It’s an ingenious business plan that’s caught the eye of The New York Times, and from what I hear in the user reviews, the lasagna is delicious enough to…well, to eat. This is perfect for when you host a dinner party or a holiday supper and can’t get enough time to cook a dish for a lot of people…or if you’re not that great in the kitchen and can use Brucie’s help. Just thinking about that goat cheese and mushroom lasagna is making me hungry…I might want to order a whole pan just for myself 😉
234 Court St (at Baltic St), Cobble Hill
“At her rustic little restaurant, Brucie, Zahra Tangorra gives the home cook a worthy resource. Bring in your 9-by-14-inch baking pan and she will fill it with enough lasagna for 12 people, ready to bake at home, or to take away parbaked or fully cooked. As you put the bubbling pan on the table, let your guests make their assumptions about who deserves credit.”–The New York Times
“Owner/executive chef Zahra Tangorra and chef Amelia Hall have been taking Cobble Hill by storm with their homemade lasagna, offered both in the Court St. restaurant and to go. Here’s how it works: Bring Zahra one of your own pans, and she’ll whip up a classic meatless goat cheese and mushroom, or eggplant and Swiss chard for you to enjoy at home ($45 and up). Brucie’s rolls all their pasta, mozzarella and tomato sauce in house, ensuring a fresh, melt-in-your-mouth dish that might encourage you to keep that whole pan to yourself.”–The Daily News
“But being a home-trained cook (with no prior restaurant kitchen experience), chef-owner Zahra Tangorra realizes that some nights you want to stay in. Now, Brucie’s lasagna and meatball drop-off service gives you the best of both worlds. Simply drop your own lasagna pan (approximately 11-by-14 inches) into the waiting hands at Brucie; on your way home from work the following night, you can pick it up filled with lasagna. Lasagna offerings change with the seasons: Current options include classic meatless lasagna ($55); eggplant, tomato and Swiss chard ($65); goat cheese and mushrooms ($65) and roast pork and butternut squash ($75). Come deep winter, expect dark leafy greens, beets and turnips to make their way into the rotation.”–Tasting Table
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The lasagna (which when I had it had kale and sausage I think? it might change a bit seasonally) was delicious and comforting, without being too heavy. I would also definitely recommend the beet/kale salad, which has the perfect balance of citrus tang for those earthy veggies.”–Lucy M.
“Brucie has a totally cozy, comfortable vibe and it feels like it has been there way longer than it actually has. Food was delicious, we tried the white bean lasagna, sweet potato ravioli and arugula salad. The lasagna was so yummy and very filling.”–Sarah F.
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