Why You Should Always Roast Your Lasagna Sauce

Many a Sunday afternoon has been spent at an Italian-American grandma's house, the smell of garlic and tomatoes permeating the house alongside the cheerful chatter of numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. One of the best meals to feed a crowd and some serious comfort food, lasagna is on the menu.

Lasagna is from Bologna (the same place we get pasta Bolognese) or Naples, depending on who you're talking to. It's been around since the Middle Ages –- there are references to the dish found as early as the late 1200s. The Bolognese version is made with thin sheets of egg and spinach pasta dough baked between layers of ragú and béchamel topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano. But we also have the Neapolitan version of lasagna, which date the dish as far back as the 1100s (per The Italian Club), where tomato sauce was added to the dish sometime around the 1880s. However, the Bolognese version is enshrined in the Accademia Italiana di Cucina (Italian Kitchen Academy) (via Italy Magazine).

Of course, various countries have their own version of lasagna, not to mention the numerous variations of lasagna here in the United States. But there are always ways to improve a recipe and make it your own, and besides fillings, you can start with the sauce.

A simple, time-saving hack to boost flavor without the effort

Rather than spending all afternoon taking care of a traditional ragú then layering it in your lasagna, there are other methods to easily impart a lot of flavors. If you're pressed for time or counter space or prefer a vegetarian lasagna, Zahra Tangorra, the chef and owner of the Italian-American popup Zaza Lazagna recommends roasting your tomato sauce (via Epicurious). This method will provide a boost of richness that comes from roasted tomatoes. It's a one-dish affair –- all you need to do is dump the ingredients like high-quality canned tomatoes, some onion, garlic, and olive oil in a baking dish and let the oven do the reducing and caramelizing for you. There's no need to keep an eye on your stove all day.

Just be aware of the combined cooking times for your tomato sauce. If the tomatoes caramelize too much from two trips to the oven, you'll end up with a bitter, burnt-tasting tomato sauce, which will ruin your lasagna and any leftover sauce (via PMQ).