Lasagna Smackdown: Rolls vs. Layers
Rolling looks nice, but is it even worth it?
I’ve long believed that there are two types of people in this world—there are those who enjoy the crunchy, dried edges of the lasagna and those who prefer an interior cut, that’s soft, moist, and a far cry from toothy. But what about those who prefer no cut at all… what of those who would prefer a lasagna roll?
Rolled lasagna, arguably popularized by New York’s Don Angie (run by husband-and-wife duo Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito) has an undeniably charming aesthetic. Resembling a savory, saucey cinnamon roll, the restaurant’s browned and toasty rolled beauty is has proven itself to be Instagram gold. These lasagna rolls, which seem to be just be a more approachable titled rotolo, are essentially a deconstructed take on classic lasagna where fresh pasta sheets are filled, rolled, and positioned upright into a baking dish and smothered with a tomato sauce. As blogger Nagi of RecipeTin Eats describes, the authentic process of making rotolo is “quite technical and fussy.” and the dish seems to be a real project to take on as a home cook. She explains that traditional preparation involves poaching the rolled and filled pasta sheets in a tea towel to then slice them and serve with a sauce... Ain’t nobody got time for that.
On the Don Angie menu, their rolled dish is simply titled “Our Lasagna for Two”, but the eye-catching pasta course is certainly a bit “cheffier” than the casserole dish of layered pasta, sauce, and cheese that many of us are used to. For one, Tacinelli and Rito use freshly rolled pasta sheets (like many other recipes for rotolo that I came across) which isn’t necessarily the easiest ingredient to track down or make from scratch for the average home cook. Although, it’s definitely a great treat when you are able to work with fresh pasta noodles.
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Taking a deeper dive into understanding the techniques behind perfecting the rolled pasta dish, I found a recent Food & Wine article in which chefs explain that the key to successfully maintaining the shape of the rolled pasta is to make sure all of the ingredients are cold and kept cold prior to building it. Even after you build the rolls and place them neatly in the dish, they need an additional hour to chill in order to hold together. This is an imperative step to preventing the rolls from ultimately falling apart.
The big highlight of the preparation process that I can see is that the entire dish bakes in under 15 minutes. From a restaurant standpoint, this is an ideal situation; the dish can be assembled ahead of time (in fact, is has to be given that it needs to be chilled) and can then be easily baked to order. However, from a home cook’s point of view, this seems a fairly tedious and time consuming project to take on, at least for a casual meal. That said, if you’ve got a special occasion on your hands or picture-perfect presentation is your thing, by all means, go for the roll. Assembled correctly, rolling will yield a beautiful, swoon-worthy pan of sauce, cheese, and pasta. However, if meticulously assembling components in an effort to get dinner on the table isn’t something you’re all that into, you may want to stick with the classic lasagna construct.
Your other option is to land somewhere between a restaurant-quality presentation and the layered comfort food classic by making lasagna rolls that do not stand upright, such as these Tomato-Basil Lasagna Rolls. While they may require a bit more hands on attention than your traditional pan of lasagna, they’re not going to take the better part of your day to assemble as the rotolo-style rolls might. And remember—whether rolled or layered, if your lasagna isn’t looking as attractive as you might have hoped, the solution, my friends, is this: more cheese. Nothing says beauty like bubbling, browned mozzarella.