I·ATE: Layered savory delicacies – moussaka & lasagna

July 29, 2017 3:33 pm

There are some dishes that, beyond their savory surprises, hide surprises behind their name, origin, preparation or all of the above. This is what makes the culture of food amazing and what proves that, naming a dish, can be rather controversial and far from easy. In that spirit, with this week’s I·ATE post we invite you to discover the secrets of moussaka and lasagna!


When thinking of the gastronomy of modern Greece, one of the first dishes that comes in mind, is the rich and nicely layered moussaka (mousakas – μουσακάς). Moussaka consists of 3 basic layers: first is the fried or bakedmoussakas layer of eggplants (sometimes in mix with fried or baked potatoes), then follows the layer, traditionaly, of minced lamp meat à la sauce tomate, and finally a rich layer of bechamel, with a touch of nutmeg and allspice. Moussaka despite the fact that is a well-known delicacy of modern Greece, its name, is far from Greek! According to the etymology provided by Meriam-Webster, μουσακάς, derives from an Arabic dialect in Egypt, where musaggaʽa appears and literally means chilled.

Greeks believe that moussaka was introduced when the Arabs brought the eggplant in Greece, although Arabs, especially in Lebanon, think of it as a Greek dish.

Following the traces, moussaka should be a dish after a successful combination of cultures. Indeed, Nikolaos Tselemedes, the first chef of modern Greece, was the one that defined the preparation of a lot Greek popular dishes and of the greek moussaka. He introduced the lamb meat with tomato sauce, as lamp meat is of preferance in Greece and it has a great link with the Orthodox religion, he borrowed the Libanese version of eggplants with tomato sauce dish and used it as a base and he added finally the bechamel sauce to link with the French culinary culture, and help like this the dish access the palais of the elit du monde. In the end, moussaka, is a dish of different cultural influences with the idea, preparation and assempling to be entirely Greek.

Meaty_LasagnaNext stop, la bella ItaliaWho have ever said no to a warm and generous serving of traditionaly made lasagna?

Lasagna is a rich and savory pasta dish, typical in the Italian gastronomy. It consists of wide, flat-shaped pasta, grounded beef tomato sauce and a thick layer of bechamel sauce on top, seasoned only with salt and peper. According to the online etymology dictionary lasagna is defined as

“pasta cut in long, wide strips; a dish made from this,” 1760 (as an Italian word in English), from Italian (plural is lasagne), from Vulgar Latin *lasania, from Latin lasanum “a cooking pot,” from Greek lasanon “pot with feet, trivet.” Sometimes nativized as lasagne.

As a result, etymologicaly, lasagna origin back to Ancient Greece and it is said that the first similar to the lasagna recipe dates back to the 1390’s in a British cookbook! Nevertheless, as with the moussaka case, the preparation as we know it today and the mastering of the dish happened only when the Italians took over!

And in your country? In your region? Do you have similar moussaka / lasagna recipes? If yes, how do you call them and what are their origin and etymological secrets?

Have a nice weekend with our mouthwashing linguistic discoveries and enjoy!

Written by Katerina PalamiotiTranslator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee and Foodie at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament


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