Lasagne or lasagna?
It’s everyone’s favorite cheesy Italian casserole. Layers of al dente noodles create a deliciously starchy structure on which we pile creamy ricotta, tomato-y meat sauce, and melty mozzarella. It’s a comfort food like no other. But what’s with the spelling?
Have you noticed sometimes lasagna ends in an ‘e’ rather than an ‘a’? While it might seem like they are interchangeable (and they basically are in the U.S.), there is actually a method to this pasta madness.
In Italian, ‘lasagne’ is the plural name given to flat, rectangular pieces of pasta. Whereas ‘lasagna’ is actually the singular form of ‘lasagne.’ ‘Lasagna’ is also the American English spelling of the word, with ‘lasagnas’ being the American plural. English speakers outside of North America usually use ‘lasagne.’
Whether you spell it with an A or an E, the pronunciation is the same. The last syllable sounds like “ya” — so at least we’re on the same page there.
Most pastas dishes in Italian are referred to by their plural name because recipes requires the use of more than one lone noodle (of course). But this means that, in fact, many popular Italian foods in the United States nowadays are referred to by the wrong name.
Take spaghetti. One piece of spaghetti is actually called “spaghetto.” Considering we rarely ever need to refer to one single strand, we almost never have a reason to use this word, thus it’s lost to most of us.
Similarly, ‘cannoli’ is the plural noun of ‘canolo.’ A single ‘ravioli’ is a ‘raviolo.’ A single ‘panini‘ sandwich is a ‘panino.’ ‘Salami’ is also a plural, but because it’s a feminine noun in Italian, the singular is not ‘salamo’ but instead, ‘salame.’
One word we do get right (probably without even knowing it) is the singular ‘gelato.’ Order two Italian ice creams and you should say ‘gelati.’
In the US, we may get most of these foods wrong, but if we have to error on one side or the other, it’s always better to know the plural, of course, because who doesn’t want more food?