Orazio's "laganum" and our lasagna

Orazio e la lasagna

Lasagna is one of the best-known dishes of our culinary tradition, reworked in many versions at every latitude of our peninsula, it can rightly be considered one of the prides of Italian gastronomy.
Lasagna also appears on the menu of our tavern, a dutiful traditional addition among some first courses of Roman cuisine (cheese and black pepper, bacon and egg, tomato and bacon) and other traditional pastas, pappardelle (which we serve with the excellent Gianferrari culatello), orecchiette (seasoned with artichokes and bottarga) and ravioli, just to give a few examples.

The preparation of lasagna has been developed since ancient times, so much so that many consider a famous passage by Horace to be a historical attestation of lasagna. But it is truly possible that the great Latin poet already enjoyed our lasagna?

The passage in question is in the first book of Satires. In the sixth satire Horace praises Maecenas for his ability to recognize the value of a man regardless of the rank of the family into which he was born. The poet, son of a freedman and therefore of humble lineage, has the subject particularly close to his heart. Towards the end of the poem he describes part of his life as a positive example of honest conduct free from vain ambitions. Own in this description of one's daily life the supposed lasagna appears. In fact, Horace tells us that in the evening he often wanders around the forum, plays with the astrologers and then returns home to eat a good plate of "leeks and ciceris laganique”, i.e. leeks, chickpeas and…?

The word suspected of indicating lasagna is precisely "lagani", genitive of "laganum”. However, the translations of the passage are varied. Professor Luca Antonio Pagnini translated for example, in 1814, "a good dish of leeks, chickpeas and gnocchi".
The translation of “laganum” with “lasagna” is proposed starting from the etymology of lasagna which according to some derives from Greek λάγανον hence the Latin laganum. However, the most probable etymology for lasagna is Latin lasania, from Greek λάσανον, which indicates a type of kitchen container (for example the Garzanti etymological dictionary and the Treccani online).

Laganum, in any case, it is not our lasagna, as evident both from the passage cited and from other sources (De king coquinaria of Apicius, for example). The correct translation of laganum It is probably pancake, as attested by most dictionaries.
The great Horace therefore concluded his evening walks with a pancake (or at most with a type of pasta, perhaps similar to today's lagane) with chickpeas and leeks. Not bad, in any case.

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