Whether your favorite lasagna recipe features spicy sausage and mounds of mozzarella or spinach and low-fat cottage cheese, you need side dishes to turn it into a dinner. The traditional accompaniments to pasta dishes are bread and salads, which have many variations. Finish with a traditional Italian dessert for a truly special meal.
Try a Caprese salad appetizer to accompany your lasagna. Slice fresh tomatoes and mozzarella and layer the slices on a plate with fresh basil leaves. Drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil and finish with a sprinkle of freshly ground peppercorns. Or serve up a plate of antipasto complete with grilled red and yellow bell peppers, sliced cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives and rolled salami. Serve with whole-grain crackers or thin, crispy bread sticks if you prefer to save the bread for the meal.
A large green salad is the perfect accompaniment to a warm, cheesy meat or vegetable lasagna. Toss romaine, butter, endive and arugula lettuces with black olives, thin-sliced purple onions and cherry tomatoes. Top a green salad with shredded Parmesan cheese and creamy dressing and serve it before the lasagna as an appetizer or alongside it as a main course
Whether it's a tangy sourdough or a flour-dusted artisanal whole-grain loaf, having the right crusty, chewy bread to go with lasagna is crucial. Italian bread is usually made with olive oil and some dairy, whether butter or eggs or both. Serve the bread with a dish of olive oil on the side for dipping, and grind a bit of fresh black pepper into the olive oil bowl just before serving for a flavor explosion.
End your lasagna dinner with a traditional Italian dessert. If a fried cannoli studded with chocolate chips and filled with cream sounds a bit too heavy, serve a blend of fresh berries with cannoli cream. Mix ricotta cheese with whipping cream, powdered sugar and cinnamon according to your favorite cannoli recipe, then spoon it onto the berries before serving. You can also try your hand at creating one of the many versions of tiramisu, an Italian dessert made by layering espresso-soaked ladyfingers with sweetened moscarpone cheese and chocolate shavings.
Ann Jones has been writing since 1998. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies. Her journalistic work can be found in major magazines and newspapers. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.