The first known reference to lasagna dates back to Medieval Italy. It was very different from the dish we know and love today. For one thing, there were no tomatoes in Italy at that time and therefore no tomato sauce. Instead the noodles were simply topped with grated hard cheeses and spices then tossed in a bit of the boiled pasta water. The second big difference is in the lasagna noodles themselves. They were cut into squares, about 2 inches by 2 inches. And the dough that produces the noodles was quite different from modern pasta dough. It was fermented with naturally occurring yeasts just as breads of the time were, this is also referred to as naturally leavened. This gives the lasagna noodles a much different texture due to the gasses produced during the rising process.
Now I certainly do understand that most people are not willing to create a historically accurate version of medieval lasagna, especially since it takes months at a minimum to cultivate a proper fermented starter dough. However, I will say, the results are unique and impressive. So I have come up with a recipe that uses modern dried yeast to provide leavening. Although the complexity of flavor that comes with a long-term fermentation can not be duplicated, it does give the pasta the same texture.
At some point you should try these lasagna noodles simply dressed with some of the boiled pasta water, grated cheese and spices as was done hundreds of years ago. But the recipe that follows is a blend of old and new. It uses a modern tomato sauce and cooks up perfectly in your toaster oven. The close proximity of a toaster oven's heating elements perfectly browns the gooey cheese.
1.5 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of warm (but not hot) water
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
1 cup of shredded fontina cheese
1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
Combine the active dry yeast and water in a medium sized mixing bowl. Set aside in room temperature for ten minutes to allow the yeast to "wake up." Add the flour and sea salt and stir well. Knead until the dough is elastic; this should take about fifteen minutes by hand or three minutes in a stand mixer or food processor fitted with a dough blade. Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover with a towel. Leave in a warm, dark place until doubled in size; this will probably take about an hour.
Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.
Place the dough on a well-floured board and gently roll it until it is the thickness of a nickel. Dust with flour, then cut into 2 inch squares with either a pizza cutter or chef's knife. Place into the pot of boiling water, stirring constantly, until the lasagna pasta squares float to the top of the pot.
Place 1/3 of the cooked lasagna noodles into a greased baking dish. Top with 1/3 of the jar of sauce followed by 1/3 of the fontina cheese. Repeat this procedure twice, then top with the parmesan cheese.
Heat your toaster oven to 375 degrees F. Bake until the cheese melts and the lasagna is thoroughly heated; this will probably take about 40 minutes.