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The only thing I like more than noodles is even-larger noodles, preferably many of them, assembled together in some way and then given to me to eat. So I present to you: Noodling - The Lasagna Odyssey
Multiple locations across Oklahoma and Arkansas
I like pizza, but I’m not generally enthusiastic about it*. Barring few exceptions in either direction, the distance between great pizza and only-okay pizza on the pizza spectrum isn’t that far. To me, the way to take red sauce, cheese, and a stretchy wheat dough beyond the sum of their parts is to configure them in some kind of pasta preparation.
*That sound you’re hearing is Robbie C. scrambling to block me on all social media channels.
So sure, you guys share your hand-tossed pepperoni whatever, and I’ll be across the table enjoying my very own entrée served to me in a dish brought directly to me that only I am meant to eat from, a statement that definitely in no way reveals anything about what kind of person or Garfield I am in a lasagna-eating scenario.
The lasagna I’m talking about first is from Hideaway Pizza. I’m a Hideaway lasagna regular. On a good day, I cut the portion in half upon its arrival to the table and save the other half for later because lasagna is one of maybe six foods that improve as leftovers. On a great day, I just eat the whole thing in one go.
Hideaway recently switched their baked pasta offerings from little gratin dishes to small deep dish pans, which I understand, because it is by and large a pizza restaurant, my feelings about which I have already discussed here. My initial reaction was to object to this, internally of course, because it is very unlikely my Hideaway server is the person who made this decision.
When my deep dish lasagna arrived, I objected internally again—because you can’t tell it’s lasagna. This is a very literal square peg, round hole situation: a rectangular piece of lasagna placed in a pizza tin, doused in more sauce and cheese, and baked until blistery. Also, it’s called a deep dish, and while it is indeed deep if you are making a pizza in it, it is really not that deep for a lasagna.
This is where my list of petty complaints ends. I like Hideaway Pizza’s lasagna so much because, flavor-wise, it checks most of my comfort food boxes:
If you can wrap your head around the presentation, which honestly looks more like an Italian-ish queso fundido than lasagna, it’s a very solid little pasta dish, reasonably priced, and could be turned into three meals if you have any semblance of self-control. It even comes with two buttery pieces of garlic bread. When you use them to sop up that circle of sauce around the noodle square, it’s basically second lasagna.
Gaberino's Homestyle Italian Restaurant
400 Ed Noble Parkway, Norman
Gaberino’s is an Italian restaurant with a pretty classic menu boasting handmade, fresh pasta in most of its dishes. It is a vast improvement on the Chili’s Grill and Bar that formerly inhabited its space. (No offense to Chili’s, which I’m also fine with when I’m in a certain mood, but the mood I was in on this day was a noodle mood—a “moodle,” if you will.)
What I particularly like about this restaurant is that it has the gall to be Italian restaurant-themed when so many other restaurants go reaching for aesthetics, or, even worse, menu item names, that have zero to do with the food they’re actually serving. Red-and-white-checked tablecloths. Manicotti that is listed on the menu as “Manicotti.” Other comforting and familiar things. You get it. For the record, as a practice I never order anything on a menu that has an excessively dumb name. I have never had a Moons Over My Hammy, and I never will.
I skipped over the standard cheese and meat sauce-and-cheese lasagna options at Gaberino’s and went for the Chicken Lasagna Florentine off the “Specialties” section of their menu, because it has spinach in it and is therefore the healthiest thing.
I love a lasagna in a snug little gratin dish because of the maximum noodle burnage, and I also love when I get an Italian entree with the tiniest pools of orange oil on top because that’s what cheese is SUPPOSED TO DO when you heat it, and this Chicken Lasagna Florentine came through with both.
If you are averse to tiny pools of grease on top of your food, then might I recommend not ordering a bubbling dish of baked cheese with tomato sauce.
Generally, I want lots of sauce between the pasta sheets so that the lasagna is a goopy mess until it cools down, and this particular dish has the chicken-cheese-spinach layers on the dry side with the marinara baked on top. It’s good, and it makes the whole thing kind of pleasantly chewy, actually, but it’s still not my number-one lasagna assemblage choice. Worth ordering, obviously handmade, but if you’re eating lasagna because you hate Mondays, you might be looking for something a little less refined than this, in which case, have I got the lasagna for you. (Scroll up.)
The Loaded Bowl
1211 SW 2nd St, OKC
My third lasagna option is vegan, and that is absolutely not why I chose it for this column. I’m talking about The Garfield from The Loaded Bowl—marinara, tofu ricotta, cashew cheese, spinach and squash—and I’m including it here because it is friggin’ delicious. Also, it comes with a side of grilled veggies, and pasta never comes with sides, so this is a borderline genius move to me.
Admittedly, it is kind of not much to look at because the top layer is cooked spinach leaves, so it looks a little, uh… leafier… than maybe you want from a lasagna dish. But peel that foliage back, because inside it’s a cheesy*, creamy*, noodle-y lasagna that stands up to any lasagna I have had from anywhere, really.
*It is technically neither of these things.
You can eat the entire thing without feeling like straight-up garbage afterward if your insides are at all dairy-averse, which I think everyone’s are once they hit the age of 30 or so. I don’t condone letting people pursue arbitrary commitments to always eating meat during meals, but you could feasibly trick someone into thinking it is a non-vegan lasagna, if you’re more culinarily forgiving than I am. Oh, and side note, not a noodle, but the garlic bread at Loaded Bowl is far and away the best garlic bread of the three garlic breads served with my three lasagnas.
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