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Food

December 09, 1990

No matter what the non-Italian chef Joachim Splichal or the Italian-born chef Celestino Drago say, a "lasagna without noodles" is definitely not a lasagna (Food & Wine, by Helene Siegel, Oct. 21).

As an Italian-born and the author of the Italian cookbook "La Dolce Cucina," I cannot accept the denomination of lasagna for any dish made without its "quintessential ingredient, the pasta." Without going into any definition of the term quintessential , which by itself would prove the point, I would like to add that it does seem a little preposterous to say that "as long as it is layered and light, anything can be called a lasagna." By that token, a layered meringue cake could be in that category.

I find it puzzling that Siegel in the recipe for polenta lists among the ingredients two cups of polenta, instead of cornmeal, which will certainly give rise to some confusion among the American readers willing to re-create chef Splichal's masterpiece. The addition of the cup of heavy cream, Parmesan cheese and cayenne is, no doubt, the chef's innovation. As a Venetian, I can assure you that traditional polenta is made only with cornmeal and water and requires at least a half hour of constant mixing.

One last point--the dish described in the article must certainly be "flavorful," but "light"? With one cup of heavy cream in the polenta and one pound of butter in the sauce? That's enough to double anyone's cholesterol.

ANNA BENSON

Los Angeles

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