Tim Hortons lasagna: just like Mom never made

Many of our staff thought it bore a striking taste resemblance to the chain’s chili

I adore lasagna; all kinds of lasagna. I love the sort my mom used to make with canned mushrooms, slices of processed mozzarella and ground beef flavoured with garlic powder and onion; I love the classic Canadian version that other mothers used to make (the one with cottage cheese smothered between layers of noodles, a tomato-dense meat sauce and grated mozzarella from a plastic bag); I love President’s Choice and No Name frozen lasagnas, even though they take, like, forever to cook in the oven; and I love the quintessential lasagna alla Bolognese that comes courtesy of the Italians in Emilia-Romagna, a north-eastern region famous for producing Ferraris, Fellini and food.

They’re so crazy about food in Bologna, the region’s capital and arguably the gastronomical capital of the country, that they even codify classic recipes, for posterity’s sake. Like lasagna alla Bolognese. How does this version differ from what many Canadians grew up eating? For starters, the ragù is a thoughtful assemblage of different cuts of pork, beef and chicken livers that’s mingled with a soffrito of onions, carrots and celery, along with a little tomato sauce. This is layered between several sheets of fresh spinach pasta, grated hard cheese, like Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano, and besciamel.  Even though there’s a codified version, every Italian mother makes her ragù a little differently. Some add milk. Some add boiled eggs. And everyone’s mother makes it best.

I love thinking about how lasagna alla Bolognese, and other regional variations of the baked pasta dish, migrated across the Atlantic and became, well, my mom’s version. Or your mom’s version. Or Tim Hortons version. I decided to go downstairs to our Tim’s kiosk here at Maclean’s HQ and pick up a portion for my colleagues to try. Opinions varied. Many thought it bore a striking taste resemblance to the chain’s chili. “They just added pasta and took away some of the spices,” one writer said.

“It’s not really lasagna if it’s not layered,” a managing editor commented. And she’s right. But a copy editor noted that Tim’s doesn’t actually market it as just lasagna; they call it “Beef Lasagna Casserole.” Well, that solves that!

The Milanese on staff said, “The pasta melts in your mouth, which it’s not supposed to do.” No guff. There were plenty of quips about how mushy it was. And a few comments about its appearance. Not surprisingly, it was someone from the art department that actually refused to try it based on the dish’s looks: “If I wanted to put lasagna in a blender and then eat it,” he said, “then I would.”

Even though I’m practically Italian (having worked in a Italian restaurant serving up traditional southern Italian fare and having lived in the mother country for a year), I wasn’t as offended by the Tim Hortons beef lasagna casserole as much as some of my colleagues were. “I don’t think Chef Boyardee would put his name on it,” said one. Another said that I was playing with fire by letting everyone sample it. “There are only so many washrooms on this floor,” he warned.

Personally, I thought it tasted like the token meat sauce that you eat in church basements that’s made by grandmas, or my old friend’s mother’s goulash that was always simmering in a slow-cooker and eaten with white Wonder bread smothered in margarine. In other words, not half bad.

And by the by, if you find yourself in Firenze, go to the Trattoria at Via Ghibellina, 27/R—just down a ways from Michelangelo’s old digs—and see if the owner’s mother has prepared lasagna that day.  Then eat a piece.




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Tim Hortons lasagna: just like Mom never made

  1. de gustibus non est disputandum

    • Nusquam gusto nusquam ut velitatio

  2. Written by someone who knows what she is talkin’ about…

  3. I love the actress from Kraft 4 cheese lasagna.  I can’t wait until holographic tv.  And dating sites that let you pick faces.  And until I can afford mail order brides.  Wendy’s chili is good.  Lasagna is too cheesy; too fattening.  Tomato-based dinners are high in sodium.  I’d love to know if 2.5-3x daily sodium is better than 1.5-2.0x cholesterol.  Weed made me eat too much fat.  Where was my gov’s public health warning not to binge eat?  You guys should be promoting healthy and low footprint foods.  Veggie lasagna, maybe.  huh huh, readers: eat lasagna so you’ll die sooner!  If only once a week at least it keeps metabolism up.
    If we towed the plastic garbage island in the Pacific to the Arctic, Santa could be propogated for kids and wives.  I’ve been too hard on Evangelicals like in Oh Brother Where Art Thou.  And our (our) Science and Prime Ministers.  They think pandemics can’t happen and didn’t happen, but they had the same mom only 300 generations ago and we had the same mom 60000 generations ago.

  4. Plastic bag?!  In Italy they screw at a young age.  Do the women hit on men like in Northern Europe?  I can’t stand the values that other humans have.  I need hand in a relationship just to stomach this sick world.  I tihnk we screwed over Italy’s future climate enough they will be moving to Middle Eastern or African cuisine.  101 ways to bake cassava.  After the pandemics most of the meat will be slaughtered anyway ala Egypt.  At least then we’ll have Kyoto.

  5. If you’re looking for something to fill your stomach so you can go back to work, or make it home from a long trip and you see a Tim Hortons and pull in for a quick meal, that’s what you’ll get — a quick meal. Stop looking for haut cuisine in a fast food lane. Jeepers guys.

  6. Like the Tim Horton’s chilli, the lasagne takes for every to cool down and because I only purchase these things when I’m in a rush, burned the roof of my mouth.  Poor me :(

  7. A very good read.

  8. In Mestre, the land-based modern city off the Venice laguna, in Italy; a little corner shop at the bottom of the boutique hotel building that looked like many pizza-and-burger joints in anytown Canada looks. Layer of gnocchi at the bottom of the lasagna. Best. Lasagna. So far. Learned to make gnocchi myself just so I could try to replicate at home. Am still working on that.

    Otherwise, my personal variation is a three-meat (veal, pork and beef) three-cheese (cottage, feta, mozzarella) that always makes my friends like me a bit more.

  9. Cara Jessica,
    Where do you stand on 1) white lasagna, and, 2) no-boil lasagna noodles?
    Spero di sentitirti presto! 

    • Best noodles to use are the fresh ones.  No boiling required and they are thinner, more delicate than the dried ones.  Had a white lasagne with meat sauce served on top once when I was a kid, can remember it to this day. Never been quite able to duplicate it.

  10. looks like “schweineeimer” this means literally translated pig bucket

  11. I’m sorrry I forgot the explanation. This is the bucket in a restaurant kitchen which is used to throw leftovers in order to feed it to the pigs. ( at least here in Switzerland)

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