Laganum (plural lagana) was a thin Roman unleavened flat bread.
Some think it was soft like a wheat flour tortilla; others think it was crispy. But it wasn’t a dried bread.
It was made from wheat flour, and baked or fried on a hot flat surface.
Some recipes added lettuce juice to the dough.
It’s entirely possible that laganum evolved into different forms in different parts of the Roman Empire, at different times, and even continued evolving after the fall of official Rome.
Some recipes talk of using sheets of lagana in layered dishes; at other times it was just eaten as a bread.
Some modern food writers think that it evolved into lasagna, though most agree that it doesn’t seem to have performed any pasta-like role until at least the 400s AD.
Isidore de Séville (560-636) talks of Laganum as being cooked first in water, then fried in oil. As the centuries advanced, it may be that the frying in oil afterwards was just dropped.
Literature & Lore
Accipies frustra suminis cocta, pulpas piscium coctas, pulpas pulli coctas. Haec omnia concides diligenter. Accipias patellam aeneam, ova confringes in caccabum et dissolves. Adicies in mortarium piper, ligusticum, fricabis, suffundes liquamem, vinum, passum, oleum modice, reexinanies in caccabum, facies ut ferveat. Cum ferbuerit, et obligas. Pulpas quas subcultrasti in ius mittis. Substerne diploidem patinam aeneam et trullam plenam pulpae, et disparges oleum et laganum pones similiter. Quotquot lagana posueris, tot trullas inpensae adicies. Unum laganum fistula percuties, in superficiem pones. A superficie versas in discum, piper asperges et inferet.
An Everyday Dish
Take pieces of cooked sow’s udder, cooked fish, chicken meat and similar bits. Mince evenly, and carefully season. Get a metal dish; set aside. Break eggs in a bowl and mix them. Crush pepper, lovage and origany in a mortar. Add to this broth, wine, raisin wine and a small amount of oil; add this to the beaten egg, mix and heat in a hot water bath. When thick, mix with the meat mixture. In the metal dish you set aside, put alternate layers of the egg-meat mixture with layers of laganum, with oil in between. The last layer should be a laganum with a hole cut in it to allow steam to escape. Cook this in a hot water bath. To serve, turn out of the metal dish upside down and sprinkle with pepper.
— Apicius: De Re Coquinaria. Book IV.
Laganum comes from the Greek word “lasanon” or “laganon”, which could mean, among other things, a focaccia-like flat bread.