Italian Fat Tuesday Lasagna
Eat up before fasting begins with this luscious lasagna loaded with mini meatballs, cheeses and covered with a tomato basil sauce.
For the meatballs:
- 2 slices good-quality white or peasant bread, crust trimmed a bit
- Milk, to soak
- 1 pound ground chuck
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, pasted or grated
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 small onion, finely chopped or grated
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup beef stock
- 2 cups passata or tomato puree
- 2 cans San Marzano tomatoes (28 ounces each can)
- A few leaves basil, torn
- Sea salt, to taste
- 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- A few grates nutmeg
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, loosely packed, divided
- 2 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick slices, prosciutto cotto (1/3 pound), finely diced
- 1 pound Fior di Latte/fresh mozzarella, diced or grated, such as Buon Italia
- 15 long ribbons lasagna noodles, cooked for 6-7 minutes in salted water to become flexible, then drained and patted dry
Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF.
For the meatballs, soak the bread in the milk to soften. Squeeze out all the excess moisture and crumble between your fingers as you add to a mixing bowl containing the meat. Season with salt and pepper, then add the parsley, garlic, egg and a fat drizzle of EVOO. Use a small scoop or wet hands with warm water and roll golf ball-size meatballs. Arrange on a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet and roast to light brown and almost cooked through, 15-18 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Heat the olive oil, two turns of the pan, over medium heat. Melt the butter into the oil and stir in the garlic and onion, thyme, salt and pepper, and partially cover. Let sweat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, to soften. Add the stock and stir in the pure and tomatoes, breaking up the tomatoes with a potato masher. Stir in the torn basil; simmer for 45 minutes, adding the meatballs after 15 minutes.
Mix together the ricotta with the eggs, nutmeg and half of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Finely chop the prosciutto cotto.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF.
Build the lasagna in a 9-inch x13-inch pan: First some sauce, then three ribbons of lasagna noodles, half the ricotta, a third of the mozzarella, half the ham, another layer of pasta, a layer of half the meatballs and some of the sauce, then sprinkle with some Parm. Repeat the layers again and top with last of the red sauce and the remaining mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Bake the lasagna covered with foil on baking sheet for 45-50 minutes. Remove the foil and bake to brown, 10-15 minutes more. Let stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before cutting.