A dish you can’t refuse
You won’t have tasted a lasagne quite like this: it’s an exceptional dish, made for festivals and celebrations, so serve it with a flourish. The recipe came from my husband’s (very) distant Italian relatives – said to have links with the Mafia, who reputedly eat very well. Like Godfathers, it’s big and doesn’t take kindly to being cut down. (It needs depth to stay moist.)
I commissioned a potter friend to make me a dish big enough. Having made the mould, she soon got orders from other people too (some of whom looked suspiciously like the man in the picture…)! Before I had her elegant pottery dish, I used a roasting tin covered in a double layer of foil which worked fine.
The recipe is supposed to be done over four days! Well, it does spread out the work as well as giving the dish a very smooth, very Italian and very ‘together’ flavour, so do consider doing this – if you have roomy cold storage.
170g (6 oz) lasagne
1 ball Mozzarella
120g (4 oz) grated Parmesan
2 hard-boiled eggs
a few black olives, stoned
The meat sauce
350g (12 oz) onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbls. olive oil
550g (1¼ lb) minced beef
800g tin of tomatoes
small tube of tomato purée
3 raw, spicy Italian sausages
big pinch sage, thyme, oregano, basil
pinch salt, black pepper, sugar
a little chopped parsle
The Ricotta cheese mixture
350g (12 oz) Ricotta or curd cheese
juice of half a lemon
an egg white
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbls. milk
handful chopped parsley
Make the meat sauce: cook the onion in the oil in a large, heavy saucepan until limp, adding garlic half way through. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Crumble the minced meat into the pan and toss with two wooden spoons over high heat for two minutes to brown but not dry or harden the meat.
Return the onions to the pan, along with the tomatoes and all their juice and everything else except the sausages. Bring to the boil, then simmer over the lowest possible heat to a thickened sauce, stirring from time to time. Ideally this should take two to three hours!
Meanwhile, brown the sausages in a frying pan, then slice into 1cm rounds and add to the sauce to finish cooking. Taste the finished sauce and adjust the seasoning.
When the sauce is done, cool, then store covered in the fridge.
Make the Ricotta cheese mixture. Simply mix everything together to a smooth, spreadable consistency.and store covered in the fridge
Boil the lasagne leaves: throw them into a large pan of fast-boiling water, stir them round, then boil them for exactly ten minutes at a speed just fast enough to keep them moving.
Drain, then save in cold water until needed.
Now build the lasagne! First lightly oil your dish. Then make ‘layer one’ of the lasagne:
On the bottom spread a thin layer of the meat sauce.
Cover this with a neat, single layer of lasagne leaves
Spread a third of the Ricotta cheese mixture on top.
Slice the Mozzarella and scatter a third of the slices over the Ricotta.
Chop the hard boiled eggs and scatter on a third along with a few of the black olives.
Dust on a small third of the grated Parmesan.
Repeat this layer twice more, saving plenty of mixture, especially of Parmesan, for the third layer. Cover with foil and keep in a cool place until the next day.
Put the lasagne in the oven, centre shelf, and cook at gas 4, 180°C for 40 minutes. The top should be lightly golden brown here and there.
Wait at least ten minutes before cutting so the cheese can set, but the dish can sit for a while in a cool oven and it also reheats and freezes well.
Serve with a green salad (see page 93).
Invite some good friends for an all-Italian meal: precede the lasagne by minestrone and follow with the classic Italian dessert of ripe pears (buy well in advance) and Parmesano Reggiano.
Mary Whiting, Entertaining Single-Handed,