I’m sitting here eating what little is left over of the leftover Lasagna Napoletana Giuseppe whipped up yesterday. The favored meal of Carnevale, it is the feast before the fast if you will.
An over the top, stuff your stomach, clog your arteries kind of dish, it is chock full of all of the forbidden ingredients the faithful would forgo (and perhaps some still do) for forty days and forty nights.
Each heavenly bite after the next, the rich and melty cheeses, the tenderest of meatballs, the savory sauce, the body of the pasta that holds it all together, and I am in heaven. My quickly defunct New Years resolution has now become a distant memory. And Fat Tuesday just took on a whole new meaning for me.
Returning to reality for a moment I start to dig around in the dish looking for the hidden secret that sets this lasagna miles apart from my own version. I’m not sure I’ve found it yet, but I do know that a good Lasagna Napoletana requires three key ingredients: a good Sunday Ragù; le polpettine, itty, bitty meatballs that melt in your mouth; and an assortment of fresh and fabulous cheeses – ricotta, fior di latte or mozzarella, and grated parmigiana and pecorino.
And yes, a little bit of patience and a whole lot of love.
500 Grams Ricotta Cheese
500 Grams Sliced Mozzarella (we used Fior di Latte – Mozzarella made from cow’s milk)
250 Grams Grated Parmigiano
250 grams Grated Pecorino
500 Grams Ground Pork
Salt and Pepper
Lasagna Sheets (fresh if you can get them otherwise you will need to pre-cook the lasagna)
Make the Polpettine
Put the ground pork in a large bowl and add 2 eggs
Generously sprinkle with about 50 grams each of grated Parmigiano and Pecorino cheeses
Add salt and pepper to taste
Mix the meat with your hands until the ingredients are well combined
Add bread crumbs a bit at a time until the meat mixture firms up but is not too dry – the mixture will pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball
Roll tiny bite size polpettine – meatballs
Lightly coat the polpettine in bread crumbs
In a large frying pan heat a generous coating of frying oil
Lightly fry the polpettine in batches until they are golden brown
Drain on paper towels
Make the Lasagna
Coat the bottom of a large baking dish with a layer of Ragù
Cover the Ragù with overlapping sheets of lasagna
For three layers, spread about 1/3rd of the ricotta over the lasagna noodles
Top with about 1/3rd of the polpettine and about 1/3rd of the sliced mozzarella
Sprinkle with the parmigiano and pecorino cheeses
Spoon on a light coating of Ragù
Repeat with two more layers
Top with a final layer of pasta
Cover the pasta with Ragù and add a generous sprinkling of the grated cheeses
Bake about 1 hour and 15 minutes at 350°F or 180°C
Let set about 15 minutes before serving