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Playing Italian Fat Tuesday Lasagna

It's Mardi Gras, Italian style! Meatballs, curly lasagna, ricotta cheese and a tomato sauce to die for.


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
  • ¼ 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 chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 cups passata or tomato purée
  • Two 28-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes
  • A few leaves basil, torn
For the lasagna:
  • 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
  • ⅓ pound prosciutto cotto (2 ⅛- to ¼-inch thick slices), finely diced
  • 1 pound Fior di Latte or fresh mozzarella, diced or grated


Serves: 6


Preheat oven to 400˚F.

For the meatballs, soak bread in milk to soften. Squeeze out all excess moisture and crumble between your fingers as you add to mixing bowl containing the meat. Season with salt and pepper, and add parsley, garlic, egg and a fat drizzle of EVOO. Use a small scoop or wet hands with warm water and roll golf ball-sized 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 olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, over medium heat. Melt butter into oil and stir in garlic and onions, thyme, salt and pepper, and partially cover. Let sweat 5 minutes, stirring frequently, to soften. Add stock and stir in pure and tomatoes, breaking up tomatoes with potato masher. Stir in torn basil; simmer 45 minutes adding the meatballs after 15 minutes.

Mix together the ricotta with eggs, nutmeg and half of the Parm cheese. Finely chop the ham.

Reduce oven temp to 375˚F.

Build lasagna in 9x13 pan: first some sauce then 3 ribbons of lasagna noodles, half the ricotta, ⅓ 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 Parm cheese.

Bake lasagna covered with foil on baking sheet for 45-50 minutes. Remove foil and bake to brown, 10-15 minutes more. Let stand at room temp 15-20 minutes before cutting.