Lasagna brings about images of indulgent layers of mozzarella and ricotta cheeses and sauce!
It doesn’t mater whether it is Lasagna Bolognaise, Lasagna Napolitana or your own spin on the classics, Lasagna is sure to please your family, guests and friends.
Flashback: The table was set with hand crochet table cloth and the "special" china that was passed on from generation to generation. Seated at the table were every relative that you knew and some that you never knew you had!
On the table was a gallon of Piasno or it could have been some Dago Red that grandpa made? Copious glasses of wine being drunk from fancy wine glasses which I now know as Murano glass from Venice.
The room was packed, the table and its guests were too large for the room, and three people would have to get up in order for you to leave the table.
We were all called to sit down; there was a level of anticipation! I knew it was time to eat because all the adults died out their cigarettes!
Here, entering the room as if it was a royal procession was my grandmother Selvaggio beaming as if she just painted the Sistine Chapel.
I looked over to my father and could see the excitement on his face because he knew what was about to come! Grandma had a pan of Lasagna!
My eyes gazed on the pan that seemed at least a foot thick and full of pasta and what every child loves, cheese! She set the pan onto the table, the aroma of the melted "Scmotz", and Romano was intoxicating as if I was in some Italian Shaman's spiritual ritual.
She cut into the Lasagna and lifted the mile high slice of joy! There was so much cheese that it stretched and would not let go as if it was in defiance of being eaten!
Wait, what is that inside, there are tiny mini meatballs! As if the cheese, ricotta "gravy" and pasta layers were not enough!
Each tiny meatball was rolled by hand and fried in lard till its crusty goodness came thru! I took a sip of my "Wine mixed with 7up"(Italian Benadryl) smiled and realized that I do have a Guardian Angel!
The recipe I chose to share with you is one I personally make for my family. It uses many of the recipes that are found on Cook-Italian.com!
Lasagna Napolitana (Recipe) print version
Selvaggio's "Gravy" recipe
Italian Meatballs Recipe(this recipe makes a ton of meatballs so make half the recipe)
Ricotta Cheese filling
Fresh Semolina Egg Pasta (make double recipe) or Dry lasagna Noodles about 2 lbs
3-4 cups Hand grated Scamorza or Whole Milk Mozzarella Cheese
1 cup Hand grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
First prepare the "gravy" , while the gravy is simmering prepare your meatballs and fry your sausage, add them to your gravy and allow the meatballs and sausage to cook together till the sausage is fork tender. This will take a few hours. I normally make the gravy and meats on a Saturday.
Next make the ricotta cheese filling recipe and refrigerate it so the flavors bloom. If making fresh pasta make the pasta dough a day ahead as well and allow it to rest till Lasagna day.
Now its Lasagna day!
If using fresh pasta, set up your pasta machine or roll by hand thin sheets of egg pasta. Proceed to cut the sheets of pasta into long rectangles. Using a large pot with lots of salted boiling water boil the pasta sheets for 1-3 minutes till al dente.
Immediately immerse the cooked pasta sheets into iced cold water (this is called shocking). Remove the pasta sheets and place onto a clean dishtowel to absorb the water and blot the top of the cooked pasta sheets. Lightly oil the pasta to prevent sticking.
If using store bought pasta follow the directions and shock the pasta as well. It is important not to layer your lasagna with wet pasta noodles!
Remove 9 - 2 oz chilled cooked meatballs and 3 - 4 oz links of chilled cooked sausage and chop or mash them with a fork and set aside.
You should have 1 and 1/2 cups of grated Scamorza or Whole Milk Mozzarella cheese per layer or less if you desire less cheese.
1 cup of gravy per layer or more if you desire
Fresh grated Romano cheese to sprinkle on each layer as well as on top. And chopped Italian parsley for the top layer to sprinkle before baking.
Time to assemble!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Coat the bottom of a deep 13 by 9-inch pan with olive oil and 1/2 cup of the sauce.
Arrange 4 noodles lengthwise in a slightly overlapping layer. Then, line each end of the pan with a lasagna noodle. This forms a nest that holds in the corners.
Dollop 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture over the pasta, spread to the edges with a spatula.
Sprinkle a third of the meat mixture over the ricotta.
Sprinkle evenly a layer of mozzarella on top of the ricotta.
Top with a cup of sauce spread evenly and sprinkle some Romano cheese.
Repeat with the next layer of noodles, ricotta, sauce, meat and cheeses.
Top the last layer with noodles, sauce, shredded mozzarella and Romano, drizzle some EVOO on top ans some fresh chopped Italian Parsley.
Bump the pan on the counter to set the layers. Oil or spray some aluminum foin and cover the lasagna pan in a tent fashion so the foil does not stick to the top of the pasta and sauce.
Bake for 1 hour, look at the lasagna near the edges there should not be a lot of liquid. Pull off the foil and allow to bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Let lasagna rest for 30 minutes so the Lasagna will set up and cut easily.