As I mentioned a few months ago, I’m currently an English teacher here in Italy, and a pretty unorthodox one at that. Thankfully, my students are a pretty mixed bunch, too, so I don’t necessarily stand out too much.
Although, like parents, teachers should never choose favourites, I totally do have a few more and less liked students. One of my happier hours of the week I spend with a cheerful Neapolitan, who usually takes me for coffee after the lesson. He’s a pretty considerate character – he does mostly conversational English, and when he realises he’s been talking about something I’m not too interested in (although I try to hide it), he’ll change the topic to food. We’ll discuss all kinds of dishes, although we like to concentrate on Neapolitan cuisine – I got a few pretty good recipes from him.
When I told him about my new pasta machine, and how I’d been making fresh lasagne, he asked me what kind of lasagne. “Well, you know, lasagne, with meat sauce and béchamel”, I told him. “Aahh, yes, but that’s Northern lasagne”, he said, “and it’s very heavy, with all that béchamel. In Napels, we make a different kind of lasagne, and it’s not as heavy.” What was that version like, I enquired? “We use only tomato sauce. Only tomato sauce. And little meatballs. And then you add ricotta, and mozzarella. But it has to be mozzarella di bufala or fior di latte. And it’s very important that every layer has parmesan. Every layer.”
Yeah, that’s totally a lighter version of lasagne. No béchamel, thank god, but only three different types of cheese and some meatballs. No biggie. Italians have such weird ideas of what is heavy and what is light.
What with all this fresh ricotta and fior di latte, I had to wait until pay-day came around to go shopping for this. But when it finally did, I got everything I needed and built this baby. It was really good, so you should totally give this a try. With the tiny meatballs being a bit space-consuming, I found that it really helped having fresh lasagne, as they are easily draped over the meatballs, something that might be more difficult with hard lasagne sheets. But if you can’t be bothered making fresh pasta, just try to make your meatballs extra tiny and it shouldn’t be a problem.
For a big-ass dish full of lasagne, get the following.
For the sauce:
- three bottles of passata, about a litre and a half in all
- one onion, halved and peeled
- a handful of fresh basil
For the filling:
- 3 balls of fior di latte or mozzarella di bufala
- 300 gr of ricotta
- half a kilo of mince
- one clove of garlic
- a pinch of dried chili
- salt and pepper
For the pasta:
- 300 gr flour
- 3 eggs
- a pinch of salt
- some lukewarm water, possibly
If you want to make your own pasta, have a look at the recipe right here. Then, instead of tagliatelle, make lasagne sheets, either by rolling them out with a rolling pin or by running them through your pasta machine, assuming you have one.
Pasta sorted? Go prepare your tomato sauce. Grab your bottles of passata. Chuck it in a pan with some olive oil, a bunch of basil, and the onion. Leave to simmer, taste for salt or sugar and make sure you get a nice base sauce out of it.
Whilst your sauce simmers, make the meatballs. Spice up your meat with a little bit ofdried chili, salt and pepper, and some grated garlic. I’m sure my student would judge me for this but I just like to add a little bit of garlic to my mince. You decide, whatever. Mix your mince and roll tiny balls out of it. Really tiny balls. This will take a while. You’ll probably be able to make about 70 or 80. Fry them in olive oil, in batches of about 15 will probably be easiest.
Once you’ve done all of that, cube your fior di latte. Now grab your tomato sauce and mix in all of the rest of the ingredients: meatballs, fior di latte and ricotta.
Now it’s time to layer! Grab an oven dish and fil the bottom with a layer of sauce. Top with grated parmesan, then put on enough lasagna sheets to cover the whole thing. You can’t make massive lasagne seets and just put in one or two, as I was almost tempted to do, because the sauce won’t be able to seep through and the pasta might not cook properly. Just cut them up into sheets the size of a postcard, and drape them over the sauce, overlapping ever so slightly. Repeat until a) you have at least for layers and b) you run out of sauce. Shove it in the oven on 180ºC for 45 minutes. Orgasm as you put this in your mouth.