About this recipe:In Naples, during Carnival season which occurs just before Lent, families used to prepare this type of lasagne. It's typically stuffed with small meatballs, cheese, peas and sometimes boiled eggs. A very hearty and comforting dish that requires quite a bit of prep time but will feed a crowd and can freeze well.
For the small meatballs
400g stale white bread
200ml lukewarm milk
500g minced meat, such as pork and veal
5 eggs, beaten
150g grated mixed cheese, such as Parmesan and Pecorino
2 gloves garlic, minced
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper, as needed
vegetable oil for frying
For the tomato sauce
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2kg tinned tomato
500g fresh or pre-cooked lasagne sheets
250g mozzarella, roughly chopped
400g green peas
500g prepared bechamel sauce, bought or homemade
6 boiled eggs, sliced
200g grated Parmesan cheese
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Soak the stale bread in 200ml lukewarm milk for 5 minutes. Squeeze any excess liquid from the stale bread; crumble or break up into a large bowl. Add minced meat, beaten eggs, grated cheese, minced garlic, freshly chopped parsley and salt and pepper. Mix everything with your hands until thoroughly combined. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Take a spoonful of the mixture, about the size of a hazelnut, and roll between the palms of your hands to form a very small meatball. Lay it on a large shallow dish and repeat until you have used up all of the mixture.
Heat vegetable oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Fry the meatballs, a few at the time, until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
To prepare the tomato sauce:
Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat; add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, season with salt and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes.
To assemble and cook lasagne:
Preheat oven to 200 C / Gas 6.
Use a ladle to pour a layer of tomato sauce over the bottom of a 20x30cm baking dish. Lay enough lasagne sheets side by side on top and cover with 1/4 of each of the following ingredients: ricotta, mozzarella, green peas, cooked meatballs, sliced boiled eggs, bechamel sauce and grated parmesan. Repeat the layers finishing with bechamel sauce, a few meatballs and an even layer of grated Parmesan cheese on top.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until golden on top. Turn off the oven but let the lasagne rest in the warm oven for 20 minutes, before slicing and serving.
If you are using bought fresh lasagne sheets:
Cook sheets in a large pot with salted boiling water for 1 minute. Drain the lasagne sheets and pass quickly under cold water to stop the cooking process. Lay them on a tea towel and pat dry. If you are using dried lasagne sheets, follow the cooking time indicated on the packet.
Lasagne is tastier if allowed to stand for 10 or 20 minutes before serving. This gives the pasta time to "relax" and absorb the sauce. You can prepare lasagne well in advance (up to 2 days), cool to room temperature, then cover with foil and refrigerate. A quick heat up before serving and your lasagne will be perfect!