About this recipe:In our house, this is the most popular type of lasagne. That is saying something since we are all Italian! The process of making and rolling the meatballs is a little time consuming but they are incredibly tasty. Don't be tempted to make them any bigger than a hazelnut. It's their tiny size that makes this dish so appealing to children and adults alike!
For the meatballs
200g stale white bread, soaked in water for 10 minutes
500g mixed minced meat (such as veal and pork)
100g grated Parmesan cheese
50g grated Pecorino cheese
120ml white wine
1 good handful chopped parsley
1 teaspoon nutmeg
salt, to taste
750ml sunflower oil to deep frying
For the tomato sauce
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1.5L of passata (or sieved tomatoes)
For the bechamel sauce
70g plain flour
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
500g fresh lasagne sheets
150g grated Parmesan cheese
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Squeeze any excess water from the stale bread; crumble or break up the bread into a large bowl. Add minced meat, eggs, grated Parmesan and Pecorino cheese, nutmeg, wine, salt and fresh parsley. Mix well with your hands to combine.
Take a little piece, 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. Add 10 meatballs and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until golden and crisp. During cooking, roll the meatballs gently with a slotted spoon to help create an even crust. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat, frying about 10 at a time, so they have enough room to float and the oil remains hot.
To prepare the tomato sauce:
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat; add onion, celery and carrot and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add passata, season with salt and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce and continue to cook for 10 minutes longer. Set aside and keep warm.
To prepare the bechamel sauce:
In a saucepan over medium heat melt the butter and stir in the flour. Mix vigorously with a whisk so that no lumps are formed. Pour in the milk and cook over medium heat until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir occasionally with a whisk to avoid lumps. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove sauce from heat and set aside.
To assemble and cook lasagne:
Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas 4.
Use a ladle to pour a layer of bechamel sauce and meatball sauce over the bottom of a 20x30cm baking dish. Lay enough (about 4) lasagne sheets side by side on top and cover with 1/3 or 1/4 of remaining white sauce (depending on how many layers you want to do); then adda layer of the meatball sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, then cover with lasagne sheets. Continue layering, finishing with meatball sauce and a good handful of grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the pasta is fully cooked and the top is golden brown. Remove from oven, cover with foil; let stand for 10 - 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
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!