Lasagne Ricce Napoletane

This dish proves that one is allowed, even in Italy, pasta with meatballs (although perhaps not served with spaghetti). The following recipe is traditional and delicious. Hard-boiled egg is often added. Being a bit of a ponce, I might add 18 boiled quails’ eggs to the recipe below, as they are only a little larger than the meatballs, but here it is without.

Ingredients

  • 400 g dried lasagne ricce, or 520 g fresh lasagne (simple or enriched egg pasta), prepared as for lasagne alla Bolognese
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 500 ml ragù Napoletana
  • 400 g mozzarella (buffalo or fior di latte, or half mozzarella and half ricotta), cut into small chunks and set to drain
  • 300 g grated Parmesan

    Meatballs

  • 200 g minced beef or veal
  • 200 g minced pork
  • 1 large egg
  • 350 g grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan), and more to serve if needed
  • 2 tablespoons proper breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Method

Lightly grease a baking dish about 20 x 30cm, and 6.5cm deep with 1 tablespoon oil. Blanch the pasta (leaving it more or less raw) in boiling, well-salted water with a tablespoon or two of oil to keep it from sticking. Refresh in cold water, then layer between clean cloths to blot dry.

Make the meatballs by kneading together the minced meats, egg, Pecorino Romano and the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper to taste. Make tiny meatballs (the size of a hazelnut) and fry in a hot, wide pan in the remaining oil until just browning on the outside. This is fortunately not a huge quantity of meat, as the process of forming such small spheres is laborious and repetitive (much like trying to find a hundred ways of saying ‘now boil the pasta’).

Spread a couple of tablespoons of the ragù on the bottom of the dish, then cover with a slightly overlapping layer of pasta. Spread sparingly with the ragù, dot with meatballs and mozzarella and sprinkle generously with Parmesan. Ration yourself so that the process can be repeated until all the pasta has been used with no meatballs on the very top layer, but instead a slightly more generous quantity of ragù and mozzarella and Parmesan.

Bake in a preheated oven (200°C fan oven, 220°C conventional) for about 30–40 minutes, until hot through and browned on top. Leave to stand for 10–15 minutes before serving.