This recipe for Lasagna Napoletana comes to us from Maria Cristina Faella. Her husband Sergio runs Pasta Faella in Gragnano, Campania. Filled with miniature meatballs, ricotta, and mozzarella, Neapolitan Lasagna is the perfect dish to prepare in advance and serve the next day. Sergio says it tastes even better the day after baking, once all the ingredients have mingled together. While some lasagne feature a meaty ragu, here we’re sticking with a lighter, tomato-only sauce. But we’re not just using any tomatoes: these are the uber-flavorful Miracolo di San Gennaro. Maria Cristina and Sergio are good friends with Sabatino Abagnale, the farmer who grows these incredible tomatoes just up the road from Gragnano. Every time we visit the Faellas, we’re sure to have pasta al pomodoro with Miracolo tomatoes!
If you’ve never used Faella’s lasagna before, you’re in for a treat. Their texture and flavor is unparalleled. You’ll need to pre-cook them in boiling water for five minutes before assembly. Just use the biggest pot you have or work in batches, it’s easy!
TIME: 3 hours
For the tomato sauce:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 90ml / 6 Tbsp
- Medium yellow onion, 1, thinly sliced
- Miracolo di San Gennaro Plum Tomatoes 960g / 2 lbs
- Water, 230ml / 1 cup
- Sea Salt, to taste
For the meatballs:
- Minced pork, 300g / 10.6 oz
- Vacche Rosse cheese, 3 Tbsp, finely grated
- Breadcrumbs, 30g / 1 oz
- Egg, 1
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, about 230 ml / 1 cup, for frying
For the Lasagna:
- Lasagna sheets, 350g / 12.3 oz (about 20 individual sheets)
- Mozzarella, 400g / 14oz, torn
- Ricotta, 450g / 1 lb
- Vacche Rosse cheese, 1 cup, grated
- Start with the tomato sauce. Heat the 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium low heat. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring every so often to prevent it from browning, until thoroughly softened, about 15 minutes. Add the Miracolo tomatoes, using the water to rinse out the jars into the sauce. Mix everything together, using a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. Taste and adjust for salt. Simmer over low for about 30-40 minutes.
- While the tomato sauce is cooking, make the meatballs. Combine all the meatball ingredients in a medium bowl until the texture is uniform. Using your hands, form very small meatballs, about 1/2 in in diameter. You should have about 50 meatballs. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a 9 inch cast iron skillet or similar. Fry the meatballs in batches until browned on all sides (about 8 minutes). Drain on paper towels and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Fill your largest pot with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water to taste. Cover a large, flat surface in your kitchen with wax or parchment paper. Working in batches if necessary, cook the lasagna sheets for 5 minutes, stirring every so often to prevent them from sticking together. Strain well then transfer to the paper to rest in a single layer.
- To assemble the lasagna, spread a ladle of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish. Add a layer of lasagna sheets, then dot with meatballs, ricotta, Vacche Rosse cheese, and mozzarella. Add a few additional ladles of tomato sauce, then repeat the process for the other layers. Use the remaining tomato sauce, mozzarella, and Vacche Rosse cheese for the final layer.
- Bake in the center of the oven for about 20-25 minutes. If you’d like the top to be extra golden brown, place under the broiler for a few minutes. Let rest at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving. You can complete all these steps up to 2 days beforehand, store your baked Lasagna in the fridge, and simply reheat it in the oven 10 minutes before serving. It will taste divine!