SERVES: 6 PREP: 20 MINS COOKING: 1 HOUR 10 MINS
The original lasagne was created by the Romans. According to an ancient recipe I uncovered their ‘lasanis’ was squares of pasta cut into strips as wide as three fingers. The sheets (or ‘bed of towels’ as the translation puts it) were layered with ‘caseum grattatum’ (that’s grated cheese, according to my trusty online translator of ancient Latin). You’ve got to love a good online translator – well, until it throws up the English translation of ‘lasanis’. This comes out as ‘wash room’ or ‘chamber pot’, which makes our lasagne sound a whole lot less appetising. Maybe it was something about all those sheets of pasta piled up in the earthenware cooking pot. Anyway, I digress. The lasagne we know best is the version from Emilia-Romagna, with bechamel and bolognese, but the canny Calabrians make their lasagna (note that in the south of Italy lasagna ends with an ‘a’ not an ‘e’) with layers of oozy mozzarella instead of bechamel, and include layers of chopped boiled egg and ham or mortadella as well as mince. In this version, I’ve added prosciutto for saltiness and extra meatiness.
This recipe comes from Matt Preston's Yummy, Easy, Quick Around the World (Pan Macmillan Australia, pbk, $39.99).
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
1 brown onion, coarsely grated
1 large carrot, coarsely grated sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves
500 g pork and veal mince
1 × 700 ml bottle tomato passata
250 ml (1 cup) red wine
500 g (5 cups) coarsely grated mozzarella
70 g (1 cup) finely grated parmesan
12 dried lasagne sheets
80 g thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 4 cm pieces
80 g sliced mortadella, cut into 4 cm pieces
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced small flat-leaf parsley leaves, to serve (yes, chopped larger leaves are also fine)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or flameproof casserole dish over medium–high heat. Add the onion and carrot, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 3–4 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook for a further 1 minute or until aromatic.
Add the mince and cook, breaking up any lumps with the back of a wooden spoon, for 4–5 minutes or until well browned. Add the passata, wine and 500 ml (2 cups) water.
Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. (The mince mixture will have more moisture than a traditional lasagne; as there is no bechamel you need this extra liquid to cook the pasta.)
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease a 6 cm deep, 30 cm × 22 cm baking dish with a little oil. Combine the mozzarella and parmesan in a bowl.
Spoon about ½ cup of the mince mixture over the base of the dish and cover with four of the lasagne sheets. Top with one-third of the remaining mince mixture, then one-third of the prosciutto and mortadella, one-third of the egg and one-third of the cheese mixture. Repeat the layering twice, but before the final layer of egg and cheese, drizzle over 60 ml (¼ cup) water.
Cover with a sheet of baking paper and then foil, and bake for 40 minutes.
Increase the oven temperature to 220°C/200°C fan-forced. Remove the paper and foil and bake for a further 8–10 minutes or until golden. Scatter with parsley to serve.
If you want to make this ahead and freeze it, you can take it up to the point where you remove the paper and foil for the final bake. Let it cool completely, then cover with a double layer of plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge. Cover with a layer of baking paper and foil and reheat in a preheated 180°C/160°C fan-forced oven for 20 minutes, then remove the paper and foil and bake until golden.