Ragu (tomato sauce):
6 small meatballs; see cook’s notes
8 cups canned red plum tomatoes with juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow or brown onion, chopped
2 sweet Italian sausages
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Dried oregano or chopped fresh, to taste
Dried basil or chopped fresh, to taste
Ground-meat mixture; see cook’s notes:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow or brown onion, finely chopped
1-2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
3/4 pound coarsely ground beef top round; see cook’s notes
1/4 pound coarsely ground lean pork butt
2 cups tomato sauce (from Steps 1 and 2)
1 bay leaf
Enough fresh lasagna noodles to make 5 layers, about 1 pound
2 cups ricotta cheese
3/4 cup chopped fresh mozzarella, plus 1/2 cup, divided use
Ground white pepper to taste
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 egg yolks
Optional garnish: 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook’s notes: Navaretta makes meatballs with a mixture of ground
pork, lean ground beef, salt, pepper, paprika, dried oregano, dried
basil, finely chopped fresh parsley, dried bread crumbs, grated
Parmesan cheese, grated Pecorino Romano cheese and a little olive oil.
Navarretta says you canomit the ground-meat mixture and cook more meatballs and sausage in ragu sauce and use that instead. But he likes the added richness that the ground meats bring to the dish. If making meat mixture, ask the butcher to coarsely grind meat.
Most likely you will have leftover components after assembling this lasagna. Leftover cheese mixture can be tossed into hot pasta or spread on toast and grilled. Leftover sauce, meatballs or sausage can be frozen and used in pasta dishes, casseroles or soups.
Prepare tomato sauce: Prepare meatball mixture (see cook’s notes) and form into 1-inch meatballs. You’ll need about 6 meatballs for this recipe; leftover meatballs can be frozen for later use. Heat oven to 350° F. Place 6 meatballs on rimmed baking sheet and bake in middle of heated oven 12 minutes. Set aside.
Process tomatoes and juice in food processor fitted with metal blade until very finely chopped but not completely puréed (it is easier to do this in 2 batches). In large, deep pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium-high. Add onion and sausages. Cook until onion softens, stirring occasionally. Add ground tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings. Bring to boil; immediately reduce heat to simmer 35 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Set aside.
Prepare meat mixture: In large, deep pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrot. Toss to coat vegetable with oil. Add ground beef and pork. Stir to combine and cook 3-4 minutes. Add 2 cups tomato sauce (use sauce only, don’t include any sausage or meatballs) and bay leaf. Bring to boil; immediately reduce heat to low and simmer until very thick, about 35 minutes. It should have a firm texture when cool. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Remove bay leaf and set aside.
Meanwhile, remove sausage and meatballs from tomato sauce; cut into thin diagonal slices. Set aside.
To cook pasta, bring large pot of water to boil. Set bowl of water
and ice next to stove. Drop a few sheets of pasta into boiling water. Boil until just barely al dente, about 1 minute. Remove and drop into ice- and water-filled bowl to stop cooking. Drain. Repeat with remaining pasta.
Prepare cheese filling: In large bowl stir ricotta, 3/4 cup mozzarella and white pepper. Stir in Parmesan and Pecorino Romano. Add egg yolks and stir until combined.
Preheat oven to 400° F. Pour about 1/2 cup tomato sauce in 9-inch-square baking pan. Use spatula to spread sauce into even layer. Spread about 3/8-inch meat mixture on enough noodles to make single layer in pan; add to pan, meat side up. Spoon on layer of tomato sauce. Spread 1/2 inch of cheese mixture on enough noodles to make single layer in pan; add to pan, cheese side up. Spoon on layer of tomato sauce, plus half of chopped meatballs and sausage. Add 1/4 cup chopped mozzarella. Spread 3/8 inch meat mixture on enough noodles to make single layer in pan; add to pan meat side up. Spoon on 3/8-inch layer of tomato sauce. Add remaining meatballs and sausage. Spread 1/2 inch of cheese mixture on enough noodles to make single layer in pan. Add to pan, cheese side down. Spoon in 3/8 inch of sauce and remaining mozzarella. Cover with pasta and additional layer of sauce.
Bake in preheated oven about 1 1/4 hours. If desired, sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese 20 minutes before the end of baking. Let rest 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Cut into 4-6 squares or rectangles and serve.
Massimo Navaretta, chef-owner Scampi Trattoria and Enoteca, Costa Mesa