Easy Traditional Neapolitan Lasagna Recipe
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This easy lasagna recipe will give you the taste of truly authentic Southern Italian food. Many people crave the authenticity of Italian pasta but few recipes give the steps to making that happen.
When it comes to Italian food, this Neapolitan lasagna recipe is going to be hard to top. Filled full of delicious ingredients and lots of cheese, each and every bite will be a true treat for the taste buds.
Some people tend to shy away from making lasagna because of all the steps involved in the process… but I can reassure you that when it comes to this lasagna napoletana recipe, the effort is more than worth it.
Why this lasagna recipe differs from other lasagna recipes?
Well, this is the recipe to make a Neapolitan lasagna, lasagna napoletana, at home. The difference between a lasagna from Emilia Romagna and a lasagna from Naples resides in these things:
- Neapolitan lasagna is made with hard-boiled eggs and meatballs. The eggs support the ragù and give this lasagna a velvety texture: you may not even recognize them once the lasagna is fully cooked, because they’re not visible and they’re not there to impress. In the past, eggs were used to celebrate the Easter time (see below) and because they are rich, so they were a perfect ingredient for an already rich dish. Today, eggs can be omitted;
- Neapolitan lasagna has to be made with a proper ragù Napoletano that is different from a ragù Bolognese. It is in fact prepared with various cuts of meat (pork muscle, sausages, pork ribs) that are always left whole. The meat is firstly braised with different herbs and spices, and then cooked in a rich tomato and fresh sauce for many, many hours. You won’t feel a lot of the meat in the lasagna, except for the sausages, (and that’s a big difference with the lasagna bolognese) because it’s put aside once the ragù is ready and it’s eaten as a “secondo”.
- Neapolitan lasagna doesn’t make use of bechamel sauce. Instead, it uses traditional and local dairy products (such as the Mozzarella di Agerola, a DOP that has the perfect taste and texture for this dish).
Is this a traditional and authentic Neapolitan lasagna recipe?
It is, indeed. It made its first appearance on the “Trattato di cucina teorico pratica” written by Ippolito Cavalcanti, published in Naples in 1843. It is also linked to Francesco II di Borbone (last King of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, located in Southern Italy), called “King Lasagna” for his gastronomic passion for this dish and his residency in Naples.
This lasagna is only prepared on Shrove Tuesday because it is time-consuming and it’s the last meal one consumes before the Lent (or at least, it was in the past). Our nonnas used to make this lasagna on Sundays as well when there was something to celebrate. On normal days or normal Sundays, it is usually replaced by a much simpler “pasta al forno” or lasagna without eggs or meatballs.
As with most regional Italian dishes (carbonara, just to name one), there are as many recipes as there are cooks but all the recipes to make a traditional Neapolitan lasagna at home call for the same unmissable things:
- Eggs, that are added into the lasagna and give a special taste to it;
- Neapolitan ragù, the real star of this dish;
- Dairy products, that give the lasagna the perfect texture and flavor;
- Small and tasty meatballs, because a lasagna napoletana without meatball is just a fraud!
Every family has its own recipe to make this lasagna, but if it doesn’t include the above ingredient, it simply isn’t a traditional and authentic Neapolitan lasagna.
Ingredients for a medium pan
For the Lasagna
- 500 grams lasagna sheets
- 500 grams ricotta cheese
- 400 grams mozzarella cheese
- 100 grams Grated Parmesan cheese
- 100 grams Grated Pecorino Cheese
- 3 hard-boiled eggs (optional)
For the Ragù
- 400 grams of pork muscle
- 4 sausages
- 4 pork ribs
- 2 white onions
- 2 carrots
- 1 celery stalk
- 2 tablespoons of lard
- 1 glass of red wine
- 1.5 kg of peeled tomatoes passed
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
- Salt as needed
For the Small Meatballs
- 200 grams of mixed veal and pork ground
- 80 grams of bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 sprig of fresh parsley
- Salt and Pepper To Taste.
- Chop the onions, cut the carrots and the celery into small cubes, and put everything in a large pot with a high bottom, letting it brown in olive oil and lard.
- Add all the meat for the sauce without cutting it, let it stew then pour the wine. Make sure it evaporates.
- Pour the tomatoes over, and cook for at least 4 hours (better if for 5).
- Almost at the end of cooking (when the sauce is creamy and velvety), take the meat off and put it aside. Season with salt as needed.
- While the sauce is cooking, prepare the meatballs by mixing all the ingredients then form many small balls and fry them in extra virgin olive oil.
- Put the ricotta cheese in a bowl, add a bit of tomato sauce and mix with a fork.
- Hard boil your eggs, peel them once cooked and cut them into slices.
- Once the meatballs and the ragù are ready, blanch the lasagna sheets quickly in boiling water, put them to dry on a cotton cloth, and heat the oven to 200°C.
- Start layering your lasagna starting from the bottom of the pan: sprinkle the pan with a ladle of ragù, then add the first layer of lasagna sheet, a layer of ricotta cheese, fiordilatte cheese, Neapolitan ragù and a few slices of eggs to tie it all together.
- Repeat the steps above also adding the meatballs, a mix of Parmesan and Pecorino cheese and covering again with ricotta cheese and
- In total, the layers of this traditional Neapolitan lasagna should be at least 5 and a maximum of 7. The last layer should be sprinkled with ragù and grated cheese in abundance.
- Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes, plus 5 minutes at 200°C and another 5 minutes at 210°C.
- Turn on the grill during the last 3 minutes to get a perfect crust.
- Remove from oven, leave your lasagna at room temperature then cut into large squares and serve.
Preparation time: 2 hours
Cooking time: 7 hours
Total time: 9 hours
What makes this Italian lasagna recipe unique?
There are actually several additions that make this dish stand out from the other lasagna’s that you might have tasted. The addition of celery and carrots is a fun twist that most people don’t see in other lasagna recipes. They just add some fun color and flavor that give it that right amount of flavor.
Another unique addition is that this recipe uses meatballs. Many other lasagna recipes just use ground up beef mixed with marinara throughout the varying layers of pasta, but the meatballs in this recipe are firmer and stand out more.
And don’t forget about the crumbled up egg in this dish! Each and every layer is created with a different texture and taste in mind.
How much cheese does this Italian pasta recipe use?
A lot! When you have such great cheese options as the Italians, you’ll want to use it all. And even though there are measurements below for the cheese, you can always add more if you want.
If you’re able to cut a piece of this Italian lasagna recipe and see the cheese stringing between, you know that you’ve added just the perfect amount of cheese for this recipe.
How many layers are there in this easy lasagne recipe?
To really be able to get all the tastes and flavors, you’ll want AT LEAST five layers, but no more than 7. Just follow the steps below to see how you alternate the pasta and ingredients to get that perfect, flavorful combination.
Now that you know a bit about the recipe, let’s get to how this recipe is created! Before getting started, gather up the list of needed ingredients below. (You don’t want to start and then realize that you’re missing some!)
Remember: an Italian lasagna doesn’t have to be perfect, it has to be messy. If the layers are too perfect, it means the lasagna is not authentic!
What would be a good side dish to serve with this recipe?
We Italians don’t eat lasagna with a side dish, but we’ve included this option for all of you, because we know that outside of Italy people tend to consume this easy lasagna recipe with a salad or a side dish. Remember not to ask for a side dish when you’re in Italy and you’re ordering a lasagna!
One of the best side dishes to serve with this lasagne recipe is a nice salad. It’s simple, easy to make and is a light option that is a good cleanser for the palate. If you have a great homemade bread recipe, that’s always a winning choice as well. Cutting off a thin slice of bread to add to the plate is good for soaking up or scooping up those little pasta bites.
How do you store leftover lasagna?
Leftover lasagna is easy to store or freeze for later. All you need to do is add it to a sealed container (and a freezer proof one if adding to your freezer) and keep it in the cold. Then, when you’re ready to eat it again, you have it saved safely to be able to do so.
This easy lasagna recipe is great for true Italian food comfort. Making this up for family and friends is a nice gesture that they’ll appreciate and enjoy.
You can even encompass the Italian feeling into your meal by making it up and having everyone over to enjoy it together. Italians love to enjoy food and eat together so this recipe would be a great one to do just that with!