La Grande Lasagna di Carnevale
1 pound store-bought Lasagna
1/2 pound beef, in one piece
1/4 pound prosciutto, in a single fat slice
1/4 pound Italian salami, in 2 or three slices (Italian salami is raw – no trichinosis here – has fairly large chunks of fat, and is lightly spiced. If you cannot find it in your delicatessen use mild Italian sausage, not something cooked or spiced)
2 ounces lard (see your delicatessen; it should be lightly spiced)
1 medium onion, finely minced
1 cup broth
3/4 pound drained canned plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced parsley
Oil for frying
1 cup grated Parmigiano
1/3 pound mozzarella
1/4 pound ricotta – optional, see note
Cook the sheets of pasta in abundant, slightly salted water until they’re al dente, run them under cold water, and lay the sheets out on a cloth, covering them with a second cloth.
Sauté the onion in the lard, with the piece of meat. Turn the meat often, and when it has browned on all sides season it with salt and pepper, then add the tomatoes. Simmer over a moderate flame for about an hour, adding the broth a bit at a time. When the meat is done remove it from the pot (reserve the sauce), grind it, and combine it with an egg, the parsley, and half the grated cheese. Make smallish (1-inch diameter) meatballs from the mixture and dredge them in the flour. Heat the oil and fry the meatballs until golden, about 10 minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon, place them on absorbent paper, and keep them warm.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 360 degrees (180 C). Dice the prosciutto, salami and mozzarella. Butter a pan (a high-sided 6 by 9-inch should do, but use your judgment). Lay down a first layer of pasta, and then a few meat balls, some of the sauce, some of the diced ingredients, and a dusting of Parmigiano. Continue until all is used up, then bake your lasagne for 15 minutes. Let them sit for five minutes before serving them.
This will serve 4-6 as a main course, or 6-8 as a first course.
It would be excellent with an Aglianico del Vulture or a Campanian red wine such as Mastroberardino’s Aglianico d’Irpinia or Lacrima Cristi Rosso.
Note: Should the meatballs come out to soft, work some finely ground breadcrumbs into them to thicken them. Tradition calls for, and you can add, some ricotta to the mixture.