Lasagna. You know what that is right? So you don’t mind if I fiddle about some with this classic Italian-style comfort food do you? Egg Noodle Fettuccine & Meatball Lasagna. After all what’s lasagna if not pasta, right? And when it comes to pasta at my house, it commonly makes its appearance in what I like to call default pasta.
I present default pasta here at Sippity Sup quite often, so I know you know what that is too. But quickly, just in case, default pasta is an easy flavorful way to make dinner with whatever ingredients you have on hand. There are a few basic rules however. If you need to review these CLICK over to my original post featuring default pasta.
Because today I want to talk about the ingredients I had on hand and why I chose them for this deconstructed lasagna recipe.
One of the “perks” of blogging is– I get stuff sent to me. Things people want me to try. Quite often it’s food. That makes sense right? Some of these products get a little nod or mention from me here on Sippity Sup. But I am a little stingy with my nods and mentions, so most of these things end up in the pantry waiting to catch my attention. It doesn’t mean they are not good products. It just means I am a picky bastard who refuses to sell my blog for a box of nuts…
Well on this particular default pasta night. I really had very slim pickings in the fresh food department. I was also having friends in for dinner and they have a 6 yo. Now I don’t coddle children. In my house, kids eat what the adults eat. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try and accommodate the menu to appeal to kids as well as adults. What is it that both kids and adults crave? Lasagna of course!
I typically make Bolognese lasagna with a meat sauce that literally takes 2 days to make. By definition labor intensive pasta is never default pasta. But I knew I could simplify this recipe by filling it with meatballs. Afterall tiny little meatballs are a traditional ingredient in many Neapolitan baked pastas. Presenting kids with traditional food is not coddling. It’s educating.
So I went to the pantry to see what else I had. The first thing my wandering eyes did spy was a jar of Moretti’s Organic Marinara. I am a little ashamed to admit that 6 jars of this stuff had been sent to me about 8 months ago. I sent a polite thank you to the company. But honestly, I never cracked open a single jar. Because let’s face it. It takes almost no effort to make homemade tomato sauce. It makes the whole house smell great and you can be damn sure about what goes into it too. These criteria are important to me. So I checked the label out. Guess what? I wasn’t offended by what I read, in fact I was impressed. Not so different from my own sauce. So I had another ingredient in hand for the default lasagna that was beginning to percolate in my brain.
One of the primary rules on default pasta is it must contain pasta, duh! This pasta cannot be fresh pasta however. It must be dried. Fresh pastas are lovely. Their silky eggy texture can be just the thing to elevate many a pasta dish. Still they require a level of preparedness and effort that keeps them from membership in the default pasta club.
Which got me to thinking about egg pasta. Egg noodles have a certain level of comfort that other dried pastas just can’t touch. The idea of an extra helping of comfort in my baked deconstructed lasagna appealed to me. Because even though lasagna is about as comfortable as food gets, who wouldn’t like an extra pillow if it were offered? Besides I had no dried lasagna pasta sheets in the house, but a sample of Al Dente brand dried egg noodle fettuccine was staring me right in the face. This sample had not been sitting around nearly as long as the tomato sauce, but it had been passed over several times on earlier default pasta nights. Not to mention the guilt I felt over the tomato sauce still being fresh on my mind.
But I’ll be honest. As good as dried egg noodles are, I don’t really like enriched pasta that much. It’s about all you can find in this country however. Even brands made in Italy for the American market get enriched, while the version they sell in Italy contains none of the niacin and thiamin that defines enriched pasta. I tend to look for dried pasta that is 100% durum semolina wheat and water. It’s not easy to find and it’s usually kind of pricey. But I do notice a quality difference and tend to gravitate toward this style of pasta. Even when I got free pasta staring me in the face.
Well, I could keep on talking all day. But I’ll end by saying egg noodles make an amazing relacement to traditional pasta sheets. There is a lot less fuss involved and I love all the brown crunchy edges you get by making it this way too. So read over my recipe. It won’t seem all that radical, even to the most traditional lasagna lover.
- 1⁄3 c whole milk
- 1 1⁄2 c fresh, untoasted coarse breadcrumbs
- 1 lb ground beef, pork and veal in whatever ratio you prefer
- 2 clv garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 c parmesan cheese, freshly grated plus more for passing
- 2 large eggs
- 1⁄2 c flat leaf parsley, minced
- salt & pepper as needed
- 1 c vegetable oil, plus more as needed
- 1 lb ricotta cheese
- 1 lb dried egg fettuccine
- 6 c prepared tomato sauce
- 1⁄2 lb mozzarella, chilled then grated
Make the meatballs: Add the milk and fresh breadcrumbs to a large mixing bowl. Let them sit together about 10 minutes until most of the milk is absorbed. Add the ground meats, garlic, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1 large egg lightly beaten, 1/4 cup parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Using your hands blend the ingredients together until barely combined. Do not overmix.
Pinch off a small amount of the mixture, and rolling it between your palms, form it tiny meatballs. Less than a teaspoon each. Ideally they will about 3/4-inch in diameter. Repeat will all of the meat mixture.
Heat the oil in a large cast iron or non-stick skillet set over medium heat. The oil should be hot but not smoking. Add the meatballs to the hot pan in batches small enough to not overcrowd them. They should be able to freely roll around the skillet as you shake it to fry the meatballs on all sides and keep them from sticking. About 3 minutes total. Using a slotted spoon transfer the cooked meatballs to a paper towel lined tray. Repeat until all the meatballs are browned, adding more oil to the skillet if necessary.
Make the filling: In a small bowl mix ricotta, 1 large egg, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt until well combined.
Assemble and bake the pasta: Place the oven rack in the center position. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, about 3 minutes, to al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander. Rinse and drain, and rinse and drain again.
Spread 2 cups of the prepared tomato sauce evenly across the bottom of a 3-quart glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange 1/3 of the pasta evenly over the sauce. Top this with all of the meatballs in an even layer. Make another even layer each of 2 cups tomato sauce and 1/3 of the pasta, then spread the filling over it all in an even layer. Top with half of the mozzarella, the remaining noodles, the remaining 2 cups of tomato sauce. Then the final layer is the remaining mozzarella. Make sure to pull some of the fettuccine above the cheese here and there so that it will get very brown and crisp during cooking.
Cover loosely with foil and bake 10 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake about 25 more minutes, until the top is well browned and the sauce is bubbly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool about 20 minutes before serving with extra Parmesan passed at the table.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD