From the author of Robicelli's: A Love Story with Cupcakes. "Nothing says Christmas to me quite like lasagna. I know it doesn't sound super traditional to most people, but for Italians from Brooklyn, every meal starts with pasta, and every major holiday starts with one that normally too much of a pain in the butt to make every Sunday. For us, lasagna started two days ahead when my grandmother would start the gravy — a tomato sauce full of pork shoulder, braciole, sausage, and meatballs that simmers for a minimum of eight hours. The next day, the lasagna would be assembled, baked, and then chilled, as with lasagna a 24-hour rest period is essential so the flavors and textures meld. Then finally, the day of, we'd finish cooking in a hot oven, preferably burning the corners just enough to my liking. No one would ever eat the ham, or turkey, or whatever — we were always too full from the lasagna."
- Olive oil
- 1 Pound Italian sausage, hot or sweet (I prefer hot)
- 2 beef or pork braciole
- 2 Pounds pork neck bones, or country-style ribs
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 8 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- ½ Teaspoon dried chile flakes
- ½ Cup good red wine
- ½ Cup tomato paste
- Three 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 Pound dried lasagna noodles
- One 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta
- 1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced as thin as possible
- 1 Cup grated pecorino romano
- Gravy and reserved meats
Coat the bottom of a heavy-bottomed stockpot with olive oil, and place
over medium-high heat. Add sausage to pan, brown on all sides, then
remove. Add braciole and pork neck or ribs, brown well on all sides,
Turn heat to medium-low, then add onion and a hefty pinch of salt. Cook
onions low and slow, stirring occasionally, until golden — about 10
While the onions are cooking, set up a wire strainer over a large bowl.
Opening 1 can at a time, drain tomatoes, then using your hands, remove
the stems and seeds and discard them. Mush the tomato flesh up with
your hands and place in bowl with strained juice. Continue process with
all 3 cans.
Once onions are ready, add chile flake and garlic, continue to cook
until garlic is fragrant — another 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and
red wine, turn heat to medium-high, and continue to cook until mixture
begins to bubble. Add tomatoes, stir well, and immediately reduce heat
Slice browned sausage into 1/4-inch pieces. Add sausage, braciole, and
pork to the sauce, and simmer uncovered for a minimum of 4 hours,
stirring every 10 minutes and tasting for seasoning. Add salt and pepper
Remove meats from pot. Allow to cool for at least 1 hour, then begin
to prep lasagna.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large stockpot or pasta pot, bring at least 1 gallon of water to
a boil with about 2 tablespoons of salt. Set aside a large bowl of
cold water. Cook lasagna noodles 3 at a time until soft, but still
quite underdone. Remove noodle with a slotted spoon or tongs, then place
in cold water to stop the cooking process. Continue until all the
noodles are cooked. Drain, then place on paper towels to dry.
Remove the string from the braciole, then slice thin into 1/4-inch pieces.
Shred any pork away from the neck bones or ribs, reserving the meat and
discarding the bones.
Coat the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch lasagna pan with a thin layer of the tomato
gravy. Place a few noodles into the pan, overlapping them slightly. Cover with a thin layer of sauce, cover with sausage and shredded pork, and then layer with slices of mozzarella. Add another layer of noodles, spread a layer of ricotta cheese, sprinkle with pecorino and slices of braciole. Continue alternating layers of meat, cheese, sauce and noodles until you reach the top of the pan. After the final layer of noodles, top with a thin layer of sauce and mozzarella. Bake for 45 minutes, then allow to cool. Wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, remove lasagna from refrigerator 2 hours before you
intend to serve it. And hour before, preheat oven to 350, remove plastic
from lasagna and tent with aluminum foil. Bake for an additional 45
minutes, then remove foil and turn oven up to 425. Cook for an
additional 15 minutes, then serve with extra gravy and crusty bread on