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Quick Calabrian Lasagne

by . Featured in NIGELLISSIMA
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Introduction

I do realize that a dish that needs an hour in the oven, might not, at first glance, seem to qualify for the epithet "quick", but I'm not trying to pull a fast one. All things are relative, and what makes this recipe feel so speedy is that there is no white sauce - with its roux and patient stirring - involved, the meat sauce takes around 5 minutes, and the lasagne sheets are used straight from the packet (no pre-boiling) and cook in the exaggeratedly liquid meat and tomato sauce. The recipe comes courtesy of an Italian informant from Calabria, where sliced cooked ham and hard-boiled eggs are part of the local lasagne.

I do realize that a dish that needs an hour in the oven, might not, at first glance, seem to qualify for the epithet "quick", but I'm not trying to pull a fast one. All things are relative, and what makes this recipe feel so speedy is that there is no white sauce - with its roux and patient stirring - involved, the meat sauce takes around 5 minutes, and the lasagne sheets are used straight from the packet (no pre-boiling) and cook in the exaggeratedly liquid meat and tomato sauce. The recipe comes courtesy of an Italian informant from Calabria, where sliced cooked ham and hard-boiled eggs are part of the local lasagne.

Quick Calabrian Lasagne
Photo by Petrina Tinslay

Ingredients

Serves: 6-8

Metric Cups
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for greasing)
  • 1 small onion (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes (or 1/2 teaspoon pouring salt, or to taste)
  • 500 grams minced beef
  • 60 millilitres red wine or vermouth
  • 1 litre tomato passata (plus 1 litre / 1 quart water)
  • 2 balls mozzarella (not buffalo) (each 125g / 4 oz drained weight)
  • 500 grams lasagne sheets (dried not fresh)
  • 350 grams cooked ham (thinly sliced)
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for greasing)
  • 1 small onion (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon pouring salt, or to taste)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ¼ cup red wine or vermouth
  • 1 litre tomato passata (plus 1 litre / 1 quart water)
  • 2 balls mozzarella (not buffalo) (each 125g / 4 oz drained weight)
  • 1¼ pounds lasagne sheets (dried not fresh)
  • 12 ounces cooked ham (thinly sliced)
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6/400ºF. Put the eggs into a pan of water, bring to the boil and let it boil for 7 minutes, then pour off the water and sit the pan under an abundantly flowing cold tap; turn it off and leave the pan filled with cold water in the sink until the eggs are cool enough to peel.
  2. Warm the oil in a large, heavy-based pan (that comes with a lid), then add the onion, sprinkle with salt, and let it cook for a few minutes until it begins to soften.
  3. Add the meat and turn it in the pan just long enough for the raw red colour to turn brown.
  4. Add the wine or vermouth, then the passata, pouring the water into the empty passata bottle or carton and swilling it out into the pan. Bring to a bubble, then put the lid on the pan and cook at a robust simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Peel and finely slice the eggs (which will crumble into a mess), and finely slice the mozzarella; then put a deep, greased lasagne dish, measuring approx 34 x 23 x 6cm / 9 x 13 x 2 inches, onto a baking sheet and get ready for the grand assembly.
  6. First, put a ladleful or so of very runny meat sauce into the bottom of the lasagne dish, to line the base, then arrange a layer of lasagne sheets - using about a quarter of them - on top, to cover the sauce - don't worry about a bit of overlapping.
  7. Add another ladleful of sauce, just to wet the sheets, then add a layer of ham slices, using up a third of them, before dotting with a third of the egg and of the mozzarella slices.
  8. Now add a second layer of lasagne sheets, then a couple of ladlefuls of sauce, followed again by a third of the ham, then egg, then mozzarella slices.
  9. Repeat with a further layer of lasagne sheets, another 2 ladlefuls of meat sauce, then the remaining ham, egg and mozzarella slices, before topping with a final layer of lasagne sheets.
  10. Pour the remaining sauce over the top, sprinkle with the Parmesan and cover with foil - making sure the edges are sealed - and put in the oven still on the baking sheet, for 1 hour.
  11. When the hour is up, remove the foil, to reveal the top layer runkled like a Shar Pei made of pasta, and push a knife point through the lasagne to check it is soft - if not, re-cover it and return to the oven for about 10 minutes - then let it stand uncovered, out of the oven, for 15-20 minutes (although I love this barely above room temperature if I can bear, or have time, to wait - for up to 2 hours) before slicing into hearty slabs and serving.
  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6/400ºF. Put the eggs into a pan of water, bring to the boil and let it boil for 7 minutes, then pour off the water and sit the pan under an abundantly flowing cold tap; turn it off and leave the pan filled with cold water in the sink until the eggs are cool enough to peel.
  2. Warm the oil in a large, heavy-based pan (that comes with a lid), then add the onion, sprinkle with salt, and let it cook for a few minutes until it begins to soften.
  3. Add the meat and turn it in the pan just long enough for the raw red colour to turn brown.
  4. Add the wine or vermouth, then the passata, pouring the water into the empty passata bottle or carton and swilling it out into the pan. Bring to a bubble, then put the lid on the pan and cook at a robust simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Peel and finely slice the eggs (which will crumble into a mess), and finely slice the mozzarella; then put a deep, greased lasagne dish, measuring approx 34 x 23 x 6cm / 9 x 13 x 2 inches, onto a baking sheet and get ready for the grand assembly.
  6. First, put a ladleful or so of very runny meat sauce into the bottom of the lasagne dish, to line the base, then arrange a layer of lasagne sheets - using about a quarter of them - on top, to cover the sauce - don't worry about a bit of overlapping.
  7. Add another ladleful of sauce, just to wet the sheets, then add a layer of ham slices, using up a third of them, before dotting with a third of the egg and of the mozzarella slices.
  8. Now add a second layer of lasagne sheets, then a couple of ladlefuls of sauce, followed again by a third of the ham, then egg, then mozzarella slices.
  9. Repeat with a further layer of lasagne sheets, another 2 ladlefuls of meat sauce, then the remaining ham, egg and mozzarella slices, before topping with a final layer of lasagne sheets.
  10. Pour the remaining sauce over the top, sprinkle with the Parmesan and cover with foil - making sure the edges are sealed - and put in the oven still on the baking sheet, for 1 hour.
  11. When the hour is up, remove the foil, to reveal the top layer runkled like a Shar Pei made of pasta, and push a knife point through the lasagne to check it is soft - if not, re-cover it and return to the oven for about 10 minutes - then let it stand uncovered, out of the oven, for 15-20 minutes (although I love this barely above room temperature if I can bear, or have time, to wait - for up to 2 hours) before slicing into hearty slabs and serving.

Additional Information

Should you wish to provide a vegetarian version, boost the number of hard-boiled eggs to 6, the mozzarella balls to 4 and dispense with the meat, stirring a couple of canfuls of chopped tomatoes into the passata instead. You could certainly increase the cheese content - perhaps adding a stronger-tasting cheese, too. Don't be tempted to use buffalo mozzarella: not only would it be a waste of money, but the less expensive regular mozzarella seems to melt less stringily.

Should you wish to provide a vegetarian version, boost the number of hard-boiled eggs to 6, the mozzarella balls to 4 and dispense with the meat, stirring a couple of canfuls of chopped tomatoes into the passata instead. You could certainly increase the cheese content - perhaps adding a stronger-tasting cheese, too. Don't be tempted to use buffalo mozzarella: not only would it be a waste of money, but the less expensive regular mozzarella seems to melt less stringily.

Tell us what you think

What 10 Others have said

  • I love this recipe. My only son is off at college and I miss cooking it for us. Predictably, I found myself craving this lasagne. I dreamed about it. I wanted it so much I made the full recipe this weekend with the excuse to myself it would last the week for me. It has to be pretty great to cook the whole thing for oneself to enjoy alone - thank you Nigella!

    Posted by camilleP on 3rd April 2016
  • A bit fiddly to assemble first time - but once you have cooked this more than twice its easy. I make this a LOT during the Winter as it is beautifully stodgy.

    Posted by RealJoWood on 16th August 2015
  • Made this for my Calabrian Family on Christmas Day 2014 and it was delicious according to all - first time I cooked lasagne.  Thank you Nigella cheers from Tony D in Melbourne

    Posted by baysidetony on 15th January 2015
  • This is a wonderful lasagne in its own right (who would expect less from N?!) but it is supreme if you have someone who doesn't like beschamel sauce! Brava!! Axx

    Posted by adaml25 on 17th August 2014
  • Absolutely love this recipe have made it now almost a dozen times and again in a few weeks for a dinner party, it never fails to impress! thank you Nigella!

    Posted by hedkandi on 7th March 2014
  • My husband and 5-year old twins had 2 helpings each. Delicious....although left out the eggs. Can't push the fussy eater too far ;)

    Posted by andycap on 1st February 2014
  • Superb way of using left over gammon. It was absolutely delicious and my fiancee and I throughly enjoyed it. Thanks Nigella :)

    Posted by Clarence79 on 30th December 2013
  • Indeed, best lasagne I have ever eaten!! It was the first I cooked ever and my friends ate all of it. Which is always a good sign. Thank you, Nigella. You are inspiring, as always.

    Posted by VeronikaP on 15th September 2013
  • Delicious lasagne.

    Posted by Adelin on 2nd February 2013
  • My husband says this is the best lasagne he has ever tasted. He is really fussy about what he eats so success! Thank you.

    Posted by Maggieshone on 5th January 2013
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