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Lasagna di Carnevale

(Serves 4 to 6)
Lasagna di Carnevale
Carnevale or Carnival is the festive season that occurs before Ash Wednesday and the
beginning of Lent.  During the season of Lent, Christians are obliged to fast and rich foods,
such as meat, are to be avoided.  The word carnevale is said to derive from the Latin “carne
vale” or farewell to meat.  Lasagna di Carnevale is a classic Neapolitan dish that is filled with
meat and cheese.  It is meant to serve as a very indulgent meal before the season of
moderation and fasting begins. There are many variations of the ingredients in this lasagna. 
Some are made with a ground meat sauce, others include salami and/or hard-boiled eggs,
and others do not include any ricotta cheese.  Since the idea of this dish was to use up
whatever meat you had in the house before Lent, so called ‘traditional recipes’ will widely vary.
Don’t be turned off by the number of ingredients or length of this recipe, the completed dish is really worth the time and effort.  You can make the meatballs and
sauce one day and assemble the lasagna another day.  You can substitute your favorite meatball or sauce recipes.  If you choose to use your own meatball recipe, simply remember to make the meatballs only 1-inch in diameter.  If you don’t have prosciutto, leave it out or use something else.  Remember, at Carnival time in Italy there is an Italian expression, “A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale!” (“During Carnival anything goes!”). 
Ingredients:

Meatballs 
Tomato Sauce
8 ounces Italian sausage (about 2 large links)
12 strips of dried lasagna
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch dice
6 ounces sliced prosciutto, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Meatballs:
8 ounces ground beef
1/4 cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
1 egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 (28 ounce) can tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Chicken broth, beef broth, or water (optional)

Directions:

Recommended Procedure:
First, make the Meatballs.  Then prepare the Tomato Sauce.
Cook the lasagna in boiling salted water for the time recommended.
Drain and set aside.  In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, and parsley.
Set aside.  Follow the directions for assembling and baking the lasagna.
To make the meatballs:
Combine all the meatball ingredients except the olive oil.  Form the mixture into
1-inch balls.  You should have 20 to 30 small meatballs.  Heat the oil in a large
skillet.  Add the meatballs and brown them well on all sides.  Transfer the
meatballs to a plate.

To make the sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan.  Sauté onion in olive oil on low heat
about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes; sauté another minute. 
Add the tomato puree, oregano, basil, sugar, salt and pepper.  Add the
browned meatballs and the uncooked sausage.  Stir to combine well; partially
cover the saucepan with a lid.  Add some broth or water to the sauce if it gets
too thick during cooking time.  Simmer for 1 hour.  Remove the meatballs and
sausage from the sauce.  Cut the sausage into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Set the
meatballs, sausage, and sauce aside.

(You will not use all of the sauce in this recipe.  Save the remainder to use
another day.)

To assemble the lasagna:
The lasagna consists of 3 layers of pasta with 2 layers of meat, cheese, and
sauce between them. The final top layer is simply cheese and sauce. So you
will be dividing the meatballs, sausage, and prosciutto in half or 2 equal
portions, and the ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan into thirds or 3 equal
portions.

Spread a little of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 9-inch (or 9 x 13-inch)
baking dish.  Cut 4 of the cooked lasagna noodles to fit in the dish.  Place
them in the dish with the edges slightly overlapping.  Spread 1/3 of the ricotta
mixture over the pasta.  Arrange 1/2 of the meatballs and half of the sausage
slices on top of the cheese.  Spread 1/2 of the chopped prosciutto over the top. 
Spread 1/3 of the diced mozzarella and 1/3 of the Parmesan on top.  Drizzle
with about 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce.  Cut 4 more of the lasagna noodles to
fit and arrange them in the dish.  Repeat the layers one more time, ending with
a final layer of lasagna noodles.  Spread the remaining ricotta mixture on top. 
Then spread another 1/2 cup of tomato sauce over the ricotta.  Top with the
remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.

To bake the lasagna:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Cover the lasagna and bake for 30
minutes.  Remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  If the
lasagna was refrigerated before baking, add another 15-20 minutes to the
baking time.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before
serving.
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HOLIDAY RECIPES CARNEVALE >  LASAGNA DI CARNEVALE
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