Lasagna Napoletana with Smoked Mozzarella

It was Meatball Week over at seriouseats.com, and they had this recipe for an incredibly meaty and cheesy – and therefore likely very unhealthy – lasagna. 

I only prepared the classic Lasagna Bolognese before, so I was quite intrigued by this varietal from southern Italy and making meatballs from stewed pork spare ribs.

What worked and what didn’t:
It is beyond meaty, so it works. When just fried, the meatballs were crispy with a dense pulled pork-like consistency (as a reference for the Dutchies: draadjesvlees bitterballen zonder de ragout). Not all of the meatballs ended up in the lasagna; I can tell you that much 🙂

Instead of a béchamel sauce, the Lasagna Napoletana has a ricotta/tomato sauce mixture to give it – together with the mozzarella, parmesan and the regular tomato sauce  – rich, creamy, gooey layers. Excellent and so much better than just adding a layer of ricotta!

As the recipe called for smoked mozzarella, which is hard to find in the Netherlands, I had a go myself with my Smoking Gun. Smoking mozzarella turned out super easy (pat the mozzarella ball dry with a paper towel, put them in a sealable container, add the smoke, close the lid and wait at least 5 minutes) and it gave the store bought Galbani mozzarella some punch. To my surprise, you could taste the smokiness in the lasagna. Wondering if you can substitute the smoked mozzarella with scamorza affumicata…

A bit of let down was the consistency of the meatballs after incorporation in the lasagna: they lost all crispiness, but still tasted nice anyway.

Recipe accuracy:
The recipe was easy to follow, and the measures of ingredients work well together. It is quite elaborate to prepare, and the quantity was enough for at least 12 persons (or eating it from Sunday through Wednesday in our case, it was that good…)

The indicated overall time of 5 hours was a bit short. It includes in total 4½ hours oven time to prepare the spare ribs/sausage/tomato/sauce (3½ hours) and cook the lasagna (50 + 10 mins resting), so it does give you some time to do some prep work in between. However, as it took me about 1 hour to prepare and fry all the meatballs, before being able to start building the lasagna, so in total this recipe will keep you busy for at least 6 hours.

Suggested tweaks:
Next time I will take a shortcut and shred the cooked pork and add it to the tomato sauce instead of frying the meatballs. The sausages I used turned out a bit bland, so I recommend using more spicy merguez or fennel/thyme sausages.

Verdict: 9/10;  Definitely will make it again, with some added veggies or side salad…

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