Meatballs / Bronx Lasagna

Meatballs

I have combined two recipes because meatballs are one of the most basic courses in Italian cooking and an essential component of “Bronx Lasagna”.  Like tomato sauce and gravy, everyone seems to have thir special family recipie for meatballs.  My recipe is a combination of the flavors I enjoy most in a meatball.

I always make a tons of meatballs and freeze them in plastic freezer bags. I bake them on cookie sheets rather than fry them as it is the easiest way to make “lotsa meata ballsah” as a Disney character might say.

Equipment

  • a very large bowl or a clean counter top or large cutting board
  • two cookie sheets
  • clean hands

Ingredients

3 lb of chopped beef — chuck is best because it is moist

1 lb of Italian sweet sausage skins removed — a mixture of plain and fennel is great

1 cup (approximately) of Italian Bread crumbs like Progresso

1 cup of  grated Romano or Locatelli cheese — you may use less

2 large eggs

several sprigs of fresh parsley — leaves finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Preparation

  • Put the chop meat in a large shallow bow or put it on the countertop or cutting board
  • With your hands combine the saussage with the chopped meat
  • Make a “well” in the center of the meat
  • Break the eggs and put them in the well
  • Put the chopped parsley in the well
  • Dump the breadcrums in the well
  • Add about 1/2 tsb of salt and he same of pepper
  • With your hands combine all the ingredients by foling the meat into the well
  • When the meat, breadcrumbs etc are combined take some meat and roll it between your hands gently forming a meat ball that is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

TIP  The meatball should not be squeezed tightly into a golf ball type thing. It should hold together loosely so that if you put it down it stands on its own. If it is too moist it will fall over. If this happens add some breadcrumbs gradually to the meat and combine. Make a test meatball again. If it is loosley compacted and stands on its own, it is perfect. 

  • Place your test meatball on the cookie sheet and continue making meat balls untill the meat is depleted. You may have to add or take away meat from your meat balls
  • You will probably have around 16 give or take a few meatballs on the cookie sheets.
  • Place the cookie sheets in the pre heated 350 degree ovena nd bake approximately 15-20 minutes
  • Peek at the meatballs remebering that they should brown not burn
  • When the meatballs are cooked, remove the cookie sheets from the oven and set them aside to cool.

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You will use some of these cooked meatballs for the “Bronx Lazagna” and you will freeze the rest — probably best 4 to a freezer bag.

 

Bronx Lazagna

078   Ready for the Oven!

This is a very rich but amazingly light Lazagna. Souns like an oymoron.  My family learned this recipe from Italian neighbors in the Bronx.  The sauce used in this lazagna is NEVER GRAVY because the heaviness and intensity of gravy fights against the combination of ingredients.

Equipment

  • A lazagna pan — approximately 13 x 9 x 2 – the depth is critical to enable the building of 4 layers of lazagna noodles
  • A bowl for ricotta cheese mixture
  • A bowl for tomato sauce
  • A bowl for mozarella
  • A cheeze grater
  • 2 large spoons
  • 1 small ladle
  • 1 large stock pot for cooking the noodles
  • 1 long tongs for handling the noodles
  • 4 clean cotton dish towels
  • scissors

Ingredients

1 lb box of Lazagna noodles

1 lb of whole milk ricotta

approximately 3 cups of basic tomato sauce (Recipe in Techniques – Eggplant “Parmesean” Recipe)

1 large egg

1 bag of shredded whole mile mozarella like “Sargento”.  (Buffalo mozarella does not work)

6 sweet Italian Sausages fried

1 cup of grated pecorino romano cheese

 

Preparation

Phase One

  • Lay out about four clean dishtowels on your countertop
  • Place the noodles in a large pot of salted (1tbs) boiling water
  • Stir noodles to keep them swimming and to prrevent sticking
  • After 5  inutes remove one of the noodles with your tongs and  determine if it is flexible (softish)
  • If it is flexible place it flat out on a dishtowel
  • Repeat this until all the noodles are removed from the pot

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 TIP  After years of making lazagna and dumping the noodles into a colander, I decided there had to be an easier way that prevented them from breaking and sticking together.  Laziness begot creativity and this towel drying method was born.  It works perfectly!!!!

Phase Two — Construction

Preheat thge oven to 350 degrees

  • Place 3/4 cup of ricotta in a bowl and one egge and approcimately 3/4 cup of grated cheese
  • Mix the the cheese and egg together and set aside
  • Pour the tomato sauce into a bowl and set aside
  • Put  the mozarella cheese in a bowl and set aside
  • Slice the fried Italian sausages into rounds and set aside
  • Slice the meatballs into rounds and set aside (you do not need perfect rounds)
  • Place your lasagna pan in a space on the counter close to the above ingredients
  • Pick up one lazagna noodle and determine which way you can get the most layers in the pan

TIP  I have determined after much experimentation that placing the noodles horizontally works most efficently. This may require snipping a bit of noodle off the ends…and the remnants can be saved.  The picture above shows a pan prepared in this manner.  Trust me — compact is easier!

You will now start to build the layers.  Your goal is 4 layers. 

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  • uing your ladle spoon some sauce into the bottom of the pan just coating it
  • place your first layer of noodles on the sauce
  • alternate  rounds of sausage and meatballs on each noodle
  • NOTE you may run out of sausage — if so, use more meatballs from your stash – no one will notice!  The final layer in my lazagna pictured above is cheese only.
  • spoon a dollop of the ricotta cheese mixture betweeen the meat rounds
  • ladle tomato sauce over the layers (Do Not Drown Them!)  Use the picture of the oven-ready lazagna as a guide.
  • sprinkle mozarella cheese lightly over the noodles
  • when you have completed 4 layers you are ready to bake
  • cover the lazagna with foil and bake approximately 30 minutes – check to see if sauce is bubbling and chees is melted by gently lifting the foil with your thongs.
  • if sauce is bubbling and cheese melted, remove the lasagna from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.

 

Serving

  • Using a sharp knife make a vertical cut through the layers.If you have used a pan approximately the size of the one pictured above, you will have 10 servings of Lazagna.
  • You may serve Lazagna with extra sauce and grated cheeze on the side.
  • Lazagna goes great with:
  • Broccoli Rabe (rapini) sauteed in oil and garlic.  All you have to do is buy a bunch of rapini,  rinse it , cut it up and dump it quite wet carefully (avoiding splatter)  into a pan with simmering olive oil and garlic — Cover the pan immediately and lower the  heat. Shake the pan to coat the rapinin as it cooks briefly then set it aside.