An authentic lasagne recipe – no bechamel or Bolognese needed

Kitchen Cabinet: Irish-Italian chef Danny Africano shares his grandmother’s Neapolitan recipe

Neapolitan lasagne: this traditional recipe includes ricotta and hard boiled eggs

I was born in Pompei, near Naples, and this is a Neapolitan recipe which was passed on to me by my grandmother. Some of my earliest memories are of making this lasagne with my nonna and all my cousins, everyone in the kitchen involved in the preparation.

We would usually have this for Sunday lunch when all the family gathered together. As this is a traditional Neapolitan recipe, no bechamel or Bolognese sauce is involved.

Danny Africano is a chef and owner of Lignum restaurant in Loughrea

Neapolitan lasagne

Serves four to six

Danny Africano’s Neapolitan lasagne


For the tomato sauce:
600g tinned crushed tomatoes or passata
Generous pinch of salt
Parsley stalks
100ml olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 sprigs basil

For the meatballs:
300g pork mince
300g beef mince
50g chopped parsley
50g pine nuts
200g stale bread
2 cloves garlic, chopped
50g Parmesan, grated
Dusting of flour

Additional ingredients:
3 mozzarella balls (I use Toonsbridge mozzarella)
4 hard boiled eggs
300g ricotta cheese
6 fresh basil leaves
400g pasta sheets; you can make your own, or buy fresh or dried sheets

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2 Make the tomato sauce: In a deep saucepan add the olive oil, crushed garlic, and parsley stalks. Sauté on a medium heat for three minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes or passata and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the fresh basil leaves and a generous pinch of salt, turn the heat down to simmer and let the sauce reduce.

3 Make the meatballs: Soak the stale bread in water to rehydrate it, and then squeeze out any excess liquid. This avoids the meatballs drying out. Chop the parsley, garlic and pine nuts. In a large bowl combine the mince, Parmesan, bread and chopped ingredients. Mix well and then shape into golf ball size meat balls.

4 Coat the meatballs in flour. This creates a crust when fried. Fry the meatballs until brown and cooked through, then add them to the tomato sauce. Let them simmer for 10 minutes then remove the pan from the heat.

5 Hardboil the eggs for 10 minutes then take the shells off and slice them.

6 To assemble: In a deep oven tray or casserole dish first put a light layer of tomato sauce, this prevents the pasta sheets sticking. If you are using dry pasta sheets, you can par-boil for a couple of minutes so the lasagne will be nice and soft. You can use the sheets dry as well, but you will get a crunchier result.

7 Next add a layer of pasta sheets, then tomato sauce with meatballs, then sliced mozzarella, ricotta, hard boiled eggs, continue the layering process until all of the ingredients are used up. Don't stress about how it looks, this is a rustic dish and it doesn't need to be perfect.

8 Make sure to reserve some tomato sauce for the last layer, and top with grated Parmesan.

9 Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Kitchen Cabinet is a series of recipes from chefs who are members of Euro-Toques Ireland who have come together during the coronavirus outbreak to share some of the easy, tasty things that they like to cook and eat at home #ChefsAtHome