Holiday Comfort Food Recipe: Meatball Lasagna

What do you get when you combine meatballs, fresh pasta and loads of cheese? The best comfort food/one-dish-meal/entertaining dish to come out of the oven.
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It's comfort week in The Kitchn and we're in love with the combination of meatballs, four cheeses, and fresh herbs to create a decadent lasagna complete with crispy edges and a gooey center. The combination of creamy ricotta, soft and mild fresh mozzarella and pleasantly sharp Pecorino Romano makes for velvety layers of cheese to hold the fresh pasta sheets in place. Meanwhile, shards of intensely flavored and full-bodied Piave are laid atop the lasagna before baking, creating a decorative - and tasty - top crust. Piave is a hard cheese from Italy, boasting strong flavors and an almost sweet, pineapple-like finish. If you can't find it, feel free to substitute with shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
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Meatball Lasagna
serves 8

For the Meatball Sauce:
1 pound ground beef
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley; finely chopped
1 egg
2 1/2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese; finely grated
Salt
pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup red wine
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce

For the Lasagna:
1 pound fresh mozzarella; diced into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 pound fresh ricotta cheese
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese; grated
2 eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley; finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh basil; finely chopped
Salt
Pepper
2 pounds fresh pasta
1/4 pound piave cheese; thinly sliced

Mix together the ground beef, panko, milk, parsley, egg and Pecorino Romano just to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into one-inch balls, about 18 meatballs in total.

Add olive oil to a large skillet or cast iron pan and fry until brown on all sides; about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to drain. Meanwhile, deglaze the pan with red wine and stir in tomato sauce. Add the meatballs to the sauce/wine mixture to bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook meatballs, covered, over low heat for about 15 minutes, until cooked all the way through. Remove the sauce from the heat and gently break apart the meatballs. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together mozzarella, ricotta, Pecorino Romano, eggs, herbs, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season well with salt and cook pasta sheets for two minutes. Remove pasta and shock in ice water to stop cooking.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a 9x13 pan (or two 8x8) pans, spread a thin layer of tomato/meat sauce on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture over top. Layer evenly with 1/3 the cooked pasta sheets and then spread with 1/3 the remaining tomato mixture. Repeat this two more times, reserving a bit of the cheese mixture to layer on top. Top with slices of piave cheese.

Bake 30 minutes covered with foil. Remove foil and bake 45 minutes more, or until the top is browned and bubbling around the edges.

Related: Gooey and Bubbly: 5 Exciting Lasagnas To Warm You Up!

(Images: Rebekah Peppler)

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