October’s recipes: Italian job

Round & About

Chef & restaurateur Gennaro Contaldo shares two delicious autumnal recipes from his new book Pasta Perfecto


Carnival-Time Lasagne

(Prep: 30 mins – Cooking: Three hours (including cooking meat ragu) – Serves: 6)


• 250g / 9oz Italian pork sausage
• Splash of extra virgin olive oil
• 350g / 12oz ricotta
• Two eggs
• 150g / 5½oz / 2¼ cups grated Parmesan
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 12 lasagne sheets
• 250g / 9oz mozzarella, coarsely chopped

For the ragù:

• 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
• One onion, finely chopped
• Two bay leaves
• 750g / 1lb 10oz beef brisket, cut into large chunks
• 5 tbsp red wine
• 1 tbsp tomato purée (paste) dissolved in a little warm water
• Three x 400g / 14oz cans of chopped plum tomatoes
• A handful of basil leaves
• 20g / ¾oz / ¼ cup grated Parmesan
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper



This typical southern Italian lasagne is usually made for special occasions such as Carnevale – the week before Lent when festivities all over Italy take place. Lent is traditionally a time when eating meat is forbidden, so a lasagne such as this one – with meat ragù and sausage – would be made to enjoy before the period of abstinence. Only the tomato sauce from the meat ragù is used for the lasagne; the beef can then be enjoyed as a second course with a green salad.


First make the ragù: heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and bay leaves, and sweat for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add the beef and seal well all over. Increase the heat, add the wine and allow to evaporate. Stir in the tomato purée mixture, chopped tomatoes, basil, Parmesan and some salt and pepper, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for at least 2 hours, until the meat is cooked through and the sauce is thick. Check from time to time, stirring with a wooden spoon and, if necessary, add a little hot water.

When cooked, remove the beef and set aside to enjoy later.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

Cook the pork sausage: you can either do this in the oven or fry it. If using the oven, put the sausage into a roasting pan with a splash of olive oil and bake for 25 minutes. If frying, fry for about 15 minutes in a frying pan (skillet) with a splash of olive oil over a medium heat. When cooked through, remove, slice and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, half of the Parmesan, and some salt and pepper, until creamy.

Line the bottom of a baking dish (about 24 x 17 cm/9½ x 7 in) with some of the tomato ragù, cover with a layer of lasagne sheets, then add a layer of ricotta, scatter over some sausage slices and some pieces of mozzarella, then add another layer of tomato ragù. Continue making layers in this way until you have used up all the ingredients, ending with a layer of lasagne sheets, tomato ragù, mozzarella and the remaining grated Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Cover with foil and bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 20 minutes, until golden and bubbling.


Vegetable and Pastina Soup

(Prep: 5 mins – Cooking: 15 mins – Serves: 4)


• 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
• ½ onion, finely chopped
• ½ celery stalk, finely chopped
• One carrot, finely chopped
• 85g / 3oz courgette (zucchini), finely chopped
• 800ml / 28fl oz / 3½ cups hot vegetable stock (bouillon)
• 85g / 3oz pastina (small pasta shapes)
• Grated Parmesan, to serve (optional)

This should be really be called ‘Olivia’s Soup’ as it’s my daughter Olivia’s favourite meal! Small pasta shapes (pastina) can be little stars, butterflies, alphabet shapes or even broken-up capelli d’angelo (very fine spaghetti) if you have nothing else. In Italy, there is a huge variety of pastina shapes to choose from and we always bring some back after a trip. For an even richer flavour, pastina can be made with homemade broths in place of the ready-made vegetable stock.


Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion, celery, carrot and courgette, and sweat for 2–3 minutes until softened. Pour in the vegetable stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pastina and cook until al dente (check the instructions on your packet for cooking time).

Divide between serving bowls and serve immediately with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan, if desired.