Lasagne pastachina

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Francesco Mazzei's lasagne pastachina recipe is little bit special. Layers of spinach and ricotta, veal and beef mince, quail egg and a unique nettle pasta are among the delights nestled in this multi-layered dish. He uses mosto cotto, a thick, tangy syrup made from reduced, aged grape juice (used in a similar way to balsamic vinegar), to add to its appeal.

First published in 2015




Tomato sauce

Tomato fondue

Egg pasta dough

  • 250g of 00 flour
  • 250g of hard durum wheat flour
  • 5 eggs

Egg and nettle pasta dough

  • 250g of nettles, raw, leaves only
  • 250g of 00 flour
  • 250g of hard durum wheat flour
  • 4 eggs

Béchamel sauce

Meat strips

Spinach and ricotta strips



Grana Padano fondue

Pesto cream


To assemble and serve


  • Pasta machine
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Blender
  • Steam oven
  • Mouli
  • Food mixer with paddle attachment
  • Thermomix


For the tomato sauce, place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the carrot, celery and onion and leave to sweat until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook out for an additional 2-3 minutes until the smell of raw garlic has disappeared
Peel the tomatoes, then roughly chop and add to the pan with the basil. Cook the sauce for about 1 1/2 hours on a gentle simmer, stirring from time to time to ensure the sauce is not catching on the base of the pan. Pass the sauce through a mouli and set aside to cool
  • 3kg tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 50g of basil, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3
For the tomato fondue, cook the whole shallots in their skins in the oven until soft. While cooking, peel the tomatoes, cut in half and remove the juice and seeds
When ready, remove the shallots from their skins before mixing in a pan with the peeled tomatoes. Decrease the heat of the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2
Cover the pan with tin foil and cook for approximately 30–40 minutes. Once the tomatoes are nice and dry, blend them with the butter until you get a nice velvety emulsion. Season with salt and pepper and set aside
Now make the plain egg pasta dough. On a work surface or in a mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the 00 flour and durum wheat flour, before adding in the eggs. Mix gently to form a dough, adding a little water if needed
  • 250g of 00 flour
  • 250g of hard durum wheat flour
  • 5 eggs
Knead the dough by hand on the work surface until smooth. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour
For the nettle pasta dough, wash the nettles and cook in salted boiling water for approximately 20 seconds before cooling in an ice bath. Drain the nettles and squeeze out any excess water
  • 250g of nettles, raw, leaves only
Blend the nettles until smooth - you may need to add 1 or 2 of the eggs to help smooth it out. Mix with the 00 flour, durum wheat flour and add the eggs or remaining eggs, as you did with the plain dough
  • 250g of 00 flour
  • 250g of hard durum wheat flour
  • 4 eggs
Place the dough on the table and knead until the dough is smooth. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour
With a pasta machine, roll out both the plain and nettle pasta doughs until 1mm thick and cut into long sheets. Cook in salted boiling water for approximately 40 seconds
Remove using a large slotted spoon, cool the sheets in iced water, then strain and dry on clean kitchen towel. Store in the fridge between layers of cling film until required
For the béchamel sauce, bring the milk to the boil with a pinch of nutmeg and salt. Meanwhile, prepare a roux by melting the butter in a pan over a medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir for 2 minutes. Once the milk is ready, add it slowly to the roux, stirring continuously with a whisk
Allow the béchamel to boil for approximately 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave in a hot bain marie until ready to use
To make the meat strips, soak the bread in the milk for 1 minute then squeeze the bread to remove any excess milk. Mix with the parsley and garlic before combining with the beef and veal mince
Add the Grana Padano, egg, sweet paprika and season with salt and pepper. Roll out the mixture into long sausage-like strips (about 1.5cm thick) and store in the fridge until required
Preheat a steam oven to 120°C
For the spinach and ricotta strips, wash the spinach and boil in salted water for approximately 20 seconds before cooling in an ice bath. Drain the spinach and squeeze out any excess water
Blend the spinach with the ricotta, egg yolk and Grana Padano until just combined, so the spinach still has some texture and is not a complete paste
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, then spread the mix evenly out on the tray. Cook in the steam oven for approximately 10 minutes, then remove and leave to cool down before cutting into long, 1.5cm thick strips
To prepare the quail eggs, lower the eggs into salted boiling water for 4 minutes so they are hard-boiled. Strain and cool in iced water, then peel and cut in half lengthways
Cut the aubergine into 1.5cm thick slices, then cut across the slices to make 1.5cm thick strips. Dust the strips in 00 flour. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a pan and shallow fry the strips all over until cooked and golden brown. Remove and set aside on absorbent kitchen towel
For the Grana Padano fondue, combine the Grana Padano and cream in the Thermomix and blend until very smooth – this will take approximately 10 minutes
To cook the peas, place the peas in a saucepan and cover with cold salted water. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Set aside until required
Finally, to make the pesto cream, cut the celeriac into 2cm cubes and cook in simmering salted water until tender. Strain and cool in the fridge. Place all of the ingredients, including the cold, cooked celeriac into the blender and blitz for 1–2 minutes. Cover and store in the fridge until required – pesto is best served fresh but can be stored in the fridge for up to 36 hours
Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2
To assemble the lasagne, generously grease a deep baking tray with butter to stop the pasta from sticking. Layer the white pasta sheets across the bottom of the tray, then spread over a thin layer of the tomato sauce, followed by the béchamel to cover
Starting at the longest edge of the baking tray, add strips of the mince mixture, spinach mix, quail eggs and fried aubergine, until you cover the bechamel. Add a good sprinkling of grated Grana Padano on the top, followed by some peas and torn pieces of mozzarella. For the second layer, use the nettle pasta as a base and repeat the process
Repeat both of the steps again until all the ingredients have been used, to form 4 layers of pasta and 3 layers of fillings. Spread on top more of the tomato sauce, béchamel sauce and Grana Padano to finish
Place in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, then remove and leave to cool in the blast chiller. Alternatively, leave in the fridge overnight to set
Once ready to serve, preheat the oven to 185°C/gas mark 4
Slice the set lasagne into 4cm wide x 15cm long pieces. Cook in the oven for approximately 20 minutes
Before serving, pan-fry one side of the lasagne to seal and add a little colour. Dish up onto plates with the tomato fondue, drops of the mosto cotto, Grana Padano fondue and pesto cream. Garnish with a basil leaf and serve immediately
  • 100ml of mosto cotto

Francesco Mazzei reminds us why we fell in love with Italian food in the first place, conjuring soulful dishes that put flavour first.

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