The best thing about being a non-Italian writing about Italian food is that I am freed from the shackles of culinary dogmatism. It allowed me to innovate towards my own taste of bolognese heaven when I created spaghetti al ragù all’inglese.
However, I think even the most liberal Italian foodie may raise an eyebrow at today’s outing. I’ll be mixing two Italian favourites in one dish and serving up pizzagne - a light lasagne with pizza toppings.
On reflection it is much closer to lasagne than pizza, so lasizza might be a better name. It does feel, however, like debating the involvement of Nero in the 64 AD Great Fire of Rome. At the end of a day the details are irrelevant, a terrible thing happened to the people of Italy, just like with today’s dish.
I will at least be hedging my bets and hiding behind a cloak of invincibility - the title of the recipe clearly indicates this one is meant for kids. Kids are immune to opinions of what should and should not be served up on the plate.
You’ll have to take my word on this but I did genuinely “invent”
pizzagne lasizza. It came to me without any outside advice or influence. It was only after deciding on the composition that I Googled to find it had long since been sewn up as a bolognan bastardisation by the good folk of the Internet. Nethertheless, I believe this recipe to be the best. If you can see through the red mist I’d recommend using my recipe over all others.
My sauce is a relatively simple affair and is deliberately light on its meat content. I’m working toward the spag bol flavour that is closer to a napolitana than a ragù alla bolognese. Tomatoey, sweet and with a cutting edge of acidity. This time the acidity is provided by red wine vinegar, rather than citric acid as used in my spag bol Dolmio imitation.
200 grams, or half a pack of beef mince keeps my sauce light. Rich tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and basil makes it flavourful.
I’m using supermarket bought fresh lasagne sheets for my lasizza layers. You could make your own but please do remember this is being prepared for kids - don’t waste too much time on your fickle little pre-humans until you know they’ll accept this medley.
I opt for a couple of variants of pizza toppings. The most obvious first choice is pepperoni with large chunks of mozzarella. Possibly less expected is my “fruits of the sea” concoction of prawns, anchovies, squid rings and mussels. For the second outing I also crumble the mozzarella rather than laying chunks.
I have to say the taste is pretty good! It fulfills the brief and is best described as “kids food” but don’t let that put you off. Make enough for the whole family and you can indulge in this guilty pleasure.
The pepperoni variant is actually a little too “normal” for the build up I’ve provided here. It could very well be served up on the menu of a British provincial “Italian” restaurant without looking too out of place.
It’s my fruits of the sea version that is the real eye opener!
One culinary convention I struggle to understand is the aversion to mixing meat and seafood in Western cuisine. The combination works so well in South East Asia that I’m surprised it isn’t more widely adopted. An unexpected consequence of my kids lasizza is that it reminded me of this long held belief.
It is definitely worth trying this dish but please don’t tell your Italian friends you’re doing so. I did at least stop short of putting pineapple on my lasizza but can’t help but feel the innovation of pizza and lasagna is a step too far for many from inside the Italian borders!
Serves a family of 4.
- 1 tin cirio polpa tomatoes
- 50g napolitano tomato paste
- half a medium onion, roughly sliced
- 1 garlic clove
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) red wine vinegar
- 8 basil leaves
- 100g beef mince (10% fat)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (for onion)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (for meat)
- 4x Fresh lasagne sheets
- reserved kids bolognese
- Pizza toppings (I used pepperoni and frozen seafood)
- Roughly chop half an onion and gently fry in 3 tablespoons of oil for 10 minutes or until softened and starting to brown.
- Crush the garlic and add to the fried onion and cook for a further couple of minutes.
- Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, basil, vinegar and salt and stir to incorporate all the flavours.
- Transfer the sauce to a large measuring jug and blend with a stick blender until blended to a smooth sauce.
- Wash any remaining sauce out of the pan and add a tablespoon of oil. Fry the mince for 10 minutes on a medium heat until browned.
- Pour the tomato sauce over the mince and stir to combine.
- Using a small pyrex dish, about the same dimensions as a sheet of pre-prepared fresh lasagne, layer a couple of spoonsfulls of the bolognese in the dish. You’re likely to get two lasagnes out of this quantity of bolognese sauce. Each pyrex dish should have 3 sheets of lasagne and be finished off with a light topping of sauce. This means each layer of bolognese sauce should be ⅑th of the mixture.
- Place lasagne over the sauce and repeat until you have 4 layers of lasagne and half a layer of bolognese sauce at the top.
- Top with your chosen pizza topping ingredients and place as much mozerella as you like, either in chunks for squashed by hand.
- Bake in an oven preheated to 200 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until the cheese is browning and bubbling.