Food writer and chef Letitia Clark might have cooked in some of London’s top restaurants, including tapas diner Morito and Skye Gyngell’s Spring, but these days you’ll find her on the Italian island of Sardinia writing recipes, cooking and illustrating. Her three cookbooks are celebrations of the food and produce of Italy, including the latest, Wild Figs & Fennel: A Year in an Italian Kitchen, which traces the seasons of Sardinia via recipes: lemon ricotta souffle pancakes for summer; egg, spring greens and cheese pie for spring; braised chicken with grapes and fennel for autumn; and this sausage lasagne for winter.

“A rich sausage ragout rivals a classic one, the fatty and flavoursome meat providing profound, garlic-scented depth,” writes Clark. “Here it is spiked with fennel, a good friend of the pig, and layered in a lasagne, with a sort of cheat’s bechamel topping, which is quick, easy and possibly more delicious. The ragout needs a little time to cook down to goodness, but otherwise this is a very speedy assembly.”

Letita Clark’s sausage lasagne with ricotta, pecorino and fennel

Serves 6–8
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 1.5 hours

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Ingredients

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3–4 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
A sprig of rosemary
A sprig or two of wild fennel or a good pinch of fennel seeds
A good pinch of dried chilli
500g good-quality Italian sausagemeat, removed from its casing
2 glasses white wine
800g tinned tomatoes
Salt and pepper
12 dried egg lasagne sheets
350g ricotta
4–5 tbsp whole milk
60g pecorino, grated
Wild fennel fronds, to garnish (optional)
A drizzle of olive oil

Method

Begin by making the ragout. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over a medium heat, then saute the onion and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the herbs, fennel and chilli, and saute for a few minutes more, then add the sausage meat. Saute for a few minutes until the sausage begins to become golden, then add the wine and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Now add the tomatoes, rinsing each tin out with water and adding it to the pot. Leave to simmer and bubble away for about 30 minutes, a little longer if you have time. Taste and season accordingly. It should have reduced to a nice saucy consistency and taste flavoursome.

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Place a third of the ragout in a large gratin dish, then lay over a third of the lasagne sheets to cover. Add another layer of ragout, then another layer of pasta, then a final layer of ragù and a final layer of pasta.

Whisk the ricotta with the milk until creamy, and season with salt and pepper. Spread it over the top layer of pasta and sprinkle over the grated cheese. Lay over the fennel fronds (if using) and drizzle with some olive oil.

Place in the oven and cook for 40–45 minutes until golden and bubbling.

This is an edited extract from Wild Figs and Fennel by Letitia Clark, published by Hardie Grant Books. Available in stores nationally. Photography by Charlotte Bland and Letitia Clark.