Instead of a standard, shallow baking dish, this lasagna gets layered in a loaf pan. Post-bake, chill completely, then slice it into neat, thick slabs. Pan-fry these in an oily, hot skillet until the outside is charred and crispy. How far you take the color is up to you, but I like it practically burnt. —Emma Laperruque
Make the meat sauce. Add the olive oil to a large, high-sided pot (you want it to be wide enough to spread the meat into a thin, even layer) and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmery, add the pork. Use a spatula or spoon to spread it out as evenly as possible. Then let it be! You want it to brown (not gray, as ground meat often does). Sear, untouched, for about 4 minutes.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the ground pork to a plate. Leave the pork fat where it is. Add the fennel seeds and stir-fry for about 1 minute until toasty and aromatic. Lower the heat to medium and add the onion and fennel. Season generously with kosher salt and stir. Sauté until the vegetables are softening and starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice, plus the ground pork. Lower the heat to a sturdy simmer and cook until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 30 minutes. (If it’s too thin, the lasagna will be soupy, not cohesive.) Season with salt and red pepper flakes to taste.
Preheat the oven to 375° F and line a sheet tray with foil.
Build your lasagna. Butter a standard loaf pan. Add 1/2 cup meat sauce to the bottom and spread evenly. Add a single layer of noodles (this will be one full sheet, with a couple broken pieces bordering it). Sprinkle a couple spoonfuls of parmesan. Add some mozzarella (it won’t cover everything and that’s okay). Repeat this pattern until you’ve used all the ingredients and completely filled the loaf pan (it will slightly surpass the brim, that’s good). And make sure to end with cheese.
Set the lasagna on the sheet tray and get in the oven. Bake until the noodles are tender and the tomato sauce looks jammy, about 40 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for a half hour or so, then transfer to the fridge to chill completely. It can stay in there, covered with plastic, for several days.
When you’re ready to eat, pull the lasagna loaf. Flip onto a cutting board. Slice into 1-inch thick slabs—estimate 1 to 2 per person.
Combine the vegetable and olive oils in a wide skillet—equal parts of each, about 1/4-inch thickness. Set over medium-high heat. When the oil is very shimmery, carefully use your hand to add the lasagna slabs (don’t add too many at once, so you have room to flip them). They should sizzle. Fry for about 3 minutes, until deeply browned and starting to char, then use a spatula to gingerly flip. Fry for another 3 minutes.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.