Lasagne

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IMG_20141210_183439[1] 10/12/2014

This is a classic recipe for lasagne. No fancy adages or variations but a hearty, warming and delicious crowd pleaser.

This lasagne is a big one. It serves eight so you’ll need a big oven dish or you could divide it into smaller dishes and freeze what you don’t want for another night. If cooking from frozen, cook at 180C for 90-120 minutes, depending on the size of your dish, until the lasagne is piping hot, brown and bubbling.

Ingredients:

For the meat sauce:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 140g pancetta
  • 500g pack beef mince (I used extra lean)
  • 500g pack pork mince or British veal mince
  • 2 x 500g cartons passata
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • 500ml red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • about 400g dried pasta sheets
  • 50g parmesan, finely grated

For the béchamel sauce:

  • 2 Litres full fat UHT milk
  • 1 onion, thickly sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves
  • 75g butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • good grating of nutmeg

Method:

  1. First infuse the milk for the béchamel sauce. Put the milk, onion, bay and cloves into a large saucepan and bring very gently just up to the boil. Turn off the heat and set aside for 1 hr to infuse.
  2. For the meat sauce, put the oil, celery, onion, carrot, garlic and pancetta in another large saucepan. Gently cook together until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Remove the vegetables to a large bowl and brown the mince in batches in the same pan. Set each batch aside with the vegetables as you go. Tip all the vegetables and mince back into the pan and add the passata. Using a wooden spoon, stir together well then stir in all the herbs, the stock cubes and wine and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to stop the bottom catching. Cook until the meat is tender and saucy. Taste and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  3. To finish the béchamel, strain the milk through a fine sieve into a large jug. Melt the butter in the same pan then, using a whisk, mix in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the strained milk, a little at a time – the mix will thicken at first to a doughy paste, but keep going, adding milk gradually to avoid lumps. When all the milk is added, bring to a gentle simmer, whisking constantly. Gently bubble for a few minutes until thickened. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg.
  4. Heat oven to 180C. Spread a spoonful of the meat sauce over the base of a roughly 3.5 litre baking dish or do as I did and make two dishes for four people and store one in the freezer after assembly. Cover with a single layer of pasta sheets, snapping them to fit if needed, then top with a quarter of the béchamel. Spoon over a third of the meat sauce and scatter over a little Parmesan. Repeat the layers – pasta, béchamel, meat and Parmesan – two more times to use all the meat sauce. Add a final layer of pasta, the last of the béchamel and remaining Parmesan. Sit the dish on a baking tray to catch spills and bake for 1 hr until bubbling, browned and crisp on top.

IMG_20141210_174532[1] IMG_20141210_174612[1]

Remove the lasagne from the oven and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes to firm up a little. This makes it much easier to dish up and you won’t burn the roof of your mouth off. Serve this with a light side salad. I used spinach and tomato. And of course, no lasagne is ever really complete without a chunk of garlic bread and a cheeky glass of red wine!

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